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October 30, 2005


Kevin Dente

Just discovered your blog. Great stuff!

However, in my opinion your example of creating a new folder in the OS is a bad one (at least the way Explorer does it). Why? For two reasons:

1) What are the odds that you actually want a folder called New Folder (or New Folder (27))? Practically zero. So the user is going to have to type the new name anyway. And in fact it's quite easy to accidentally quit out of Explorer's rename mode, which makes the whole process more hassle.

2) Depending on how network permissions are set up, it's possible that the user will be able to create a folder but not be able to rename it. I've actually had this happen to me - it's incredibly annoying (especially when you can't delete the new folder either).

Apparently the Office 2003 thought so too. When you create a new folder in the File dialogs there, it pops up a prompt for the folder name.

Brooks Moses

I'm going to have to disagree with your point 1, Kevin. A fair fraction of the time, when I'm creating a folder, I'm creating it for a temporary purpose, and really don't care what the name is. "New Folder" does just fine -- and, usually, if I do decide my temporary directory needs a name, I make that decision well after creating the folder.

I also contend that having a dialog box is little help. For a properly-done dialog box, the name field is highlighted, and I can immediately type in a name, and then I have to either hit "enter" or click "ok". If I click somewhere else, I then have to re-click in the dialog box's edit field, and usually reselect the default text to replace it.

The process of using the rename field to name a new folder strikes me as different from this in only three ways: (1) it's slightly easier to accidentally quit out of it, as you say; (2) it doesn't require hitting "enter" or "ok" after editing; just going to do something else is sufficient, and (3) it doesn't require my attention at any given point. Other than that, the interaction process is exactly the same.

Thus, aside from the very minor issue of the rename mode being slightly easier to accidentally quit out of, I can't see how having a dialog box will possibly save me mouse-clicks or keystrokes.

Peeyush Singh

I'm no expert, so please take the following with a grain of salt :).

From my perspective, a lot of UI flaws can be largely attributed to an incorrect approximation of the target audience. To put it more simply, it seems that a lot of designers/developers (or whoever it is that has the biggest hand in crafting UIs for a given application), seem to forget WHO they are desiging for.

Consider the delicate balance between having your application present you with many options at once and letting the user tweak them, or using a wizard or simple dialog interface and giving the user the option for more options. It's a balance between a user that knows what he or she is doing right away and has probably used the application many times, versus the user that has little familiarity with the application to begin with.

The main problem, in my case anyway, is how to both efficiently and elegantly arrange the information on both the spatial and temporal planes. I always end up asking myself, "Ok, would it be better if I broke down the follow dialog into multiple dialogs? Tabs maybe? Drop down & Command maybe? Wizard?"

I have to ask myself what is going to make the most efficient use of time against the most effective outcome.

Sorry for that long-winded comment, I was just pouring out my thoughts as an amature developer, heh. I appericiate your blog :).

Robert Moir

"1) What are the odds that you actually want a folder called New Folder (or New Folder (27))? Practically zero. "

The user might want to rename the folder but the question is when do they want to rename the folder.

I very frequently find myself creating a new folde because I want to store some files into it right away and it would be an awful interuption to the flow of my work to have to stop and think of folder names while I'm actually concentrating on putting a bunch of files somewhere "safe".

Now I don't assume that my needs are those of the whole world, which is why I'd argue for choice, an ability to create a file and either use it right away or rename it right away depending on what you're doing.


Personally, I'm most annoyed that when I go to rename a file with an extension, the extension is automatically highlighted. So, renaming "Note.txt" and typing "Note to Mom" results in that annoying "Are you sure you want to change the extension?" dialog. How about only selecting the name and not the extension by default?



So, renaming "Note.txt" and typing "Note to Mom" results in that annoying "Are you sure you want to change the extension?" dialog. How about only selecting the name and not the extension by default?

is a brilliant comment. I've thought the same thing a million times myself.


Robert Moir

Oh yeah. The extension thing. I'd buy Chris' idea for a dollar! I always like to see extensions but I only occasionally want to change them!

Dileepa P

Warren: I think Windows Vista selects only the file name by default, when one tries to rename a file.


Agree. Less questions, more action. And dialogs suck! ;) Hey btw that's my on-object UI in office! Glad you like it. Some people who know it love it, most never even see it though, which is too bad. Maybe a bit too subtle. Oh btw, we fixed that problem of extensions getting blown when renaming a file and you have extensions showing in Windows Vista... it nicely only highlights the name part before the period when renaming.
Sometimes these things are relatively simple and you think 'duh, of course!', but often it is just so hard to know what users want to do. Most UI folks make the wrong call and decide in the end to just ask EVERYTHING. It also often requires more detailed knowledge of the user goals and behavior patterns than
most people are prepared or even able to obtain.

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