: Mac OS X (was How to Get Into ... Best Job Title)

30 Jan 2004 - 9:56am
10 years ago
7 replies
681 reads
Elizabeth Buie
2004

Todd,

I don't have the same glowing reaction to OS X that you do, although I
think I see it more positively than Andrei does. I'd like to respond to a
couple of your points. First let me say that I have been a Mac user since
1985 and have owned several Macs since 1987. I've had OS X at work for
about two years (Panther since about two weeks ago), and am still using OS
9 at home (my desktop is too old to run OS X, but I'm planning to buy a G5
before too long).

>The new Finder in Panther allows faster access to "important
>directories" than before.

How's that? I don't find that to be so, in my own use. I find it very
confusing that "ebuie" is at the top of the list when I do a Save, and I
have to click on "Macintosh HD" to find a file structure that makes sense
to me. I don't even know where "ebuie" is in the file structure.

The panes in the column view have a maximum width, and do not allow for
the display of the entire file name. Panes cannot be widened. Widening
the Finder window will widen the panes to some extent, but after they
reach their maximum width it just adds another column. (I know, hovering
over the file name will often show the entire name, but I find it doesn't
always work.)

The Finder does not allow me to add things to the Apple menu. (I
understand there's a third-party utility that supports that, but it
doesn't help me because I'm not allowed to install shareware on my office
computer.)

I find the Dock convenient -- when I have shrunk it by half and hidden it.
(I run a 17" monitor at 1280x1024, and I find the Dock to be far too big.
But I like its functionality.)

>And the Trash can is still within a
>70pxl diameter (roughly) of the corner of the Dock.

I haven't dragged anything to the Trash in years; I hit command-delete.
Although having the Trash in the Dock isn't a big deal for me personally,
I agree with Andrei's point about Fitts' Law in general (not to mention
"muscle memory"), and think it should have stayed at the bottom right of
the desktop. Where it is in relation to the Dock is beside the point with
regard to Fitts' Law.

Some other things that strike me as poor design decisions in OS X:
- Those red/yellow/green dots for close/hide/maximize: same shape + too
close together = too easy to click the wrong one.
- Clicking on a document window does not bring all document windows of the
app to the front.
- Clicking inside a Finder window selects a file, even if what was clicked
was a blank area to the left of the file name (I see this as a misguided
adoption of what was poor design in Windows all along).
- The scroll bars are smaller than in OS 9, and harder to select.
- (new to Panther): The entire line is highlighted in the Finder.
- I cannot change the size of the grid; and my desktop icons are too far
apart.

Some improvements I do see in OS X:
- The entire computer does not go on hold while an application starts up.
- The OS is more stable.
- I can close or hide a window without first bringing it to the top.
- The Dock shows me all the apps I've put there, not just the ones that
are running.

I could probably say more about both of these things given more time, but
this is what comes quickly to mind.

Todd, I will look forward to reading your forthcoming report. I'm very
curious about the performance improvements you're finding.

Elizabeth

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Comments

30 Jan 2004 - 11:35am
Todd Warfel
2003

What's the "ebuie"?

Panes can be widened. Simply grab the column bars between the columns
and drag them to the left or right to change their size.

You're correct, you cannot add things to the Apple menu. You can
however, add things to the dock and the left column in the Finder
windows. Simply drag and drop.

Unless I read it wrong, Fitt's Law states that the corners are the
easiest access points, next to what's closest to the mouse. There's
also the extension to this which states that the center of the screen
is the most accessible followed by a Z path starting at the top left
corner of the screen. Either way, the Trash does stay in the corner.
However, that corner is relative to the placement of the Dock.

I'm not saying it's a perfect solution. What I am saying is that a)
the Trash can stays consistent relative to where the Dock is, which
only changes based on user preference b) our ability to map our mental
model enables us to quickly adjust and recall where the trash is
(consistent place once you've placed the Dock where you want it c) it's
a rather moot point as in Mac Classic OS the Trash can was in the
bottom right corner by default, but could be moved anywhere on the
desktop, which brings us back to where we are with the placement in the
Dock.

I don't drag things to the Trash either - I use CTL+Delete or CTL+E to
eject disks. But most people we observed did drag - power users tend to
use the keyboard commands.

I agree the minimize and other buttons at the top of the left windows
are small and can be difficult to target. Additionally, I would agree
that the scrollbars are too narrow - it's not uncommon to see users
miss the scrollbar and either click the window behind or the desktop.

On the comment about clicking the window doesn't bring the whole
application forward with all of it's windows - I'm mixed on this. I've
found that sometimes that's a disadvantage and sometimes it's an
advantage. For example, if I'm trying to look at something in Word
while typing an email and I don't have two monitors, then having the
mail window right next to the Word document w/o the other Mail inbox
stuff covering it is an advantage. Disadvantages are pretty clear in
that if you go to an application, it's nice to go to the application
and see all the document windows for that application. Again, depends
upon your goal - I'm mixed here and can see both sides.

