1 out of 10
"Much of Alistair's recent work has been well written and entertaining, but this piece is not up to the high standard he has set himself. Must try harder."
Click and wait. Now click again. OK, that didn’t work. Let’s try again. Click and let go of the mouse button... and wait... and click a second time. No, I don’t want you to double-click. I need you to click twice, yes, but with a gap in between. Look, you have to click and leave that mouse button alone for a second or two …
Which was my point - he's done some very good stuff, and on that basis I invested the time and effort to read this piece, and the payoff simply wasnt there. His points were valid, relevant to tech, and well made, just not entertaining, and this is the SFTW slot, not some workaday article on UI.
Obviously the downvoters found this week's epistle entertaining, but I'm still struggling to get much of a laugh out of it.
I don't anyone can be funny to all people all the time, but you obviously haven't had to replace the headlights on one of those 70s-80s Citroen cars where the first stage in replacing is opening the boot and taking out the back seat.
AFAIK they're not that much better nowadays, but this piece of advice sagely handed down to me by my father ("Never buy a fucking French car") means that luckily I don't have to find out for myself.
You needed to unscrew the housings from behind, the only way to get behind the housings was through the dashboard so you had to remove that from the car too.
To remove the dashboard from the car you had to take it out of the rear door, you could get it over the front seats by fully reclining them but you had to take the back seats out.
C'est logique, no?
Nope, there is no difference nowadays. (Well, OK, there is - you don't have to take out the back seat to change the headlights, because it's basically f(&*^cking impossible to change the headlights no matter where you start.)
I wish I had had your dad's advice before buying a Xsara Picasso. Marvellously spacious car (with redefined "groundbreaking" dashboard, natch, that you can't read in daylight) but oh BOY do they screw you on the price of spares. Examples that I have to make alternative plans for: rear parcel shelf (just a solid moulding, not a fancy retractible like in the BMW X5 or Audi Q series) - either £ 270 or £ 340, I don't remember the details, it was in 2008; wiper/headlight/ECU switch/control stalk assembly - a bargain at £ 270 (this year).
Plus of course the legendary awkwardness of getting any basic maintenance work done on the thing. I think the first step for changing the spark plugs is to remove the engine.
Really? I think it's exactly the same format as all of his other articles:
- whinge about something that's bothered him about something this week inspiring others to write in and whinge about when the same thing bothered them, thereby allowing them to feel that they are part of a community of other people that are hard done to.
- throw in a mention of something from the 70s/80s to whip up a bit of nostalgia in people, causing them to write in about the something that they once did in the 70s/80s. After all someone else has mentioned the subject, thereby giving them license to add to it, so they do so in the hope that because they're interested in what they themselves did over 30 years ago, complete strangers might be interested in it too.
It's a cross between a self-help group for trivial problems and the communal room in an old folk's home.
A kind of El Reg's version of Grumpy Old Men if you will, but without the relief of a soothing Geoffrey Palmer voiceover. Come to think of it, he does look a bit like Will Self in that photo...
"- whinge about something that's bothered him about something this week inspiring others to write in and whinge about when the same thing bothered them, thereby allowing them to feel that they are part of a community of other people that are hard done to."
I'm looking at you Kristian Walsh.
"- throw in a mention of something from the 70s/80s to whip up a bit of nostalgia in people, causing them to write in about the something that they once did in the 70s/80s."
And you EddieD, Evil Graham and all the commentors in the rocking chairs next to you.
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It wasn't really a whinge, more of a comment.
I remember the times when I would comment on comments that reminisced about whinging about comments that whinged about articles based on whinges and reminscences.
Those were the days, but back then the food was awful and half of Britain was on strike.
... is obvious shorthand for the thing you are most likely to do with two clicks - select icon, then launch, for instance. Yes it gets overused (Bethesda, I'm looking at you with your ridiculous check boxes on the GECK which have to be double-clicked to toggle the tick) but I think it makes perfect sense in many scenarios.
As do the two single clicks to rename a file. First click to select. Second click on a selected item, start editing. As with all of these things, if you explain to people why they happen, they can learn them. Same with kids and maths: you can just teach them formulae and hope they remember them as if they were mystical incantations - or you can show them why they really work. The latter is teaching maths, the former merely teaching them to pass maths tests.
So a double-click is click to select then click to open.
Wheres two single clicks is click to select then click to edit.
That doesn't explain why -- it just shows that the UI designer decided to give a single user action (click) three different interpretations for the same object depending on context. And the contextual difference between click-click and click-pause-click is fine enough that it trips up even the most seasoned user, especially when the threshold for the pause differs between systems (or even worse, depending on how busy a single system is.)
