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It's official: Users navigate flat UI designs 22 per cent slower

Lee D Silver badge

Years in the tech industry have demonstrated conclusively to me that nobody knows how to design, test or refine a user interface.

We peaked at about Windows 3.1 and it's been downhill most of the way from there, with only the occasional upward slope.

And nobody seems to realise how to test this.

You get a line of old grannies, pay them £10 an hour to wiggle the mouse. You give them a bunch of things to do and then leave them to it. Everything from "turn on your new PC" to "print out this document" to "can you backup those files for me".

Then you sit the developer and the granny alone in the room. Every time the granny asks something, he has to help the most minimal amount possible. Every time he is forced to change the UI out of sheer frustration with being asked so much, he has to start again with a fresh granny.

Only when people can walk in, do the tasks, find the way to do them themselves, and not get lost looking for where the damn Portrait/Landscape button is now, and the developer doesn't tear his hair out (or worse) answering the same questions over and over do you let him go back to developing new features.

And then after the new feature, you repeat the testing all over again.

Why this is complex, difficult or in any way worse than "Let's just change everything and hope the users recognise our One Supreme Vision", I can't fathom.

You know, when you wanted to print a file, you used to go to File.. Print or, at worst, the icon that looked like a printer. Those menus / icons are now GONE, hidden under the gumpfh of ribbons and contextual interfaces.

Gone are the days of actually making things simple, when people can make them "designer". This kind of thing sums up EVERY problem I have with the word designer. Expensive. Worse than non-designer. And nothing at all to do with "design" (i.e. fit for purpose, cleverly engineered solutions to the problem at hand) but to do with "designer" (i.e. looks fancy until you actually try to use it, when you realise it's the most overpriced junk ever).

Personally, I still install Classic Shell. I don't get why I'd want a recently used list over an alphabetical one, why I'd want a massive multi-column menu over a little diddy list of programs, why I'd want to hunt a tiny arrow that's liable to mis-clicking over nice big "Shutdown" or "Restart" buttons. Don't even get me started on Metro, which is basically Active Desktop 2.0. We rejected that back in 1995 for a reason, guys.

I honestly just want an OS / application suite that's customisable. Let people theme it and customise it, and then if they WANT it to look like Office 2000, well someone can just distribute that theme and all the buttons go back to 3D buttons with File menus and suchlike. Why does the UI determine how you use the program and not the other way around. And then, when that happens, let's track download of the Office 2000 theme versus, say, the Office 2016 theme.

And why the hell the UI ever changes for servers, I've really never understood. I can only imagine it's literally to sell the new MCSE/MCSA qualification where you've rejigged the question "What menu do you use to..."

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