On Jan 30, 2004, at 9:56 AM, Elizabeth Buie wrote:

> Todd,
>
> I don't have the same glowing reaction to OS X that you do, although I
> think I see it more positively than Andrei does. I'd like to respond
> to a
> couple of your points. First let me say that I have been a Mac user
> since
> 1985 and have owned several Macs since 1987. I've had OS X at work for
> about two years (Panther since about two weeks ago), and am still
> using OS
> 9 at home (my desktop is too old to run OS X, but I'm planning to buy
> a G5
> before too long).
>
>> The new Finder in Panther allows faster access to "important
>> directories" than before.
>
> How's that? I don't find that to be so, in my own use. I find it very
> confusing that "ebuie" is at the top of the list when I do a Save, and
> I
> have to click on "Macintosh HD" to find a file structure that makes
> sense
> to me. I don't even know where "ebuie" is in the file structure.
>
> The panes in the column view have a maximum width, and do not allow for
> the display of the entire file name. Panes cannot be widened.
> Widening
> the Finder window will widen the panes to some extent, but after they
> reach their maximum width it just adds another column. (I know,
> hovering
> over the file name will often show the entire name, but I find it
> doesn't
> always work.)
>
> The Finder does not allow me to add things to the Apple menu. (I
> understand there's a third-party utility that supports that, but it
> doesn't help me because I'm not allowed to install shareware on my
> office
> computer.)
>
> I find the Dock convenient -- when I have shrunk it by half and hidden
> it.
> (I run a 17" monitor at 1280x1024, and I find the Dock to be far too
> big.
> But I like its functionality.)
>
>> And the Trash can is still within a
>> 70pxl diameter (roughly) of the corner of the Dock.
>
> I haven't dragged anything to the Trash in years; I hit command-delete.
> Although having the Trash in the Dock isn't a big deal for me
> personally,
> I agree with Andrei's point about Fitts' Law in general (not to mention
> "muscle memory"), and think it should have stayed at the bottom right
> of
> the desktop. Where it is in relation to the Dock is beside the point
> with
> regard to Fitts' Law.
>
> Some other things that strike me as poor design decisions in OS X:
> - Those red/yellow/green dots for close/hide/maximize: same shape + too
> close together = too easy to click the wrong one.
> - Clicking on a document window does not bring all document windows of
> the
> app to the front.
> - Clicking inside a Finder window selects a file, even if what was
> clicked
> was a blank area to the left of the file name (I see this as a
> misguided
> adoption of what was poor design in Windows all along).
> - The scroll bars are smaller than in OS 9, and harder to select.
> - (new to Panther): The entire line is highlighted in the Finder.
> - I cannot change the size of the grid; and my desktop icons are too
> far
> apart.
>
> Some improvements I do see in OS X:
> - The entire computer does not go on hold while an application starts
> up.
> - The OS is more stable.
> - I can close or hide a window without first bringing it to the top.
> - The Dock shows me all the apps I've put there, not just the ones that
> are running.
>
> I could probably say more about both of these things given more time,
> but
> this is what comes quickly to mind.
>
> Todd, I will look forward to reading your forthcoming report. I'm very
> curious about the performance improvements you're finding.

Cheers!

Todd R. Warfel
User Experience Architect
MessageFirst | making products easier to use
--------------------------------------
Contact Info
voice: (607) 339-9640
email: twarfel at messagefirst.com
web: www.messagefirst.com
aim: twarfel at mac.com
--------------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.
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30 Jan 2004 - 11:58am
Elizabeth Buie
2004

>What's the "ebuie"?

The "user" by which the Finder knows me.

>Panes can be widened. Simply grab the column bars between the columns
>and drag them to the left or right to change their size.

I've tried that.

I'm talking about "save as" and "open" panes, not straight Finder panes. I
don't use the column view in Finder windows.

>You're correct, you cannot add things to the Apple menu. You can
>however, add things to the dock and the left column in the Finder
>windows. Simply drag and drop.

I've done that.

What I want, however, is to add them to the Apple menu.

>Unless I read it wrong, Fitt's Law

Fitts' law. Named for Paul Fitts.

>states that the corners are the
>easiest access points, next to what's closest to the mouse.

Fitts' Law says that the time it takes to acquire a target is directly
proportional to the distance from the target and inversely proportional to
the size of the target (the closer & bigger, the quicker :-). That's why
things at the edges are easiest to acquire (and the corners easiest of
all) -- they have infinite height or width (or both). In the case of the
Trash, which isn't *in* the corner but very near it, you zip the pointer
to the corner and then back off just a little to hit the Trash. In the
Dock (let's assume for the sake of argument that it's at the bottom), you
can zip the pointer to the edge of the screen to activate the Dock, but
you still have to go to some effort to acquire the horizontal position of
the Trash.