Making it even worse are systems which have click-click for open, click-pause-click for rename, and click-longer pause-click does something different (or nothing at all.)
Sure you can teach people these things, but you're not supposed to teach stupid.
Fortunately, I never drove a Citroen.
Back when I was learning to drive every car was different - the wipers and the indicators seeming to swap randomly; sometimes the horn was at the center of the wheel, sometimes on the end of the indicator stick.
I lost count of the number of times I wiped my windows instead of indicating, or hooted instead of squirting my windscreen when learning, much to the irritation of my instructor.
But it taught me to check things before I started.
It's not just Citroen's, my Peugeot* puts the buttons for the electric windows not on the doors, near the actual windows (what a typically un-french, non-romantic idea!). No, the controls for the windows are in the middle of the car, just behind the handbrake.
Of course, this means every time I get into another car I fruitlessly scrabble next to the handbrake before realising that the buttons are next to the window.
I suppose I should count myself lucky that the handbrake is in the middle of the car, not on the roof or something.
*Peugeot - an impossible word for a dyslexic to spell.
Not quite handbrake on the roof, but about 10 years ago I used to run around in a 1960 Humber Super Snipe. Column change auto (nice) and handbrake between the (bench) seat and the drivers door.
Due to it's unreliability and thirst for fuel (20 mpg on a run, 14 round town) I used to fairly regularly hire cars - and barked knuckles from the door pocket that the handbrake had inexplicably changed in to were a common injury as a result
>Peugeot* puts the buttons for the electric windows not on the doors, near the actual windows (what a typically un-french, non-romantic idea!). No, the controls for the windows are in the middle of the car, just behind the handbrake.
Foolish person! The controls are in that position so that, when opening a window with your lit Gitane or Gauloise in your hand, there's no risk of ash or sparks flying back into the car—possibly into the eyes of your passengers in the rear seats. IOW, design rooted in la politesse.
uhm, check out a New Mini. Especially when just arrived on a late night flight, preferably four hours or more. Arriving at night. Raining.
at least all Chrysler-family cars have sort of the same layout, 'stalk-wise'.
BTW, to drive some even more bonkers... use your car key to lock the driver-side door. left turn or right turn?
And some things never change. I took a Kia out for a test drive a couple of years ago, and at the beginning of it the saledroid said "if you indicate with the wipers more than 3 times, you have to buy the car". I thought he was joking, but turns out the design idiots had swapped the position of the indicator and wiper stalks compared to every other car in creation (with the possible exception of Dabbsy's Citroen).
Shame as the car itself wasn't bad, but it was just niggling enough that I'd not consider buying one.
"Back when I was learning to drive every car was different"
Me too, me too! methinks you are referring to the 70s or thereabouts?
"the wipers and the indicators seeming to swap randomly"
There is a reason for that. It took me a long time to work it out, but it's based on the country of origin of the car. A right-hand drive vehicle has the gear stick on the left, so the indicator control is on the right. The wipers (presumably used less often than the indicators) are on the same side as the gears. Everything is mirror-imaged in a car designed for a left-hand drive market, which when it's sold in Britain only has the driver's cockpit transplanted to the other side of the car, not transposed.
Similarly the fuel tank filler point is on the side of the car that in its original market would be opposite the driver's side. Maybe in some places you still have petrol pumps at the side of the road...? The mind boggles at the thought.
"sometimes the horn was at the center of the wheel, sometimes on the end of the indicator stick"
Thank God that is one quirk that seems to have disappeared. I think the little knobby at the end of the indicator stalk was a British thing - specifically, BMC / Leyland - I remember a couple of Minis and Austins with that very-hard-to-find-in-an-emergency horn button. And let's face it, the horn *is* supposed to be an emergency control!
"I can only imagine the roads of 1970s France were littered with parked GSes as their drivers frantically flicked through the product manual, trying to find out where they’d relocated the rear-view mirror."
Nah. In 1970s France the only thing you really needed to locate in a car was the cigarette lighter and your passenger's perky nipples*
*I admit my knowledge of this era is informed entirely by late night films on BBC2.
Nah. In 1970s France the only thing you really needed to locate in a car was the cigarette lighter and your passenger's perky nipples*
And the handle to wind down the window when you realise that the beautiful girl, who has just allowed you to hitch a lift on a hot Summer day, absolutely stinks :-( Admittedly in the 1990s, but I imagine it could only have been worse in the 1970s.
