‘How Bad Is Bad?’

Chris Fahey nobly attempts to defend the UI design of Bulk Rename Utility:

So if it’s not the number of features that’s bad, let’s focus on the UI itself. The signature quality of this design is that every single feature is shown on one page. There are no layers of dialog boxes, no multistep wizards. The fields are numbered, too, which seems to suggest the order the transformations are processed. The entire transformation is right there for the user to see, no surprises. What’s more, showing all the possible transformations on this one screen educates the user on what the application can actually do: No poking around through menus and manuals to find out what this app is capable of. It’s all right there.

Exposing all functionality on one screen can be useful in some cases, but once a certain level of complexity is reached, it’s no longer a reasonable idea. Bulk Rename Utility is well past that level of complexity. If your UI even vaguely resembles an airplane cockpit, you’re doing it wrong.

Put another way, it’s a worthy goal to reduce the complexity of software to the point where it can be cleanly exposed on a single screen. That’s very different than cramming any arbitrary amount of complexity into a single screen.

Monday, 1 December 2008

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