>I don't drag things to the Trash either - I use CTL+Delete or CTL+E to
>eject disks.

I assume you mean CMD+Delete or CMD+E. I just checked, and Apple has not
added the CTL key as a modifier for this under Panther.

>On the comment about clicking the window doesn't bring the whole
>application forward with all of it's windows - I'm mixed on this.
[reasons snipped]

I see what you mean. And I can bring all app windows to the front via the
Dock. Good point.

Elizabeth

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30 Jan 2004 - 1:08pm
Todd Warfel
2003

Thought you meant Finder windows, not open/save dialogue boxes. They
widen when you drag the O/S dialogue window, up to a point, then they
just start adding columns. Yes, for Open/Save I can see how that can be
a problem. The O/S dialogue boxes are an area that come up often for
"room for improvement."

Quick question - what's the goal of adding something to the Apple menu?
Not trying to be facetious, just trying to identify the goal, then
maybe come up with a solution.

Yes, I was simply trying to boil Fitz's law down into a couple of
words. But on to your point about the Trash...

Yes, yes, yes, splitting hairs ;) but "near" the corner. However, isn't
it "near" the corner in the Dock regardless of which side it's on?
(rhetorical question)

This is correct if you hide the Dock you'll have to move near the
corner to activate it. Roughly 80% of those we studied didn't, but it
isn't uncommon (most of them fall into the category of "power user."
So, for those who hide the Dock, there is a bit of "extra effort"
involved. Is this a significant amount of effort in terms of workflow?
Not really. In terms of perception or personal preference? Can be. And
therein lies the problem. It isn't so much that it significantly
increases or decreases productivity, but rather that some users find it
takes some "effort" and therefore it causes some level of frustration.
And I'd agree, that frustration and perception can contribute to
usability problems.

But back to Fitz's Law, it still remains "near" the corner, one of the
most easily accessible areas, that is if you're running X. However, if
you're running Classic, then the Trash can can be moved anywhere on the
desktop, which completely violates Fitz's law. Guess that's the main
problem I have with Tog's gripe about putting the Trash can back on the
desktop - user's can move it anywhere on the screen, which is
potentially more damaging than having it consistently in the corner in
the Dock - you can't move it. Two steps forward, one step back. Dock
has made improvements on the Trash by keeping it "near" the corner.
However, how near the corner is somewhat relevant based on the size of
the Dock, which can be a problem. But wouldn't you agree that this
still keeps it closer to Fitzs law than when a user moves it away from
"near" the corner?

On Jan 30, 2004, at 11:58 AM, Elizabeth Buie wrote:

> [...]
> I'm talking about "save as" and "open" panes, not straight Finder
> panes. I
> don't use the column view in Finder windows.

> What I want, however, is to add them to the Apple menu.

> [...] That's why things at the edges are easiest to acquire (and the
> corners easiest of
> all) -- they have infinite height or width (or both).[...]

> In the case of the Trash, which isn't *in* the corner but very near it,

> [...] you can zip the pointer to the edge of the screen to activate
> the Dock, but
> you still have to go to some effort to acquire the horizontal position
> of
> the Trash.

Cheers!

Todd R. Warfel
User Experience Architect
MessageFirst | making products easier to use
--------------------------------------
Contact Info
voice: (607) 339-9640
email: twarfel at messagefirst.com
web: www.messagefirst.com
aim: twarfel at mac.com
--------------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.
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30 Jan 2004 - 1:45pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 30, 2004, at 10:08 AM, Todd R.Warfel wrote:

> And therein lies the problem. It isn't so much that it significantly
> increases or decreases productivity, but rather that some users find
> it takes some "effort" and therefore it causes some level of
> frustration. And I'd agree, that frustration and perception can
> contribute to usability problems.

Where does one draw the line then with "causes some level of
frustration" and usability/productivity? When it affect 20% of the user
population? 50%? 80%?

Sounds like a subjective statement to me, which you stated was more the
realm of graphic design, not usability.

> But back to Fitz's Law,

FYI... It is Fitts's Law.

Andrei Herasimchuk
andrei at adobe.com

work: http://www.adobe.com
personal: http://www.designbyfire.com

30 Jan 2004 - 3:52pm
Elizabeth Buie
2004

Todd Warfel writes:

[Pardon my method of quoting; I'm tired of inserting the > signs myself.
Did I mention I dislike Lotus Notes for Internet mail?]

[Todd]

Quick question - what's the goal of adding something to the Apple menu?
Not trying to be facetious, just trying to identify the goal, then
maybe come up with a solution.

[Elizabeth]

Apps I don't use very often, I prefer to have in the Apple menu. I can
get to them without hunting, but they don't get in the way of things I do
use often.

