button ordering (was Re: fd.o HIG)

Dave Cridland dave at cridland.net
Tue Oct 26 12:10:38 EEST 2004

On Mon Oct 25 20:01:22 2004, Scott Wheeler wrote:
> On Monday 25 October 2004 20:45, Sean Middleditch wrote:
> > What could be more confusing than app that behaves one way in one 
> > situation(desktop) and differently in another situation?
> I don't know, maybe say, having half of your applications using one 
> button ordering and the other half using another?  ;-)
> > It's entirely poor UI to have an application behave one way on 
> one account > and a different way on another.
> Now, which is the more common case:  a user switches desktops 
> regularly using the same set of applications or a user uses one 
> desktop with applications from different toolkits?

[Lots of snippage here]

Scott, I think you might have misread Sean's comments. I usually find 
he's a lot more sensible than you appear to have taken him for, and I 
read his comments quite differently.

Assuming I read him right, I can confidently state that I agree with 
both of you.

1) The button ordering should be consistent across all applications, 
regardless of toolkit, desktop library, etc. [Your argument]

2) This button ordering, while it might default to the user's 
first-use desktop, should remain unchanged - at least by default - 
when the user switches to a different desktop. [Sean's argument]

I think both are quite sensible arguments - you don't want to change 
key parts of the UI implicitly because of another change to the 
context it's run in. You change UI explicitly - when the user asks - 
and you try to keep it consistent, but to change it as a side-effect 
of something else is, indeed, very poor UI design.

To put it another way, I'd hazard a guess that most users would 
assume that changing the desktop involved changing the Panel for the 
Kicker, for instance. I don't think they'd assume that this would 
involve switching the ordering of the most important buttons in every 
dialog box. I think this change would be highly surprising, and I 
hate to think what effect it would have on, say, my father-in-law, 
who has sufficiently impaired vision that he may well not find the 
buttons again...


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