Sunday, December 03, 2006

How many people does it take to turn off a Vista PC?

Talk about too many choices ...

"Let's see: three separate teams each of eight programmers and testers and designers and a manager, plus six layers of managers for each team, plus an ├╝bermanager for them all - that's 43. The number comes from Moishe Lettvin, who spent his "worst" year out of seven at Microsoft working on a feature for Vista which he says "should've been designed, implemented and tested in a week".

The feature? The menu that Vista users choose from when they've finished working. What you'll get on a laptop is a choice of "off" or lock; plus an advanced menu offering (deep breath) switch user, log off, lock, restart, sleep, hibernate and shut down.

Plus, as the developer Joel Spolsky points out, the options of pressing the physical power button, or (on a laptop) just closing the lid. Spolsky reckons Vista offers 15 different ways to shut down a laptop. (Sure, you might not see the advanced menu. But which, of shut down, sleep, hibernate, log off or switch user, is the simple "off"?) Spolsky suggests that the dithering implied by having so many confusingly similar and utterly different choices every time you're done with a session "produces just a little bit of unhappiness every time".

What are the comparisons? On Apple's OS X, which Lettvin's team used "as a paragon of clean UI [user interface design]", there are four options presented on pressing the power button: restart, sleep, cancel (ie oops! wrong button), shut down. How many people did that take? It's a mystery lost in time, as the "choice of four" has existed since at least 1997. Linux distributions have an uncountable team; the Gnome distribution offers just "suspend" and "hibernate". On the iPod, there is no on/off button - a design choice made, yes, by Steve Jobs. (Instead, it turns itself off once paused for a set length of time.)"    (Continued via Guardian)    [Usability Resources]

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