Don’t abuse the Desktop.

If you’ve read any book on design patterns, prospective memory is bound to come up. A lot of folks may read it and go “ahh, nah, i don’t know what to do with that” and i state this as i constantly wonder as to why applications continue to hassle users to “Save this to the desktop”.

The desktop inside windows in my mind is like your desk in your office. It’s your surface area where you keep things that you can recall at a later date - “I’m going to put that TPS report in the upper right of my desktop surface, so i know where it is later”.

Problem today in software land is everyone keeps asking you to keep their TPS Reports on your desk and either you’re too lazy to agree/disagree or you didn’t notice they just did it. Pretty soon your desk is cluttered with lots of paper and it’s hard to find your chosen items vs.. everyone else's.

Don’t abuse the desktop.

At present I’ve not seen an installation experience that tackles this problem other then a weak check box that is default checked (like somehow its important that you clutter my desktop) and that’s essentially your way out of this installation spam.

It doesn’t work really, as firstly you’ve got to be conscious of the fact that the checkbox is asking you “Would you like me to add to the clutter” and secondly making things “default checked” is an assertion really, much like “Push Polling” – it casts a prejudice up front and rarely have i seen actual self selection work.

Instead we should approach it differently. Instead of approaching it as a default checked item, allow the users to opt in manually and educate them on the power of the desktop itself and why it exists – as often I'd argue folks assume its simply part of the vortex of “things i don’t understand about my computer”.

e.g.:

Would you like to save this application shortcut to your desktop? Yes/No

The desktop is where you keep important information on your computer that helps you remember where things are – treat it like your desk in your home/work office.

Something like that anyway.

I’d argue the desktop today has fast become the wasteland of “icons that i’ve long forgotten” or “those icons that get in the way of viewing my desktop background”.

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User Experience – The Kettle.

image How many kettles have you owned over the years? is it more than one? has it always been the same one? It’s a pretty straight forward device, you fill it up with water, it heats up and then you tip the contents out into a container. Why then are there so many varieties of Kettles? Why are there constantly new ranges or approaches to the Kettle that come out each year? The answer lies in the fact that end users are like Kettle owners, each has a unique preference and taste towards something we often take for granted each day. image Each time a kettle is designed, it’s done so typically with an idea of who the end user is and how it could blend in with the rest of the owners kitchen style. Software is no different to the kettle in many ways, its job is to blend in with the end users desktop, compliment their confidence level and ensure it upholds the core functionality required in order to carry out the task. I all too often see folks go off the deep end with the User Experience in their RIA solution, and I often ask if they’ve stopped boiling water and are doing everything but that simple task. Keep it simple; keep it fashionable and always think about User-Centric Design first, engineering second. You’ll find life gets easier that way. Brought to you by RIAGENIC.COM – Where Design + Technology Intersect.

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