Wednesday, June 26, 2013

a helpful note on the design of user interfaces for sip phones

A sip phone program is a computer program that lets you make phone calls. The last two sip programs that I downloaded both had a user interface that looks like a cheap mobile phone. There are no menus. The main window contains no useful information except for the phone number that you just dialed. You have to dial by clicking the number buttons on the image of the phone with your mouse. If there is any way to create a phone book to dial from or any way to dial from history, I couldn't figure out what it was, possibly because I've never used the freaking model of phone that they based their user interface on. In light of my less-than-enjoyable experiences with these programs I hereby post this helpful open letter to the makers of these programs:

Dear Morons:
It seems to have escaped your notice that mobile phones are designed to be carried in a pocket and intended to be used in various non-ideal conditions including one-handed. What this means, as any non-moron could tell you, is that the user interface of a mobile phone is a compromise. It is the best that phone designers could do given the very harsh constraints under which they were operating.
These compromise user interfaces suck in comparison to the user interface on a regular sized computer. Tiny keypads suck compared to full-sized keyboards. Little screens that can only show 10-digit numbers suck compared full-sized monitors. Obscure buttons scattered around a device suck compared to menus that use actual WORDS to tell you what they do.

And what this in turn means (designers of Windows 8, take note) is that when you design a user interface on a full-size device that was built to enable convenient, powerful user interfaces, you do not copy the user interface from a tiny device that was designed to be carried in a pocket. You freaking morons.

I don't know what reasoning leads multiple designers to make this idiotic mistake. Do you think the saccharine cuteness is going to give you a competitive advantage? So how does that work? I suppose you envision some teenage girl downloads your software, installs it, and goes, "Hey, that looks like the kind of mobile phone my grandfather use to carry back in his youth (he's dead of old age now)! Isn't that cute! Giggle! In fact it's so cute to have to pick out digits one at a time with my mouse instead of JUST TYPING THE FREAKING NUMBER that I'm going to tell all of my friends about this wondrously cute application! Giggle!"

Or do you think familiarity with mobile phones is going to make this application more accessible because typical users of Windows or MacOS are too stupid to get their heads around an application that dials phone numbers using the same sort of user interface that practically every other program on their computer uses? I mean, they can figure out browsers, spread sheet programs, word processors, email, games, and dozens of other programs, but dialing a phone number --that's a bridge too far! We are talking about PHONE NUMBERS here! That's complicated! We can't confuse people with a normal user interface because they might forget they are making a call and think they are entering their credit card number or something!

Or am I being too charitable in ascribing this practice to reasoning?

    Respectfully yours,

    Doc Rampage

    You freaking morons.