She'd sprayed on some English repellant. All hitch-hiking French girls carry a can.
It was me that was the hitch hiker - and my understanding of French hygiene is that they compensate for the lack of washing with copious amounts of cheap perfume. Seems to be a rural thing though, as Parisians don't seem to ming (although the Metro reeks of piss).
To get two clicks in a specified time, you'd probably fire off a timer on the single-click and then register the second click if it's performed before the timer expires. But double-click produces a single-click event followed by a double-click event *anyway*.
What the hell was the designer thinking?
Oh, and in that wonderfully adept illustration by Citroen, I note that the captions are in neither alphabetic order or clustered by function, and that the numbers are also unordered. I suspect the illustrator was smoking from the same pipe...
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The issue is not about interpreting what users need. It's about following convention. Double-clicking is a convention. So is an indicator lever on a stick. So is pressing on the centre of a steering wheel to sound the horn. I don't see any difference between hardware and software. If Citroen did software, they'd probably put the program menus at the bottom of the screen - potentially a clever idea but it would drive everyone nuts.
...is the horribly unintuitive way that you select a file for renaming on the Mac OS X Finder. There's no menu item for "Rename", nor is there a context-menu or key shortcut. I'm guessing the developer was a Mac user.
As the behaviour is actually a holdover from the Classic Finder, I calculate that it has been bugging me for seventeen years now.
(Alternatively, open Terminal.app . Type 'mv', drag victim file from Finder window and drop onto terminal window, type new name inside quotes, press return)
I use a Mac since 2008, but this has to be the most incomprehensible thing about the UI. The shortcut for opening a file or launching a program is Command-O, and for renaming it is Enter.
I can only conclude that there are people who rename their files more often than they open them.
>I can only conclude that there are people who rename their files more often than they open them.
Consider the possibility that your take is a conditioned one i.e. that pressing/tapping Return (elsewhere, "Enter") is rooted in ancient, deeply-entrenched reflexes associated with selecting and opening items on systems where the mouse, being an after-thought bolted onto the interface—and the mouses a reliably unreliable NIH, at that—largely _required_ that you (have the fallback of the) use (of) the keyboard to effect most actions (the best example being, selecting an item using the tab key or arrow keys, and then an alpha key, then tapping "Enter" to have the item open...). Consider Windows 3.1 generally. Sorry; there's nostalgia-scented brain-bleach under the sink.
An earlier method on the Mac OS for selecting the name of an item in order to change it involved clicking on the object's name once and immediately, on mouseup, moving the cursor/pointer—at which point the name became highlighted and you were good to do whatever was necessary to effect the changes desired. Many years have passed since that change was made to the interface. I've accepted, now, that that method is gone, and will never return. Still, it's hard to forget... sniff.
If you want to rename via the menu you use the Get Info option you and change the name.
Unfortunately if you tab into the Name & Extension box or double click on it it highlights everything including the extension, which you can then blow away without so much as a warning.
So I'm sure the person in charge of Finder's UI went to the same design school as Citroen's car interior designer, it's obvious to him why things do what they do, it's just everyone else who's got the problem.
> For reasons known only to the developer of this occasionally hokey piece of software, double-clicking will not select and highlight the object name, and neither will it do anything if the user waits too long between the two clicks.
It's actually worse than this as the second click takes a little while to register, most users just assume that it didn't work and click again which turns off editing again.
However, this "click once to highlight, click again to edit" thing is pretty much a standard Windows behaviour. This is how editable list views work and files can be renamed this way in explorer.
You could argue that the developer should have overridden this stupid behaviour, but you can't really blame him for it.
... except when they are in the fast* lane of the autoroute, they NEVER use them. When they do use them, it's not to indicate their intention, it's just to indicate they are in the fast lane.
So, in their case a button or a switch will suffice perfectly well. They don't use it very often, but when they do it usually stays on for 10 minutes anyway.
So, really it's a UI problem for different locales. N'est pas?
* Yes, yes. I know it's not the fast lane. They are all fucking fast over there. 130 speed limit and all that.
it's just to indicate they are in the fast lane
There's more to it than that.
The left-hand indicator means "I am here in the fast lane driving my clapped-out Citroen at 150 km/h** and I find myself 2m from your rear bumper. I expect you to pull yourself over into the slow-moving traffic on the right so that I can accelerate myself to 155 and overtake you."
The right-hand indicator means "I hear you sound the horn because I have just swerved in front of you without warning causing you to brake yourself hard. You are a type of unkempt merino sheep!"
