April 6, 2009

Platforms need to get the basics right

Everybody is building a platform these days. Software isn’t delivered on top of an operating system anymore, it’s delivered on top of a platform that does what the OS used to (and, to be fair, usually a lot more).

So instead of a Windows or Mac app, there are now Ajax, XUL, WinForms, WPF, Java, Adobe Air, Flash, and Silverlight apps. I won’t even get into the mobile OS’s.

This is all fine-and-dandy, and results in some cool innovation. But they are missing the basics: the smooth user interface polish that came from years of tweaks and fine adjustments.

I’m still annoyed that streaming video doesn’t have a fast playback mode, and today I’m frustrated by the lack of basic keyboard shortcuts. What happened to the Home key moving to the top, or Ctrl+Left moving back one word? Ctrl+A doesn’t select everything in many edit boxes. Double-click doesn’t always select the word.

Worse, you never know what’s going to work where. It’s hit and miss.

Apple, Microsoft and IBM have all built detailed user interface guidelines, and the standard shortcuts and UI conventions are well documented. These should be required reading for everyone implementing yet another edit control or drop-down list.


  1. Tim Bahula :

    Any chance we can get Ctrl-Z to undo the last visual markup applied in LDLS 3?

  2. Wayne Berry :

    Where is the link to the Microsoft documentation on detailed user interface guidelines that you like?
    This one:
    is from 2001
    My issue is that I think I know what should be good UI (Like the Home Button above) however that knowledge is 10 years old. Did it change? Does the younger generation expect something different?

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