back to article The web is past peak innovation: It's all negative returns from here

In all the years I have been using FOSS software, the most common complaint I've seen about FOSS software is that the "design" is "terrible", "laughable" or some witticism about forks and eyes. What's interesting about this criticism isn't its longevity, that's to be expected since for most of the people registering this …

Anonymous Coward

Lynx

For the win.

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Re: Lynx

Speaking of which, why is there a gigantic and useless picture of a cat-on-keyboard up there?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lynx

Cat pictures are never useless.

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Re: Lynx

"Cat pictures are never useless"

Only true when they're pictures of Lynx. And panthers.

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"Design is how it works"

You only have to say that to people who are more concerned about how it looks.

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Linux

And yet...

> In an article about the birth of the iPod, Steve Jobs said: That’s not what

> we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is

> how it works."

Which is fine, except that Apple spent, and still spend, *vast* resources on the look and feel, and the initial advertising for the iPod was all about that external look with pretty much no mention of function.

GJC

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Re: And yet...

Slogan for iPod; "1000 songs in you pocket".

First advert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mE_bDNaYAr8

Geoff, you are wrong.

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Re: And yet...

Design is 'how it works' is it? Hmm, must be why the original iphone couldn't even send picture messages :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And yet...

"...must be why the original iphone couldn't even send picture messages" Didn't need to. Email old chap.

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Re: And yet...

How do those things not fall out of his ears?

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Re: And yet...

Apple didn't spend a dime on the original iPod "look and feel". They copied the original iPod user interface from Creative, then ponied up $100M (after a court judgement) to Creative for the license to use it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And yet...

""...must be why the original iphone couldn't even send picture messages" Didn't need to. Email old chap."

How did a guy with an iPhone and no e-mail address use e-mail? There's a reason MMS existed.

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I know this one!

There's a reason MMS existed.

Was it so that the cellular network companies could charge an eye-wateringly extortionate amount of money every time someone sends one?

There's a reason that I deliberately never set up MMS on my phone.

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Re: I know this one!

So how did people pass things like pictures around when they had nothing to their name BUT a cell phone number?

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Facepalm

Re: I know this one!

Fire off a text message instead: "Oi, mate, I want to send you a picture, what's your email address?"

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These stupid vertical scrolling websites

This seems the right place for a rant about these websites that have decided to put their entire website on one page, and you have to scroll all the way down to find anything out, interspersed with full-page photographs, as if someone took a magazine and glued all the pages end to end.

It's stupid, it's terribly slow to load, fairly slow to scroll, difficult to find anything, and I hate it, and hate you for making it. Hyperlinks are not a scarce resource. Use them.

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Re: These stupid vertical scrolling websites

Agreed - I hadn't looked at the non-support side of the HP website for quite a while, but went looking for a new printer last night. Holy crap, that was the most content-free web page I've ever seen. You need to find the magic "show all" link in tiny print off to the side to make the scrolling photo montage go away and bring you to the list of printers. Even then, it's rendered as a set of massive tiles that you have to scroll down through.

I'm hoping this is just a trend that's in the process of peaking, but I'm still waiting for someone in the design community to say "stop the insanity!" No one has come forward yet.

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Re: These stupid vertical scrolling websites

but don't over use them like those crappy '20 must see X Y Zs' websites that have half a sentence per page and would probably take, if I ever bothered to stick around the ad madness, another 50 pages just to see those 20 amazing things.

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Re: These stupid vertical scrolling websites

Website designers now answer to marketing and marketing has always had their heads up their asses.

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Unhappy

I call BS

No bad design?

Never used Lotus Notes then?

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Anonymous Coward

Microwave ovens seem to illustrate the trend to style over function.

After 50 years of development it would be expected that the functional basics would be perfect. My primary requirements are 800w, stainless steel inner cavity, digital panel, and good ventilation to prevent high condensation when cooking. Trying to buy one has proved impossible so far.

Adverts and sellers' listings are all about the exterior finish - it usually takes some research to find the technical details. Very often buyers' reviews reveal disturbing numbers of returns for doors that don't close properly, high condensation, sticking buttons, hard to release door latches, interior cavity coating peeling in a short time - and even bursting into flames.

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I don't even want a digital panel. A knob that you turn to set the cooking time is a far more appropriate interface. And why does there have to be a clock? The whole point of microwaves is that they cook stuff quickly. The only point of a clock would be if you needed to set it going on a timer a few hours before you arrived home. Some idiot obviously thought - hey, look, we've got this numerical display, why don't we make it flash annoyingly whenever there's a power cut.

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I have a microwave oven with most of the features you are talking about. It must be getting on for 40 years old: my granddad bought it when I was a very small child. My grandmother gave it to me many years ago when she replaced it with a newer (inferior) model. It has two knobs, one to set the time and one to set the power level, and has an electromechanical countdown timer like the ones you used to see on tape recorders. It's only 650W though, as was the norm back then.

The thing weighs an absolute ton and needless to say it's still going strong today.

