Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Three Bad UI Design Decisions

Sometimes, even the best make terrible design decisions in creating their interfaces. I love my iTunes, my Eclipse, and Google Reader. But there are some things that just don't make sense.

1. iTunes 6 for Windows: Menu Bar

"iTunes is a popular Windows application," someone in Cupertino must have thought, "so we should use it to get people used to the MacOS look-and-feel. That'll make them switch to Macs. Next step: global domination!"

This is what iTunes looks like on my Mac:
And this is iTunes on my Windows machine:

There is one big difference between these two: The Mac OS X interface smartly puts every application's menu bar on top of the screen. The window with the music library can then be moved around freely. On Windows, the menu always moves with the application window, and that's what it does for iTunes, too.

So in essence, instead of recreating Mac OS on Windows, Apple introduced a third, new type of window behavior. This is a terrible no-no: It confuses Windows users who are used to separate drag and menu bars. Even worse, it also confuses users who are visiting Windows from the Mac world, and are used to the menu staying on top. Please, dear Apple, stick to the Windows UI design guidelines on this – just the way it was in iTunes 4.

2. Eclipse: Cut-Paste Comment

Let's say you want to copy-paste a Java comment in Eclipse. You do the obvious: You mark the entire comment, hit Ctrl-X, move the cursor to the desired destination, and hit Ctrl-V.
For some reason, the comment now starts at the start of the line, instead of being indented as it should be. If you now try to fix things with Ctrl-I, that doesn't help at all. I don't understand why it should work the way it does.

3. Google Reader: Search

You've set up with all your favorite feeds and now can't remember who wrote hilarious that post about fluffy kittens. 'Aaah, a search bar', you think, type in "fluffy kittens", and hit Enter.
What you get are the search results for "fluffy kittens" across all feeds that Google Reader knows; not just the feeds you subscribed to.

I expected the first search button to be a local search across my feeds, and the second to be that over all feeds. However, the second search button says "Search the Web", which I find nonsensical: When I'm reading my feeds, what would I want to search the web for? For that, I have Google.


Do you agree with what I said? Like it better just the way it is? Write a comment!


Erol said...

I issued a bug request for Eclipse to make them aware of this problem. But somehow, it has not been addressed yet. Maybe I should reopen the but in order to remind them again.


Anonymous said...

I agree on all three points. Keep up the ranting!

Erol said...

I reopened the bug and added a screenshot to the bug report. I hope this issue will be fixed soon ;-)

Again, see

Skott Klebe said...

iTunes - Funny, I have iTunes running all the time on Windows, and I never noticed Apple's "mistake". All that acreage in the window title bar is a waste, anyway - apps have been trying to make use of it for years. I think that iTunes third way is actually a useful innovation - completely harmless, reduces wasted space.
Eclipse - clearly a bug, not a design decision
Google Reader - far from the worst problem with that turpentine-flavored piece of eye candy. How about no "Mark all as read?" How about a way to delete all of your feed selections?

Gabor said...

Skott: Thanks for your comments. You have some interesting points.

iTunes: I'd like it better if it were consistent with the OS than to save 15-20 lines of pixels. In the its Human Interface Guidelines, Apple advises developers to stay consistent with their interface. They should stick to that principle on Windows.

Eclipse: You're right, it's a bug. I was reading comment #1 on:, where an Eclipse developer argues that the behavior is actually intended. So that would make it "bad design decision". :-)

Google Reader: Come on, it's not that bad. I agree with the need for a "mark as read". But I'd trade that any day for better search.