Mon, 17 Nov 2003

Overly Customiziable Toolbars

The mantra of moderately-to-very experienced computer users is "customization customization customization", but sometimes we forget how much the customization options built into software for "us" can destroy usability for the less experienced. I just spent 15+ minutes on the phone with an Internet Explorer user who managed to completely obscure his menus. He had all the useless "Sign up for Hotmail NOW!" and "Get Your Free MSN Shotglass" garbage in the toolbar, but the actual menu commands fo using the application were compressed into a tiny, nearly invisible corner of a toolbar with nothing but a couple of small angle brackets to indicate that they existed at all. Why? Because his mouse slipped the other day while he was hitting a link, and IE (ahem) helpfully allowed him to "customize" his interface into unusability. Even figuring out the problem took several minutes, because the visual indicator that IE uses to show that a toolbar is usable is subtle to the point of invisibility to anyone who doesn't know exactly what they're looking for. This led to uncounted repetitions of "look for the slightly raised vertical line next to the slightly smaller indented line next to the 'links' bar and move your cursor really slowly until it turns into a two-headed arrow... no, not that one, the _other_ links item..." I understand (well, not really, but for the sake of this argument let's pretend I do) why someone might want their program menus moved over to, say, the right hand side of a second level toolbar, but why not make it somewhat harder for the naive user to shoot themselves in the face with the option? Would a confirmation dialog be such a bad idea here?

:: 12:42
:: /tech/computers/os/win32 | [+]
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The two elements in water are hydrogen and ______




Lemma: All horses are the same color.
Proof (by induction):
Case n = 1: In a set with only one horse, it is obvious that all
horses in that set are the same color.
Case n = k: Suppose you have a set of k+1 horses. Pull one of these
horses out of the set, so that you have k horses. Suppose that all
of these horses are the same color. Now put back the horse that you
took out, and pull out a different one. Suppose that all of the k
horses now in the set are the same color. Then the set of k+1 horses
are all the same color. We have k true => k+1 true; therefore all
horses are the same color.
Theorem: All horses have an infinite number of legs.
Proof (by intimidation):
Everyone would agree that all horses have an even number of legs. It
is also well-known that horses have forelegs in front and two legs in
back. 4 + 2 = 6 legs, which is certainly an odd number of legs for a
horse to have! Now the only number that is both even and odd is
infinity; therefore all horses have an infinite number of legs.
However, suppose that there is a horse somewhere that does not have an
infinite number of legs. Well, that would be a horse of a different
color; and by the Lemma, it doesn’t exist.