It's very similar but not identical to this:

http://img.class.posot.es/en_gb/2015/12/02/microwave-oven-20151202174321.jpg

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@Wilseus

Get a microwave leak detector, as the seals on a 40 year old model are likely to be shot. That may also be why your WiFi gets slower when heating up a meal!

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Re: @Wilseus

Or just leave a few eggs in a bowl on top for a week or so and see if they magically become hard boiled.

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Ditto washing machines. The sole method of using should be: close door, press GO. When I last replaced my washer the salesdroid gabbled away saying if you want X you press Y, if you want A you do B and C, it will even do E, F and G if you set W, Z and Y. Arrghhh!!!! NO! Stuff clothes in drum. Add washing powder/liquid. Close door. Press GO. FULL STOP.

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"A knob that you turn to set the cooking time is a far more appropriate interface. And why does there have to be a clock? The whole point of microwaves is that they cook stuff quickly."

The catch being that something that cooks stuff quickly also means you can OVERcook something quickly. And if you're nuking something enclosed, like a sausage, you DO NOT want to overcook it or you'll be spending the night cleaning the innards out of the innards of your microwave. Clocks allow for precision, which is pretty important in fast jobs with little margin for error.

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Anonymous Coward

"Ditto washing machines. The sole method of using should be: close door, press GO."

OK, so you use the same single setting for every single wash job, even for whites (which usually mean bleach) or heavily-soiled or large jobs (meaning you probably need extra soap and wash time)? When it comes to washing, one size does not necessarily fit all, which is why I LIKE washing machines with lots of settings, so I can dial in just the right setting for the load I have on hand since no two washes are the same.

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" I don't even want a digital panel. A knob ... is a far more appropriate interface.

My microwave has exactly what you describe: a knob to set the time and a start and stop button.

There are, of course, a multitude of other buttons. But they are all labeled in Korean and I haven't bothered to figure out what they say. Life can be so easy ...

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Re: " I don't even want a digital panel. A knob ... is a far more appropriate interface.

"Life can be so easy ..."

Until you blow up a sausage in it. Life is never easy for long...

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Clocks allow for precision, which is pretty important in fast jobs with little margin for error.

No, as the OP was at pains to distinguish, a timer allows for precision. No need for a clock...

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No, as I was trying to point out, how do you dial in exactly 1 minute, 20 seconds on a dial? A digital clock timer with keypad makes it pretty damn easy: 1-2-0-START. Easy, peasy, and dead easy to redo. That's the definition of precision. Try doing that on a dial with only 15-second marks on it...

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WTF, who said anything about a dial...? Have you never heard about digital timers, do you not know the difference between a timer and a clock, or are you just pretending to be dense for the heck of it?

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Re: " I don't even want a digital panel. A knob ... is a far more appropriate interface.

Charles, what is it with you and sausages and microwave ovens? I'm starting to sense a theme here.

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Anonymous Coward

And if you're nuking something enclosed, like a sausage, you DO NOT want to overcook it or you'll be spending the night cleaning the innards out of the innards of your microwave. Clocks allow for precision, which is pretty important in fast jobs with little margin for error.

Throwing bangers in the microwave at 6AM or at 6PM and cooking for too long will yield the same result. Power control and timers are what prevents them from being literal "bangers".

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"It has two knobs, one to set the time and one to set the power level,"

Oh, you mean a variable magnetron? I'd love to be able to get one like that. Unfortunately, on pretty much every modern microwave, the "power" setting is effectively a variable pulse width square wave instead of an actual variable level, ie it pulses full power on and off instead of truly changing the power level as per a "proper" microwave oven used to do.

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Joke

"no two washes are the same."

Maybe he's single and has a wardrobe full of jeans and black polo/turtle necks?

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> how do you dial in exactly 1 minute, 20 seconds on a dial?

Why would you ever need to ?

In all the nuking I've ever done, "give or take" 10 seconds on that would not be an issue. There's variation in the amount of ${food}, there's variation in composition of ${food}, there's variation in where on the plate ${food} is put, ...

For me, bung ${food} in nuker, guestimate how long it'll need, turn dial - see how it comes out. If I underestimated then I give it a bit more. As for stuff exploding, two things ...

For sausages - prick them first.

For everything, just cover it then when it does explode (baked beans are good for exploding) then it's only on the cover that you drop in the washing up bowl along with the rest of the pots.

Two knobs is pretty much the epitome of basic functional design. Everyone can use it without a manual, it's clear what the settings are, and it's simple. At work they got a new microwave, and it needs a notice on the wall as it's really not as simple as 1-2-0-go. Epitome of poor functional design, because while it (if you like that sort of thing) looks OK, it needs more button presses than makes sense to "just use it" - simple things like having to select the power level (never seen anyone use other than full) every time before selecting the time.

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Anonymous Coward

No, as I was trying to point out, how do you dial in exactly 1 minute, 20 seconds on a dial? A digital clock timer with keypad makes it pretty damn easy: 1-2-0-START. Easy, peasy, and dead easy to redo.