** He has removed the carpet so he can push the pedal down further.
Your description of the suspension sounds as if it was a bit off...
(It should be stiffer the higher you you set the road clearance)
I loved the GS(had a 1975, GS Pallas. 1.2L engine, green metallic paint and vinyl-covered roof.)
What I miss the most is the hydro-pneumatic suspension.
(I now have a slightly tattered Berlingo, a car that really could use that kind of suspension)
Living in Norway, I don't miss the 'heater' in the GS, though...
And the only one I know of who has ever had any problems with the handbrake on that car was my 'phase 2' driving instructor, when it was time to hit the 'slippery road' course.
(They like to suddenly pull the handbrake to induce a skid sometimes. Not something you want to do if the handbrake operates on the front brakes)
Of course, the GS is one of the few cars that it was legal to DRIVE(at low speed) to the garage if you had a complete failure in the normal brake system.
What I miss the most is the hydro-pneumatic suspension.
My ex had an Austin Allegro with that kind of suspension. Despite the reputation it was actually a great little car, possibly because the first owner had gone to ridiculous lengths in order to rust proof it. The underside and engine bay were covered in some stuff called Ziebart. This was usually misapplied, lifting and cracking over time and then acting as a moisture trap. In the case of my ex, she had one of the few where it had been applied properly. The exception was the fuel tank, which was made from two pressed steel pieces spot welded together. The welded joint rusted, and the bottom half of the tank fell off as she was filling up with petrol one day.
I had a GS many moons ago. I think it was a '72. and yes, the suspension got stiffer the higher you set it. I think when it was all the way back, there was around a foot of ground clearance.
Dash was a bit different in my car.
Ah, Citroen handbrakes. Gotta love 'em. Especially when you've got a flat rear tyre on your BX (yeah, I had the super-cheapo model, if you think the GS suspension was bad you need to try a clapped out BX), and you're parked on an icy car park. Hint - the only way to stop the wheel spinning on the ice is to block it - OK if it's the left hand rear, as you can use a blanket laid under the front and rear wheels, but the right hand rear is basically impossible.
Funnily enough, I was just thinking about this yesterday when I noticed that on Facebook, when typing a comment or making a status update, you type @ and then start to type a friend's name, the top suggestion (and the one you will get if you hit enter) can be someone not on your friends list.
If you have just one person on your friends list whose name starts with the first few letters you've typed after the @ symbol, is it likely that a) I am wanting to tag them or b) I'm searching for someone other than them?
Hmmm. Facebook seem to think that is a tough one to call. :o)
Same thing goes for what Alistair is talking about - whilst it's true that it is good to push boundaries and innovate, baffling the user is almost always a bad thing.
A quote from one of our salespeople.
"Our software is so intuitive, users won't need training".
Ha, ha, ha.
Oh, Hyundai Coupes have a nice trick, the indicators and wipers are on the opposite sides of the steering column to most other cars, hence occasional frantic wiper action when approaching a junction.... and then on holiday you hire a normal car - guess what happens.
The obvious parallel between the car and the software is like someone who has only used Android phones trying to write a document in Appleworks on a ][e. When it was run of the mill stuff, many of us happily produced documents and spreadsheets in this particular package, and back in the 70s and 80s we happily drove Citroen GSs without the least difficulty (until the cams wore badly, in which case it would get unbearably slow). The analogy breaks down because, unlike the Appleworks interface, those in the GS and CX were actually very nice to use, even though unconventional by Ford standards.
Nice to be reminded of how stylish cars looked once upon a time.
Last week: Alistair confused by self-service checkouts
This week: Alistair confused by common Windows convention of 'click on already clicked item = rename / edit field'
Next week: Alistair confused by door that refuses to open when pushed - declares that users cannot be expected to understand what a sign reading 'pull' is supposed to mean
I think you'll find that most buildings have a front door that opens outward.
small interior rooms also tends to have doors opening outwards.
Have you ever a panicked crowd trying to get out of a building, and one of the doors swings INWARDS?
The poor buggers at the front will end up squished against the doors, possibly fatally, and the doors will be impossible to open.
I believe there has been more than a few such disasters in building fires...
Ah so click - wait - click again. Just like Apple or Windows or most other GUI based systems has been doing to let us edit the name of a file in the GUI for, what, 25+ years? Because if you double-click you launch it, so you need that pause. Yeah, it's horrible, but it's hardly new.
As for the GS, if that's your main example of "poor design", then I'm afraid you don't understand design at all.
