Toolbar icons: think, then draw

October 16, 2007

What I always loved is when software developers used random icons in order to fill toolbar icons’ space.The latest and one of the obvious samples of such behavior is TranslateIt!: OS X dictionary tool.Here’s a fragment of their GUI in Russian:

Try to guess mnemonics of their buttons (L2R):

  • Left/right – that’s obvious
  • Purse? Books? Journal? Nope… Dictionaries.
  • Morse code? Justify? Huh. Just notes.
  • System busy? Wait? Time left? History… how cute!
  • I know this! it’s RSS! No? WTF? It’s just “say”…

Now, when we live in the world of Google, Iconfinder, Flickr and dozens of icon and image finding services we still have to deal with developers being unable to spend 2 minutes (sic!) per icon just to find a good metaphor.

I’m voting by my own dictionary purse by not buying semi-usable applications and recommend you doing the same.

P.S.: nope, that’s not the only programs’ UI fault, but beating the falling one isn’t fair, right? 🙂


Hall of shame: Apple Safari

August 3, 2007

There’s one interesting thing about Safari that I used to ignore (likely because I rarely use Safari at all) before. As some local developers have pointed out, Safari does not create clear tab-content relations (like Firefox does) because of using inverted tabs:

safari tabs

As you may see, the tabs are simply upside down, which might look OK from aesthetically, but is definitely not a good design solution.

Hall of shame: File moving progress dialog in OS X

May 17, 2007

Copying or moving?


“copymove” dialog from OS X (moving file in Finder)

OK, I’m moving the file. But why does the window header tell me about copying?

Hall of shame: Photomatix

April 28, 2007

Today’s hero is Photomatix: HDR photo editor with impressive quality and feature set, but ugly interface.

Photomatix 1

Here’s the default UI. MDI looks pretty good in OSX, but not in Windows. OK, go further…

Photomatix 2

And this is really horrible:

  • Control colors are selected wrong: they don’t fit the Windows theme (I’m using Royale, but that’s true for Luna too) thus leaving gray borders.
  •  Progress is displayed as a resizeable window with borders, caption etc…
  • Window scroll is broken: image size is not used to adjust child windows’ sizes thus you either have parts of images visible or lots of gray zones.
  • On long operations application looks frozen: GUI does not respond to user commands and doesn’t refresh.
  • HDR Viewer window is displayed as a separate window on the Taskbar, increasing clutter.
  • Graphics and fonts are very inaccurate: rough “zoom” cursor and green lettersmake the UI look even worse.
  • Lots of problems related to incorrect window resizing (with no smart logic involved: no min or max values, poor visual feedback to state change) makes me recall ugly Videora GUI.
  •  Lots of minor visual glitches.

Many of this apply to Mac version too, which looks especially annoying due to redrawing issues I thought never to see there.

No, unlike Videora or other “knee-made” software, Photomatix is not crap. It has an excellent engine behind, which is really, really useful, but the program’s UI spoils usage experience a lot. It may be (hardly) acceptable for a free GPL tool, but not for a software worth $100.

Finally, a HDR picture, created by me in 4 minutes from a set of 3 bracketing shots.



And after (tone correction is mine):


As you can see, with some efforts from developers (mostly GUI-related) this software could move rocks.

Hall of shame: Videora iPod converter

December 20, 2006

Many GUI creators let users change their application window’s size. But are they really ready for such actions? Not all of them. So, let’s welcome the hero of today, Videora iPod Converter. Among tens of free and commercial “DVD to iPod, DivX, XviD and vise versa” converters this one is definitely a first candidate to “keep away from” list. Not even mentioning its encoding features (I couldn’t make it work) I would only stop on a portion of its interface.

So, what do we see on launch?


Self-made iPod icon in the left-top corner, some tree control derivative for tab selection (come on, there’s a lot of space), some (grid-control?) garbage on the top of it and cut right panel. The controls are so poorly aligned that you won’treally be able to read the text unless you resize the whole window. The bitmap is centered and thus the text on it is unreadable…

Let’s just switch to te second tab to see controls:


Unusable without window resizing. So, let’s try to make the window bigger and see if it looks better then:


Not much, really. Now we just get a huge window with poorly composed controls. Let’s scale the thing down:


No comments.

In fact, even this pitiful UI could look better if its creators followed some very simple rules:

  1. Can’t control – lock. I.e. just lock dialog size if you cannotmake it look decent under different resolutions
  2. Don’t use center align without a reason: in most cases left (or right) align woulddo less harm.
  3. Be careful with bitmaps: scaling them is no fun.
  4. RTFM. Seriously. If you find yourself a groovy coder, why not spending few minutes on readingbasic control usage rules?

Overall, resizeable windows and dialogs are quite a pain for many developers as they’re harder to handle then fixed-size ones. You may have to remember window position, size, state, carefully align controls, set sane defaults, etc…

Power or mess?

December 18, 2006

Just to finish the audio file tagging topic for today I provide a screenshot of a real program intended to be a music tag editor:

Abander tag control

The program is Abander Tag Control by Softartstudio. Screenshot is taken from their site (and yes, I did try to use the program myself).

Hall of shame: mp3Trim

December 14, 2006

This one looks like an ordinary program with quite a decent interface (could definitely be worse), unless you mention one thing…


The menu on the top is not actually a menu. In some reasons the program’s developer decided to make it behave like a toolbar i.e. “open”actually displays the file open dialog, and “exit” quits the application.

It’s obviously not the way menus should behave like. The most painless solution might be replacing the menu with a toolbar with the same functionality and cleaning it up (no need for the “exit” as there’s already a “cross” button on the window itself).