And what, makes it "exactly" 1 minute 20 seconds and not 1 minute 20.015 seconds or 1 minute 19.994 seconds? How often in cooking does ±5 seconds actually matter where microwave ovens are concerned given the radiation power can vary from ~500W to 1.2kW and varied by way of PWM or analogue control?

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"In all the nuking I've ever done, "give or take" 10 seconds on that would not be an issue. There's variation in the amount of ${food}, there's variation in composition of ${food}, there's variation in where on the plate ${food} is put, ..."

When I use the microwave to soften butter, 10 seconds is easily enough for most of the stick to go from hard to liquid. Sometimes having precision is useful.

If you never use it for that particular task, I can see why you wouldn't care.

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"How do you dial in exactly 1 minute, 20 seconds on a dial?"

On mine, you turn the knob clockwise one click, then push it in and turn it clockwise for 20 clicks. Easy.

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People use beautiful things

In terms of user interfaces, if you want people to use your software it needs to look appealing. Users will stick with a beautiful system that's not behaving much longer than with an ugly system. That gives them a chance to find a successful route through the product.

It doesn't matter how great something's internal design is if no one uses that thing. Of course the inverse applies, a beautiful front end to a non-functioning system is pointless. As with most things, a balance is required.

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Re: People use beautiful things

I beg to differ.

For getting work done I go with function over 'beauty' every time. My garden spade looks pretty rusty but works, nobody will gaze in admiration at my screwdriver set and it is the same with the software I need. I prefer CLI over GUI --unless-- the GUI has some real added value for the extra screen space it uses.

My data reduction is run with a CLI (which can be easily scripted) and save the pretty stuff for showing the results.

The appealing looks maybe useful for selling games (yes I'm thinking of Kate 'Game of War' Upton) but does not help the game quality.

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posting using w3m

Just for the hell of it!

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LDS
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There are basic rules for good UI design...

.... which a lot of software ignore. It's not a matter of taste. It's lack of a basic knowledge. And it's not just limited to FOSS software, albeit there it's more visible, especially when relying more on volunteers work. Sometimes because the underlying widget library has issues too, sometimes for the lack of precise guidelines about how to develop an UI. On Windows, more or less Microsoft sets the standards, and most just copy - those who don't or have a good design dept., or are Lotus Notes.

On macOS, it's the same with Apple. It's on Linux you may feel the lack of a "leader" who drives the standard, and competing desktop managers and widgets doesn't help.

I know a lot of good programmers who are totally inept at creating good UIs, and some work with me. You have to keep them away from working on UIs, simply. And let those who have a knack for it develop the UI. Also, delivering a great UI takes a lot of time (especially if a good visual designer is not available) and a true understanding of how users are going to interact with the software.

Then there's the issue when marketing people are involved - they are another category who doesn't understand basic rules. Their main idea is attempting to deceive the user with a "great" visual impact, at the expense of anything else. The need to support touch interaction on a single site maybe shown on small devices led to too large elements for whoever looks at the site on a 30" screen...

On product web sites, it becomes also a way to hide information. The less, the better, the visitor will not be able to compare your product with competitors, it will be stuck into your boastful four large words assertions your product is the greatest of all. And you don't know where to click to find the info you need...

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Re: There are basic rules for good UI design...

Was this one of the reasons behind WPF? Programmers could get on with coding the functionality while the design was handled elsewhere?

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Re: There are basic rules for good UI design...

I rather assumed with WPF there would be designer types playing with expression blend whilst I smashed code out in visaul studio. The new person, for it is a dull but simple job if both sides have designed to the same spec (as if that ever happens), makes the bindings happy so it all joins up.

Never bloody happened to me though. Always see programmers designing interfaces, including myself, with variable results at best.

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Re: There are basic rules for good UI design...

"The need to support touch interaction on a single site maybe shown on small devices led to too large elements for whoever looks at the site on a 30" screen..."

PAY ATTENTION HERE, Microsoft!

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Re: There are basic rules for good UI design...

But remember that Microsoft has to cater to STUPID. And by that I mean people who keep asking the help desk, "What's a mouse?" yet are expected to use these things to do important stuff...like benefits filing or taxes. And since you can't fix stupid, teaching them is pretty much a lost cause, so stooping to their level is the only way to get through to them.

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LDS
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Re: There are basic rules for good UI design...

IMHO you need "UI developers". They are software developers with a good understanding on UI design and its development. They are intertwined enough you need someone skilled enough in working on the UI widgets, and the code that drives them. Graphical designer can draft the initial layout and then feed the required elements like images, icons, etc., yet because an UI is not fully static but reacts to user interactions and those changes are driven by code, you need someone skilled at designing and implement those changes and interactions too. Graphical designers used at static layouts are IMHO far less proficient in handling software UIs, and splitting the work between two people may slow down work and deliver not good UIs because of "split brain" situations.

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