Consistency!

On 2011/01/29, in rant, by a b

I just go back from a long, work related visit to India. Because my CDMA driven Droid X wasn’t likely to have connection, and I don’t have an international plan, I ended up borrowing a GSM phone. The handset was a HTC T8788, which runs WP7 as the OS. If you haven’t checked out a WP7 phone, you should. I was a crazy thing to have to admit that Redmond has put out something exciting. Something that actually works pretty well, or – I can’t believe I’m saying this – was a joy to use. I found myself paying with it just to watch it work. Cheers, Microsoft!

Of course, it wasn’t all FWEEE! and no FWAAA!. The big ‘Oh, noes! came when I was adjusting some settings. In the process I found a checkbox that needed checking. Maybe it was the ‘Make Even More Awesome” setting? I can’t remember. Anyway, I was immediately frustrated when I couldn’t get a check mark to appear, until I realized I had to touch the label text to get the box to check. Wait, what? Yeah, it’s true. Touching the actual check box itself didn’t work, only the label text would toggle the state of the checkbox. This was so crazy-sad-funny that I had to show a friend, in part to make sure I wasn’t insane. How could this be? Worse, it was this way for only some of the checkboxes. On other screens (maybe setting in other applications?), the opposite was true. Touch the label text, nothing happens, but touch the check box itself, and the box is toggled. This was not in the browser, these were crazy-different experiences in identical OS interactions. Boo.

If you’re building a UI, behaviors have to be consistent. This checkbox sadness is a perfect example. Because of the inconsistency, every checkbox was like a little minefield, with a 50/50 chance of FAIL every time I tried to adjust a setting. I personally think interaction on both the box and the label text would be a good option, but if you pick one or the other, make it so across ALL checkboxes in the UI. This might be harder to control with 3rd party apps, but how hard could it be to enforce consistency at this basic level?

What have we learned? If it does it one way in one place, it should do the exact same thing everywhere you see it. /thread.

Anyway, I had fun using the WP7 device, and I had fun in India as well. The other funny story about that phone is that I left it in a taxi after a few to many during dinner. Miracle upon miracles, 24 hours later the cab company and returned the phone. The big help here was that Adobe Noida had called the cab, so the company was pretty motivated to stay on their good side.

What else? I would say the WP7 phone was about 80% of what a ‘real’ smartphone would be, and maybe it will get better as the WP7 market and apps develop? The T8788 had a weird slide out speaker w/kickstand that is kind of cool, but maybe a little gimmicky. If you do a lot of ‘tubing, I guess it could be nice to have? If the price is right I could see this filling in for people who are on the lighter end of the smart phone needs.

What is that? A smart-ish phone? We should come up with term for that. Clever phone? Not so dullard phone? Keen phone? Or… yeah.

 

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