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What is "ugly" software?

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Posted by J J Weimer
Jul 12, 2018 at 12:35 PM

 

I consider two aspects equally important in good UI design. One is how an app lays out and styles its widgets (controls, information panes, and input panes). At one end of bad UI design in this case are apps that show every possible widget on the main view, typically with different sizes or colors or positions intended to indicate an aspect of relative importance or power in the widget. I find this approach as cluttered. An example toward this extreme is the current UI of DevonThink Pro. Another aspect of UI design is how an app uses ink and whitespace. At one end of bad UI design in this case are apps that use multiple colors or put various widgets in framed boxes, typically with the intent again to indicate that some additional or different level of importance should be associated with that portion of the view or with that widget. I can point to one aspect of the UI of DevonThink Pro as an example ... Aligned Columns with Borders. My brain associates this with having to “see past the borders to see into the columns”. A corresponding case are apps that spread out content with un-used whitespace in what might be called a case of lowering the information density. The transition going from OmniFocus 1 to OmniFocus 2 is a case where users complained about a decrease in information density (the whitespace between tasks increased).

 


Posted by Paul Korm
Jul 12, 2018 at 07:45 PM

 

I’m somewhat on a different plane with regard to DEVONthink—the UI is utilitarian but since I use have the app open and actively use it 8 - 10 hrs / day, I find the majority of those visible controls useful and I’m glad they are there.  But the icons, fonts, etc., are fusty and sort of inelegant.  But it works, so I guess in my book it is not ugly.  What puts me off, and drove me away from participating in their forums, is the defensiveness of staff—especially the moderators—who seemed more interested in party lines than helpful suggestions from customers.

Regarding Tinderbox, I agree with Steve—the older versions (5, 4 and before) were far more useful.  It’s true that 6 and 7 brought major new features, but the loss of multiple windows and a few other tools was a big negative.  Porting the application from whatever environment it was built in, to Cocoa, was a definite downgrade in user experience.

I’ve been heavily testing DropTask recently and like the balance of form and function, along with some creative approaches to working with tasks in a non-linear fashion that I appreciate.

 


Posted by J J Weimer
Jul 13, 2018 at 12:38 AM

 

Paul Korm wrote:
I’m somewhat on a different plane with regard to DEVONthink—the UI is
>utilitarian but since I use have the app open and actively use it 8 - 10
>hrs / day, I find the majority of those visible controls useful and I’m
>glad they are there. 

This could be taken to support my general comment elsewhere. A certain class of users is so battle worn to the ugliness of DTP that they no longer see it as ugly. First time users such as me have a hard time getting to the beauty beneath the skin. And even when I do get past the UI, some of the bones to DTP seem just not designed the right way some times.

>But the icons, fonts, etc., are fusty and sort of
>inelegant. 

Ha! That is a polite way of saying it I guess. And I learned a new word too!

>But it works, so I guess in my book it is not ugly.  What
>puts me off, and drove me away from participating in their forums, is
>the defensiveness of staff—especially the moderators—who seemed
>more interested in party lines than helpful suggestions from customers.

Here I’d definitely say me too.


JJW

 


Posted by Chris Thompson
Jul 13, 2018 at 01:43 PM

 

DevonThink is long due for the version 3 update, which hopefully will improve the visual look. They should probably look for inspiration to Scrivener, which didn’t look all that dated in v2, but really got a lot of subtle visual improvements in v3 that genuinely seem to help to get it out of your way when you’re trying to focus. (They did a great job on the iOS version of Scriv too.) Every so often the developer of DevonThink hints at v3 being imminent on Twitter, so hopefully it’s nearing completion.

—Chris

Paul Korm wrote:
I’m somewhat on a different plane with regard to DEVONthink—the UI is
>utilitarian but since I use have the app open and actively use it 8 - 10
>hrs / day, I find the majority of those visible controls useful and I’m
>glad they are there.  But the icons, fonts, etc., are fusty and sort of
>inelegant.

 


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