Here is a new series I am putting together. While we all need to use operating systems every day, there are lots of stupid ideas that abound on these devices that some developer thought would be ‘cool’. Let’s explore these design ideas and why they’re stupid. Let’s start with one company that people seem to think can do no wrong.. Apple. Yeah, I could start with the easiest target, Windows, but I’ll save the best (er.. easiest) for last.
Apple isn’t immune
Spring Loaded Folders
Apple’s OS X most definitely has some quirky and, frankly, stupid design ideas that simply need to go away. For very good reason, the first on this list is spring loaded folders. This is one design idea that breaks EVERY UI rulebook. This functionality moves windows around under the cursor to unexpected places during, of all times, when you’re about to drop a file or folder on it. It’s almost like some kind of bizarre practical joke. I mean, if this isn’t the absolute worst idea, I don’t know what is. I’m not even sure what they were thinking at the time of conception, but windowing operating systems should never ever move windows or cursors automatically. Let the user move things if they want them moved. Worse, the idea of spring loaded folders has nothing at all to do with moving the windows around. The spring loaded folder is supposed to open a folder when you are dragging and hovering over to the top of a folder name. While opening a new window in the middle of holding drag-and-drop operation may seem like a great idea, it’s really obvious why this UI concept doesn’t work: it will lead to dropping folders into the wrong place. I don’t even want to say how many times I’ve inadvertently lost folders and files as a result of spring loaded folders. Yes, at least you can turn it off and it should be off by default.
Android isn’t immune
There is no easy way to manage running applications (at least not in 2.2) or really any other settings. You have to dig through the ‘Settings’ area to get to Applications and then manage them from there after a few drill downs. Same with most settings. This is a mobile device. These things need EASY and FAST access. Digging through 5 menus to get to the Bluetooth area is both wasteful and dangerous while driving. Let’s get these things front and center with one click.
IOS isn’t immune
Dragging icons from screen to screen to move them is near impossible. Most times it drops onto the current screen at the edge. You then have to pick it up and drag it again. It would be far simpler to show a representation of all of the screens at once and then drop it onto the screen you want it on. You can then put it in the exact location later.
Windows isn’t immune (but who said it was?)
When you’re hovering over a scrollable area of an Explorer window, you have to click to activate before you can scroll. The trouble is, there is no empty place to click that doesn’t activate something. If you’re hovering over the folder area, whatever you click on will activate. If you’re in the files area, the same thing. This is magnified when the Explorer window also happens to be a file requester. So, you’re trying to scroll to the bottom of the files area. If you click anywhere in the files area, it will fill in the filename with the file you have just clicked. Annoying. I don’t know why Windows can’t just realize the mouse pointer is over that area and activate at least the scrolling part. There really should be no click necessary.
Why Windows can’t remember my folder settings in Windows 7, I have no idea. Getting rid of the Quick Launch bar, bad idea. Turning the ‘Start’ button into the ‘Windows’ button, stupid (at least from a support perspective). Can we at least keep some consistency from one OS to the next?
These are my initial pet peeves. There are tons more that have yet to be documented. I will highlight these in part two of this series.
Enjoy (and comment if you have peeves of your own).