Don't Make Me Think......but please try not to antagonize me either.

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I wrote a very impressive blog, (far more impressive than this one) about Krug's chapters 4-6. Then Windows Vista felt it was time to restart my computer in order to  install some updates that may very well help my computer, but mostly seemed to change my resolution settings and mess up my dual monitor settings. While the update was likely necessary and useful, I did a system restore out of spite. I took this opportunity to examine the usability of Windows Vista.

Vista loves to make you think most of the time. It frequently feels the need to ask my permission before doing things I've just told it to do, like run programs, or copy files. This can get annoying, but probably tends to prevent viruses and spyware etc, from doing these things. Or at least it would if clicking YES emphatically wasn't a completely automatic reaction that takes slightly less consideration than blinking. However, despite this it doesn't feel the need (or rather the programers didn't feel the need to program it to, I understand that Vista is not a living entity inside my laptop) ask permission or even tell you before automatically restarting to install updates. While doing things automatically surely reduces thinking, it tends to antagonize the user. Occasionally, websites do this too. Their automatic functions tend to do little more than waste time, but they can still be annoying. Having a giant video of a concert immediately start playing when I just want to quickly click through and get tour dates, unnecessarily slows me down.....and irritates me.

Windows Vista, also tends to make some usability errors that were actually mentioned in chapters 4-6. (Sorry I got off topic) The organization for many of the control panel functions are a bit confusing. In many cases the major source of confusion is that they moved things to different places than they would be found in every other version of windows since 95. (Which 99.98% of Windows Vista users have some previous experience with) System would be a pretty natural place to have the system restore function. So I clicked under some of the vague options there like "system protection" and "advanced system settings" and went right back to the beginning, and decided to try the "back up and restore center" which would have seemed more obvious if it was phrased differently and didn't have an icon that indicated it was talking about files. Once I got there it had a couple big central boxes allowing you tlo "backup files" or "restore files." Then if you look closely at the tiny little link at the bottom, there is actually something about system restore. Finally.

These sorts of minor changes have been the bane of my existence for that majority of this semester. In the same way that changes in the standard navigational conventions on some websites can become frustrating, the tiniest subtlest changes from Windows XP or Windows 95 get annoying just because they require that little extra bit of though. Videos and Music are no longer in the "My Documents" folder, but instead are in seperate folders within each user's folder. This means that when I get home from a bar early in the morning and want to watch an episode of South Park while I fall asleep, I have to click "My Documents," stare at my monitor in confusion, exit "My Documents," click "Dave," then click "videos", etc. I guess I expect something better from the company that designed DOS. (Which I greatly prefer.)

On a completely off topic note, I noticed a similarity between Krug's discussion of website depth vs width and automated answering systems. On a website a user is either confronted with a few choices, but most click several times to get to what they want or a whole lot of choices that will get them there in fewer, though more difficult clicks. Most automated phone systems are the same. After a call to my bank, the screen on my phone looks like some sort of code consisting of 1's, 2's and 3's. A lot of times the options are two specific requests, followed by all other requests, but there are rarely more than 3 options, and often just 2. My local county courthouse on the other hand likes to ensure that you listen to no less than 9 menu items before getting to push a button. (It also tells you at the beginning of the call, that if it's an emergency you should hang up and call 911. A prime example of pointless noise.)

As Krug points out, three clicks that require no thought, may equal one that does. It's even more noticable when you're forced to listen as the menu options are read to you, rather than allowing you to scan a list.  Both forms of organization have major downsides, and honestly both calls probably take just as long though one obviously involves more pushing buttons. The important thing for websites is really just to combine both formats, making use of a moderate amount of options with a moderate amount of "secondary, tertiary and whatever comes after tertiary" levels.     

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