Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bad UI : aphabetical ordering (completion, etc)

It's quite stunning to see that completion is still as dumb as it was when it was first invented. And I'm not just talking about completion of code when it comes to programming, I'm talking about completion in general. For instance, email completion in Thunderbird.

These programs haven't gotten past the "alphabetical ordering" completion - where all completion strings are just sorted alphabetically. This, regardless of the fact that my usage is quite different.
For instance,
  • Code completion
    • when I write std::c, 99% of the cases I want to type std::cout.
    • when I write some_container.b, 99.9% of the cases I want to type some_container.begin()
  • Email completion
    • when I type ovi (as email address), 99% of the time I mean ovidiu.deac@...
    • I have 4 email addresses I commonly use. They are quite separate from one-another - you can consider them 4 different businesses. So, when using a certain email account, email completion should prefer the emails that first wrote me to that account.
Another example that does not fully involve string completion but something quite similar. I think you've met this one way too many times. I will feature the great Romanian Railroad Site.
Assume you want to go to Bucharest, and you type it as destination ("Bucuresti"). Since it's such a "smart" site, it will give you a combobox with all destinations starting with "Bucuresti". I think there are about 7 or 8 such destinations, and 99.99% of the time you want to go to the main station ("Bucuresti Nord"). However, you have to manually select it, because the combobox is alphabetically sorted and the first found element is "Bucuresti Baneasa" (and by the way, almost no one goes there).

Finally, I want to give you a good example, a solution to this "alphabetical ordering" problem, one that I like. I'm sure there are others as well.
Microsoft Word - the "Fonts" combobox. First few entries are the last entries you've selected. After that, there's a separator line, and then items are arranged alphabetically. It served me fine over the years.

And yes, this could be applied to completion as well - first entries shown should be those you use most.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bad UI - IMs

It puzzles me again and again how stupid those programs are. Today's case is one that I've encountered too many times, and now the glass got full:

Say you use an IM client, and at a given point you set your status message. That status has come to have quite a lot of meaning - people do care about it. When you've found something cool, or something important happened etc.

Now, say that either you lose connection to the internet for just a sec, or you do a quick logout, etc. When you get back, your status message is gone - you need to manually do it again.

That's just plain stupid - those IM programs should focus on the user, and realize something that's fundamental: "Did I tell you to change my status?" So, why do you do it? As long as I don't specifically tell you, leave my status alone. Ok?

Someone could say - but when nowadays do you lose Internet connection? Well, I have a laptop, I travel, I use wireless. Need I say more?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Night Buyers, Cluj Napoca

It' s a great time to live in Romania!

My girlfriend and I started a new service, one that at least both of us craved for: home delivery at night.

For starters, it's just in Cluj Napoca. It's soooo simple - just create an account, select some products (dairy, drinks, etc), click "buy", and there you go - soon one of our drivers will get it to your door.

For more details, see our site.