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CityDesk and swf


Thanks for the awesome articles Joel, much enjoyed and appreciated. I do have comments though, of course!

First, I think that often in the name of usability, certain things are thrown out after some testing reveals problems with it. This in general is a good thing, however, I think a lot of usability testing focuses on lower end users. Again this is a good thing, but you have to remember the full time users of your product too. I always like to think 'one hour one vote' rather than 'one user one vote' when making these decisions. Looking at it this way, things like customizability and general flexibility become much more important than most tests would indicate I bet. For example, I used to do concept vehicle artwork with CorelDraw from sketches. Doing this, you use things like weld, trim, and intersect about 1000 times an hour, and all day every work day, for years. So it is very important to map those to single keys, even though others wouldn't want that. Yes, its a problem sitting at another computer if you can't get your settings online, but that isn't the problem you really need solved. You need the instant weld and intersect a lot more than you need to use a computer down the hall.

Another example, I spent a lot of time using animation software that couldn't be customized, and a few of the important hotkeys were things like ctrl/shift/alt'S', or ctrl/shift/'Y' etc. Eventually my left hand had that famous shooting pain. As a result of this, I now must map 'copy' and 'paste' to F3 and F4 in all the programs I use, or the problem comes back. Now one can say I'm wrong to do that, but maybe my doctor would disagree. And with the (excellent) CityView product, I can't. So like it as I do, it is very hard to use for me.

Another small gripe - I use SWF a lot, it is a common net format and certain things that need to be animated need to be done with it. I do not expect that there be an insert SWF button - I understand that isn't within the scope of the program. But it should at least be possible to be put in there, not actively disallowed. Maybe insert it as a picture even, and I'll cover the HTML. Trying this though, it just can't be done. You aren't allowed to search for it in the find dialog, though you can paste in the path and it will load it. I put in the HTML manually, (which btw doesn't wrap and can't insert tabs, why is that?), and it still can't find it in the database. In fact it hangs for 30 seconds or so, then a 'too complex HTML' error... Anyway, the point isn't that you should support SWF's better, its more that, in my opinion, something that is over defined and spec'ed becomes inflexible. Being inflexible is not that different than being fragile, or having bad usability. Grandma doesn't use software like she uses her hands, but most hours logged with your product will be by people who do. ...and sometimes you use your hands as a hammer rather than for playing piano. It might be wrong, but its true.

Often you will see 'expert' users doing all kinds of silly workarounds to get a task done. At first blush, it seems that the program must have flaws, and often this is the case. However lots of legitimate work is at the edges (or outside) a product spec. Good programs adapt to this, but how can you find this info if the spec is closed and sealed at the edges? Even though a ragged edge flies in the face of a lot of good common sense software development techniques, in the real world its invaluable. The trick I think is burying everything at the right level, hidden from grandma, but allowing it to be brought up by those who know they need it. And leaving things open ended in a clean-as-possible way rather than disallowing things. Sure it dirty, organic, wispy, and very un-CPU like, but so is real life sometimes. At least the good stuff is.

Anyway, hope I don't sound too harsh, I do love the concept and product - just the whole subject is very very important. If I was at all sure of all the above points I probably wouldn't sound so opinionated, in fact I probably wouldn't have wrote!

Thanks again,
Robin Debreuil

Robin Debreuil
Friday, August 09, 2002

You know, there are remappable keyboards with macros.  This would shift your keymap objection from the app end to the hardware.  Have you looked at these?

I'm not arguing against your points.  I hate emacs-like chords, partly because rms and jwz have both found their wrists crippled.  Just it might help your short-term problem.

Sunday, August 11, 2002

Hey Sammy,

I had looked at them only with the idea of remapping apps - I never really considered them for just a few choice universal keys like copy and paste. Great suggestion, I'm looking into this as I type...


Robin Debreuil
Sunday, August 11, 2002


Those are some of the most beautiful pages I have ever seen on the internet kudoz.

And is that you on the intro page? Raaaawwwwrrr. :) Says "Frank" but doesn't look like him. ;)

Someone who paid money for CityDesk.
Monday, August 12, 2002

Someone: "<.bject classid="clsid:D27CDB6E-AE6D-11cf-96B8-444553540000" "

I gues our opinion of beautiful differs

Monday, August 12, 2002

Not me, wrong gender in fact...

She was from a 'less than reputable' animation we did a few years ago. The one perk that drawing has over programming, is you get to spend your Saturday afternoons bending Frank to your will, rather than a DataTable Control ; ).


Robin Debreuil
Monday, August 12, 2002

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