Jun 12, 2008

What TYPO3 Backend do we need?

There were some discussions during T3DD08, in the mailing lists and by Skype that we need some changes in TYPO3 UI. I was fighting my points hard. One of my points is: change existing and stable things only if it is absolutely necessary because people are already used to them.

I am not talking about bug fixing here. Bug fixes usually do not force people to learn new things. I am talking about changing UI in the incompatible way.

One good (or bad, depending on your views) example is repositioning of "Exit" button" in TYPO3 4.2. It took me several minutes to find this button in the 4.2 Backend. I am not a newbie as you know. The button was placed in the zone, which (according to studies) is least seen by people. It was placed to top-right. It took over 20 minutes to some of my editors to find and they are not stupid!

Another example is the rush with "tabs everywhere" and "docheaders everywhere". It caused many people to complain: they have to make more clicks now. This problem was definitely was not well-thought by developers.I did not plan to write this article. I planned to make a book review today. But I found interesting article at "Cult of Mac" about Mac OS changes that Apple did over years. It changed my intentions because it is important. Here is one part (italics are mine):
“The transition to a legacy-free OS X over the past decade has been such an over-whelming success for one simple reason: Apple has masked the degree of change that it was implementing in each release. Mac OS X 10.0 was actually a radical change, but it felt like the leap from OS 7.6 to 8, not from OS 8 to Red Hat Linux. And each successive version has maintained just enough of the familiar to make the changes easier to handle. And as we all know, a lot of small changes ultimately leads to radical differences. When Microsoft and Adobe finally created modern versions of their applications for OS X that were built using Apple’s XCode tools instead of the more comfortable CodeWarrior environment, it was clear that Jobs had won the adoption race through slow and steady steps forward. And that’s where we are today.”
In other words: changes must preserve user experience. Otherwise users will be frustrated by distraction from their work.

Take Windows as the complete opposite of the Mac OS. Every Windows version (I consider 95 and 98 to be the same version) had different UI. When I switched from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, it took me huge time to learn it. When I changed to Windows 2000 I was frustrated that nothing works as before: no drivers, programs crash, etc. When Windows XP came out, I upgraded (upgraded, not installed fresh!!!) and I remember myself stupidly looking into the blank screen with only task bar and Start button on it ("where the hell did my explorer icon go?"). I am not bothering to check Windows Vista. I had enough bad experiences with always changing UI in Microsoft software.

Now back to TYPO3.

I think we should not make radical changes to existing UI. "Exit" button could be left in the left bottom. Having "Save" button sticky is good. But it does not mean we should have docheaders everywhere. Use your common sense. For example, I was asked already several times when will I add docheaders to TemplaVoila. I responded with a question: "What will be in docheader for TemplaVoila?". The answer is usually: "Well... I am sure you can put something there". "I am sure you can put something there"??? Is this a reason to add docheader? Sorry, this is not a reason. It falls out of my "common sense". There is no need for docheaders everywhere as there is no need for Spotlight button in every Mac application.

Every change in the UI must be evaluated from the user perspective. Will it help users or not? Will it cause more or less clicks? Will it make their work easier? These should be main questions that each developer asks himself before going to implement another "cool" feature.

Convinced? If yes, great! If no, reread the quote from the "Cult of Mac" above again.

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