[Todd]
Yes, I was simply trying to boil Fitz's law down into a couple of
words. But on to your point about the Trash...

Yes, yes, yes, splitting hairs ;) but "near" the corner. However, isn't
it "near" the corner in the Dock regardless of which side it's on?
(rhetorical question)

[Elizabeth]
You may have intended that question as rhetorical, but I have a clear
answer: "No."

In my Dock (which contains 29 apps -- probably about 10 more than I need,
but there's that pesky can't-add-to-the-Apple-menu problem -- plus the
Trash and, right now, a browser window), the Trash is about 2.5 inches
from the bottom right corner. On the desktop of my OS 9 machine at home,
the Trash is about 0.5 inches from the corner. HUGE difference,
Fitts'-Law-wise. One can just zip the pointer into the corner without
looking, and it's almost there.

[Todd]
This is correct if you hide the Dock you'll have to move near the
corner to activate it.

[Elizabeth]
I assume you mean "bottom of the screen" rather than "corner".

[Todd]
So, for those who hide the Dock, there is a bit of "extra effort"
involved.

[Elizabeth]
Not as much as having to scroll or move a window when the Dock get in the
way of my interacting with something near the bottom of the screen.

[Todd]
And I'd agree, that frustration and perception can contribute to
usability problems.

[Elizabeth]
Good, we agree on something. :-)

[Todd]
But back to Fitz's Law, it still remains "near" the corner...

[Elizabeth]
I maintain it's not "near" enough.

[Todd]
However, if
you're running Classic, then the Trash can can be moved anywhere on the
desktop

[Elizabeth]
In this thread you have often emphasized that people don't often do
something (most particularly, that they don't resize or hide the Dock). I
would wager that you'd find the number of people who move the Trash is far
less than the number who mess with the dock.

[Todd]
... which completely violates Fitz's law.

[Elizabeth]
<grin> It's not possible to "violate" Fitts' Law. It's only possible to
ignore it.

[Todd]
Guess that's the main
problem I have with Tog's gripe about putting the Trash can back on the
desktop - user's can move it anywhere on the screen, which is
potentially more damaging than having it consistently in the corner in
the Dock - you can't move it.

[Elizabeth]
But you can! I do it dozens of times a day. Any time you click the
yellow button in a window, the window disappears from the desktop and
moves to the Dock, pushing the Trash to the right.

[Todd]
But wouldn't you agree that this
still keeps it closer to Fitzs law than when a user moves it away from
"near" the corner?

[Elizabeth]
Spurious question, because no one moves it away from its default position.
("No one" is of course hyperbole. I am confident, however, that the
number is minuscule.)

Elizabeth

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30 Jan 2004 - 4:46pm
Nick Ragouzis
2004

Elizabeth, Todd:

Could I get a clarification?

It seems that you're both agreeing that in some cases users will (want to) do things inconsistent with their best interest under
Fitts' law.

They make compromises to fit non-Fitts' needs.

Although more often, perhaps, the designers make the compromises for them (to fit other, perhaps more personal-to-the-designer
needs). And that's the clarification I'm looking for:

Does your experience, Elizabeth, Todd, match mine in hearing users ask:

"Where are my applications, my documents, my trash?"

If so, the important thing to notice is the possessive. (Even if it is "The" trash; observable in office etiquette.)

People want to put *their* things where they want them. It's not uncommon in my experience to see users have many more applications
ready to go then they actually use. But this presence is part of their identification
with, part of their investment in, their computer. They function as embedded knowledge, reinforcement, recall, encouragement,
identity, and so on. Not Fitts', to be sure as it can get in the way with targeting performance.

Sure, many users can (eventually) understand why their trash flops around like it does (and many get tired of the bloated dock for
the initial eye candy that it is and attempt shrink it, vertically).

But if we're going to pursue compromise ( a) just away from the corner; or b) just at the end of a horizontally moving target that's
so often made vertically smaller than it was originally or must be made larger again in order to hit the trash) then shouldn't it be
so that users -can- gain these other benefits? That would exclude any solution that inhibits such a pursuit. **

Sure these benefits are non-functional, and might interfere with targeting performance ... but don't these trump Fitts' or even
human factors engineering-like usability?

Best,
--Nick

** Of course a related enhancement would be for predictive action to be enabled. Dragging an application-identified document towards
the dock can have only a few intentions. Especially in a given sequence of operations. A gesture-based trigger for trash-target
expansion (or related) might be appropriate, especially on larger screens. A hack perhaps, for now (but important once/if we were to
start using large muscle gestures to interact with systems as mentioned in another thread). Has anyone studied this?

30 Jan 2004 - 4:48pm
Elizabeth Buie
2004

Nick,

Of course you are right, in that overall performance trumps the
performance of any one task.

Todd and I may have been losing sight of the forest.

Elizabeth

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