"Ah so click - wait - click again. Just like Apple or Windows or most other GUI based systems has been doing to let us edit the name of a file in the GUI for, what, 25+ years? Because if you double-click you launch it, so you need that pause. Yeah, it's horrible, but it's hardly new."
...except Alistair carefully pointed out that there was a time limit between clicks in the software he's talking about. In Windows you can leave it any time from when clicking again would not be a double-click (configurable, but usually around a half-second) to several years (if you can keep a Windows machine running for several years without rebooting it, unlikely) - the second click will put the item into "edit" mode.
And just BTW, it doesn't work quite the same in Mac OS, but that has been discussed at length above too.
"As for the GS, if that's your main example of "poor design", then I'm afraid you don't understand design at all."
No, it wasn't an example of poor design, it was an example of unconventional design. Although, looked at from the perspective of 35+ years' hindsight, I think it *is* piss-poor design.
Double-clicking is an abomination. It was only invented in the first place because someone had an aversion to mice with more than one button.
I set KDE up so hovering the mouse cursor over an icon selects it, and single-clicking activates it -- and merely positioning the mouse pointer over a text entry area gives it focus.
(And yes, I do spend a lot of time staring stupidly at the screen waiting for things to happen, on the occasions when I am forced to use Windows. That and typing text in the wrong place.)
You can set Windows up to open programs on a single click, you've been able to do that since IE4 introduced the updated desktop experience on Windows 95. You could also set focus by hovering by using the old kernel toys, don't know if you still can.
I had it like that for a while but I kept on opening things accidentally and in the end I just found it plain irritating.
But you know, diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks.
The ones complaining about his article on double-click didn't have to live through the non-adjustable one. It was sort of like the period where you had to either pay for icons or use a generic one, somehow similar to when mice were the poor man's dream, and high-speed internet The Unreachable for the rural. (Arguably it still is.) And they quite CERTAINLY didn't have to endure party lines. The old codgers get to whine, too, you ninnies. Wait your turn, you'll get your time; blind, deaf, shunned, and...whining.
Then you discover whining is an art.
Just to bring the two halves of this article together.
The remote control for my door lock needs a double single-click. The first unlocks just the driver's door, the second unlocks all the doors. But a double-click is too fast.
Even more annoying, when locking it again, the second click disengages the deadlocks, making the car less secure. So when you walk away and think "did I lock it?" you need to unlock it and then lock it again.
click is overloaded with different functions and that's confusing to many people.
Most non-techie people I've trained use to double click on buttons. That causes double submit of forms in some web pages that don't disable buttons on click. Also many people double click when asked to right click a file.
Using a trackpad for clicking, right clicking, and double clicking can be very difficult for many peope...
Taking about cars and conventions during 9 days I parked a rented car without using the parking brake cause couldn't find it where I expected. Recently I learned what the left most pedal is for ...
...er in the manual, number 3 has the title "indicators/horn/headlamp flash" and num,ber 4 has the title "lights/dip"....
On a more related note, doesn't Windows explorer work in exactly the same way - Click to select, pause, click to enter edit/rename mode.... and hasn't it worked like that since Windows 2000....?
is in the right place.. my first car was a Renault 4
then I moved to America, and half the cars put the bloody shifter on the steering column the other half in the normal place... so get used to driving the former and get in the other kind you end up washing you windows trying to get the car to move, then upon moving back to the orgional grabbing a cup of hot coffee** doing the same thing..
and then there is the foot/handbrake thing sheesh!
I had a hire car - a Renault Megane I think. The "handbrake" was push-button.
When in the USA, on returning a hire car, I was totally unable to initially fill up. They do not have automatic fuel pumps, you had to flick a lever down.
Couldn't find the lever to open the bonnet on an Aygo, until I remembered it was based on a Citroen c1, so the lever is near the door on the passenger (left) side.
My dad had a lada saloon. Very basic and always started in the cold, but all the diagrams were labelled in Cyrillic! (He sold that to an encyclopaedia salesman)
Back to computers, I've had single click enabled since win'95. Much prefer it.
Going back into prehistory... on the Macintosh up until OS7 in 1990, clicking on a filename below an icon instantly enabled edits to the filename. Then came OS7 and hell broke loose ...click and wait before you could edit a filename.(This is the way it has remained since)
A simple little change sent many long time Macintosh (and I am using that name deliberately) in to apoplexy!
And I am still waiting for OSX to have labels operate the same way as they did in the "classic" OS! I loved having a rainbow of colour coded folders and icons.
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