Sunday, April 22, 2007

Some Notes for Software and Interface Designers

These are some simple rules for you.
  1. My computer belongs to me. I have set up all my preferences the way I want them. Do not add icons to my desktop or quick launch menu; I can decide for myself what needs to be there.
  2. Do not make things run in the background or when I start my PC. I can decide how much stuff I want running all the time, using system resources. There is no earthly reason for most of the software that dumps things into the Windows system tray to do that. I do not need my online meeting software running all the time; most of the time, I am working, not hosting a meeting.
  3. A routine upgrade is not an opportunity to change program preferences which I have set. When I turned off the "auto-detect media" option in Picasa - which should have been off to start with - I meant it. The fact that I installed a minor update this morning did not mean that I'd changed my mind and wanted it running in the background all the time.
  4. Your software should do its task and nothing more. Why did installing a printer/scanner make OmniPage decide that it's the default document to open PDFs? Why does it keep thinking that, no matter how many times I fix the file assocations in Windows?
  5. Your software shouldn't install other software I didn't ask for. I am so tired of saying, "No, I don't want the Google (or Yahoo or MSN) toolbar. No, I don't want Yahoo messenger." If I wanted it, I'd install it. Just give me what I'm asking for.

I am Mac/Windows agnostic, I have one of each type of machine running here, and while I generally prefer the Windows interface to do work - it's crisper, it's more flexible - these are the things that may make my next machine an Apple. Because Macs are very, very good about not letting new software insinuate itself all ove the place, whereas Windows software installation seems to be a free pass to just take over your machine.

It's irritating. It's the reason nothing made my Symantec will ever be permitted on any computer I have control over, ever again; removing the non-functioning Norton utilities suite was like uninstalling a virus. (It never worked - $60 down the toilet. Their support is nonexistent; after buying software that doesn't install correctly, they want you to pay to get help. This is a company that, in a fair world, would cease to exist.) It's why nothing made by AOL is ever allowed on any computer I control, ever, ever, ever.

If Microsoft could secure Windows so installers just couldn't do this crap without permission, I'd probably never consider a Mac again. If Windows software developers would think for a moment, "What does our user want?" it wouldn't be a problem.

As it stands today, this simple issue makes me hesitant to ever buy another Windows machine. Even though, in so many other ways, I think it provides a much better user experience.

Thus endeth this Sunday's rant.


Jon Nichols said...

Excellent rant... luckily, there is at least a little hope on the pre-installed software front:

We'll see where it goes, but I'm looking for a laptop right now, and one of the key features will be how little software I can have pre-installed.

Almost Got It said...

I don't like McCKafee much better (I know I'm misspelling it. Call it my tiny and meaningless revenge..)

I would assume these major IT and software companies spend $$ on marketing, but it's astounding what they've come up with: "(a) Computer users are all too stupid to format anything on their own, so (b) let's format everything so that their work is even HARDER; (c) they're so gullible they'll let us force any product or configuration we want down their throats; and (d) they'll LIKE this abuse so much they'll come back and spend a gajillion more on our products."

My (logical) question is: what must we silly idiot consumers be doing that perpetuates all of this?