What drives me nuts: Windows installers putting shortcuts on the desktop

Nothing screams the 1990’s like every time you install a piece of software that it puts an icon with a shortcut on your desktop. I know that most software asks you if you want one placed on the desktop, and I ALWAYS uncheck that box. But all too often, the software installs it anyway, or it doesn’t ask and just drops one there.

I know this is a minor rant, and I also know people (more than one) who manages their workflow via piles of files on their desktop, and for them, it makes perfect sense to put shortcuts on their desktop (although, for me it is always faster to tap the Windows key and type the name of the program I want to load). Fine, ask them first, and then drop the shortcut.

But many times, the program doesn’t ask, and just places it. Or, it asks, you can unselect it, and it will STILL drop it on the desktop.

This is one reason why I prefer the Mac. Beyond the fact that installing applications is usually no more complicated than copying it into the “Applications” folder, there isn’t a paradigm of putting shortcuts on the desktop to foster quick launching.

Needless to say, I have over 30 shortcut icons on my desktop, none that I put there intentionally, and most of them placed even though I selected to not have one copied there on install.  About 2x a year, I go and delete all the useless desktop icons.


Bad UI of the week: VMWare’s “my.vmware.com”

Continuing on the theme of bad UI, this week’s hall of shame goes to VMWare.  Sad, because they used to “get it”, or so it seemed to me.


I have long been a VMWare user.  I have (purchased) a license for Workstation and Fusion, the desktop products for virtualization on the PC and Mac platforms respectively.  On the PC Side, I use Workstation to segment software that seems invasive (Sales Logix, I am looking at you) from my main install.  On the Mac it is to use the (dwindling) PC only apps that I can’t live without.

The situation:

Two weeks ago, I took the plunge and upgraded to Mountain Lion (OS-X 10.8), and my version of Fusion wasn’t supported.  Off to the VMWare website.  In the past, I would just log in, and the option to view my licenses and download my entitled products was on the main page.

Now they have this my.vmware.com stuff.  I can find my licenses OK, but downloads?  It seemed I could only sign up for a demo version to download.  No amount of navigation got me there.  And yes, I know that using the demo version would work, but then you get harassed by their inside sales people.  Another story for another day.

I ended up searching, and finding the download page on the main site.  But still the my.vmware.com site kept trying to navigate me back to it.  Argh. Perhaps if I spent time on their site every week, it would make sense, but for my, the 2 or 3 visits a year, it was painful.

I am sure this will not be the last installment in UI ridiculousness.

UX, an example of lousy design and usability

While I am no longer in a realm that has to integrate with MFP (multi-function peripherals), I now use them more than ever.

For the record, I am talking about the upper end HP office printer/scanner/facsimile machines.  The ones that integrate with an AD domain, and provide user based functionality.  So keep that in mind.

First, the 1990’s want their processors and their displays back.  All of these devices run on a few different “engine” models.  All of them were originally designed in the early to mid 1990s (think RAM at $400 a megabyte).  The screen resolution is probably 50ppi – state of the art for LCD touch displays in 1998, and to add insult to injury, they are monochrome.  Ugh.  Ugly.

The processor choice is important too.  The UI is largely event driven (I know this from my time in the realm of building connectors), and the processor has trouble keeping up even when a user is manually entering information.

Second, the API’s are all littered with legacy calls and widgets.  This is tp provide backwards capability, so that a connector designed in 2002 has a fighting chance to still work, albeit as lousy as it did in 2002.  That this is a curse is not immediately obvious.  Who wouldn’t want to keep a wide range of legacy products alive?  But, it cripples what can be done.  Often connectors, and widgets are run slowly  on purpose to match the timing the device expects. … and this leads to users havng longish delays to respond to soft buttons pushed.  Which leads me to point 3

Third, none of the major device makers has found a good tactile indication to signal to the user that their input was recognized.  If the user can’t see a state change, hear a “click” or feel a button change (a tactamorphic touchscreen, how cool would that be?), they are all to liable to “double push” the soft button, and then unintended consequences that often require a signtout/signin process again.  Groan.

While I don’t expect the visual experience of Android or iOS, some significant improvements are needed. On a device that can cost $35,000 it seems like a reasonable expectation.