Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Too many anecdotes in Joel's online book

Dear all

Much as the way i like Joel's  online book. I feel that there are too many anecdotes without  "hard stuff".

What i would like to see is proper templates which help a programmer test the Graphical user interface.  I feel Joel has gone the same direction as the ones who wrote the "Interface hall of Shame" www.iarchitect.com/mshame.htm

Lot of smart things  but no real useful stuff. For example there is a photo of some guy who made the form and the button of the same dark color and how he had to write the description of the button on the form etc.  These are the things which sensible people dont do.  So reading it was not of much use to me.

Does anyone have a template  to check the GUI?. If so
please forward it to me?.

Karthik.S
Tuesday, November 27, 2001

This is an interesting idea - the concept of a "template" or some kind of metric for assessing a user interface.

Having taken on the bulk of user interface development where I work the idea of such a procedural approach seems tempting, but at the end of the day I don't think it's viable.

The best thing I can suggest you do is a lot more reading, especially from some of the books on Joel's books list:
* "The Design of Everyday Things" by Don Norman
* "Don't Make Me Think" by Steve Krug

Also have a look at http://www.useit.com/ - Jakob Neilsen's web usability site.

These resources should give you some insight into what does and doesn't work and the reasons why. From there you should have a basis to make your own critical assessments of the interfaces you develop.

I'd be wary of making hard and fast rules (which is perhaps why I don't think you can "automate" the assessment of an interface), rather form best-practice guidelines, but be flexible enough to violate these if the situation justifies it.

On the other hand, if anyone knows of a procedure to assess an interface (other than say usability testing) I'd find it a worthwhile addition to my interface design technique.

Walter Rumsby
Wednesday, November 28, 2001

In defense of anecdotes, I think they are an excellent way to illustrate a concept and explain particular problems.  Especially for someone who has an interest in UI and who wants to make it a part of their software process, but doesn't know where to begin, anecdotes help to give them a "real world" feel for the subject matter.

I referred someone to a specific anecdote in Joel's book to help explain why this little thing we were doing might lead to headaches later, and I can't tell you how fast the light snapped on behind his eyes.  After that it was smooth sailing.

I think it's a question of what type of audience his book appeals to, which is perhaps why more of the "hard stuff" was left out of this book.

Sandra
Wednesday, November 28, 2001

I, too, prefer anecdotes and storytelling.  They are the most ancient and well-worn teaching tools, used in fables and parables.  It's akin to the "places in a building" memorization method, where the subject mentally places things to be memorized into locations in a familiar building.  Storytelling helps the mind link abstract concepts to concrete artifacts.

For example, Sandra uses an anecdote to convey the usefulness of anecdote, whereas I have not.  Which message gives you more confidence?  :-)

Paul Brinkley
Wednesday, November 28, 2001

>>Much as the way i like Joel's online book. I feel that there are too many anecdotes without "hard stuff".

Seeing as you didn't pay anything for reading it, you are not really in a position to complain are you ?

Mr Cranky
Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Hi.

As i said, i like the book and no real complaints. Only thing i would like is more hard stuff -- like what all to look when testing.

Well, i would have loved to purchase the book. But my limited finances dont permit it.

Karthik.S
Thursday, November 29, 2001

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home