Monday, July 23, 2007

Defeated By a Dialog Box

The need to retain design conventions ...

"Interaction techniques that deviate from common GUI standards can create usability catastrophes that make applications impossible to use.

I can operate almost any user interface. After all, I have 33 years' experience using computers and 25 years' professional experience analyzing bad designs: I know most of the ways interaction designers can confuse or annoy users. I've seen it all before. Or so I thought.

Despite my prowess at defeating complicated user interfaces, I was recently stumped by a simple dialog box. I simply couldn't figure out how to proceed, so I had to close the application and use another program to achieve my goal.

The offending software shall remain nameless; it's a nice piece of shareware that I enjoy enough to have paid the fee. Also, a single developer serves as both the programmer and interface designer on the application, so it would be unfair to pick on him.

Where's the OK Button?
The usability problem appeared after I upgraded to the application's newest release and wanted to save a file in a new image format. As the following screenshots show, this brought up the expected "Save As" dialog box, along with a smaller, overlaid dialog box containing a property sheet with the image format's special options.

The options window should have included a Help feature, because many of its options were rather obscure. As is typical of users who don't understand their options, I left the settings at the default values, particularly since I was satisfied with the defaults for those settings that I did understand. This is as it should be: if you pick good defaults, most users can ignore any advanced options and simply proceed.

My obvious next step was to accept the default options by clicking the OK button to dismiss the options box. Surprise: there was no such button!

However hard I tried, I couldn't get the application to show me an OK button. I tried saving in another format. I tried rebooting first the app, and then the entire computer. Nothing worked.

It was impossible for me to get rid of the active dialog box and get back to my "Save As" dialog box. I gave up. Defeated by a dialog box."    (Continued via Alertbox)    [Usability Resources]

Problem Dialog Box - Usability, User Interface Design

Problem Dialog Box

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you try the close box?

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think the options dialog is modal so you should just pressed "save" in the main dialog. This ought to fix your problem.

10:23 AM  

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