Someone kindly submitted my post to slashdot this morning, and it took the site down for awhile – apologies. The first two times I was slashdotted it didn’t generate anywhere near the traffic this one earned.
I wanted to clarify a few things:
- I left Microsoft in 2003 . I did work on IE for a long time (1.0 to 5.0), but the way the slashdot post was worded many assumed I’m still employed there: not true – I work on my own as a writer and consultant.
- There is a good parallel discusson on Asa’s blog. Asa works on Firefox and is one of the folks that deserves the praise for making an excellent piece of software. I responded to a few comments over there.
- Thanks for all the feedback and commentary. I doubt I’ll ever see this many comments for a single post again. It’s been fun – thanks for writing your opinions.
- On ui design. The mistake we’re all making, myself included, is focusing on designing for ourselves. Designing for ourselves isn’t a sin, but if the game you want to win is market share, you have to work very hard to make sure your needs and wants jive with people who’s needs are less sophisticated than ours (Which is most of the planet’s web browsing poulation). Lots of folks said “my mom can do X” or “my friends can do Y” as justifications of how their experience matches everyone elses, but I think we’d all agree how fragile and anecdotal those claims are. Your mom might be a rocket scientist, and your friend might have watched you do whatever it is before they tried to do it themselves. I’m not saying I’m right, you’re wrong, or that your pants are on fire. Instead I’m saying that design arguments, ui design arguments in particular, can and should stand on firmer ground. There should be an essay somewhere called “how to have a meaningful UI design argument” (finger on nose).
- On history trails, tabs and new windows. Folks pointed out at least a half dozen different ways both new windows and tabs are used. My stated opinion was narrow: apologies. But the concerns still strike me as valid (tabs make back/forward more complex, since there are now N history trails per browser window). I’ll need some time to read through all this, do some sketching, and rethink my stance.
- On open source and design decisions. In digesting all of this, my primary thought is “how does each of these opinions/complaints/usage patterns, as diverse and sometime contradictory as they are, fold together into shaping a single design that’s of the greatest value to the most people.” I’m familiar with the extensions and how the community encourages people to modify, create and involve themselves, which rocks. It’s an innovation pool for ideas that can be considered for the core (Some might recall the Win95 and IE powertoys, it wasn’t community based, but the idea was similiar). But I flinch at using extensions as the copout to challenges to the basic design. It’s a great plan B, but as a designer, for core parts of the experience, the obligation is to dig deep enough that plan A stands tall on its own. I’m not suggesting anyone said otherwise: I just wanted to make sure we’re on the same page. It’s surprising how few mainstream users, of anything, customize. All the data I’ve ever in my career (web,software, etc.) is on the order of 10-30%, and that 10-30% correlates with advanced, savvy, early adopter, industry types: e.g. most of you reading this. I posit that most people, for most things in life, live with the defaults (I mean this about software and life in general).
I’m still reading through all the comments, so keep them coming. I can’t promise to respond to all of it (150 comments and counting, plus e-mail) but I do promise to read them all.