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UI status bar/notification area question

In our app I want to notify the users about small issues which is not life threataning but important. I do no want to use popup dialogs because these are just infos.

Something like IE or firefox yellow bar at the top.

My problem is that when I place it on the top the whole screen scrolls down, which is annoying.

As an alternative I can put these into the status bar but the status bar can be turned off.

Or I can reserve a place at the top on the screen, and the user cannot close this pane. But in this case most of the time this notification area will be empty.

Any idea how to solve this? What would be the least annoying for the users?

Thursday, November 24, 2005
Use the combination of an icon in the notification area (next to the clock in the bottom right) and a 'toast' - a small rectangular window that slides up from the bottom-right of the screen for a few seconds and then slides back down again.  The toast gets their attention if they're at their desk, and the icon (possibly animated if that's justified) keeps reminding them if they ignore the toast or weren't there at the time.  Nothing grabs the focus, and nothing affects the main window of your application.
Richie Hindle Send private email
Thursday, November 24, 2005
I agree to an extent with Richie + "toast", but IMO these should ony be used for important things. I use this when my app is in the background but has done something at the users request.

Another option is pop-up balloon style tips, where the user doesn't have to click or do anything to get rid of them. They can close after a time delay, when the user moves the mouse or presses a key.

I use this technique to good effect in Surfulater. I also allow most of these pop-ups to not be shown in future via. a "Do not show again" checkbox.

Check Surfulater out and you'll soon get the idea.
Neville Franks Send private email
Thursday, November 24, 2005
"My problem is that when I place it on the top the whole screen scrolls down, which is annoying."

What development environment are you using?  It should be possible to create a control that just "hovers" over the top of the content area rather than forcing the whole area to move down but the way to do this tends to be highly dependent on environment.
SomeBody Send private email
Thursday, November 24, 2005
I had a similar issue recently with a tabbed mdi application I'm building. The way I approached notifying the user depended on the context of the error and what the user was focused on:

- In general, never use popup dialogs that can disrupt the users flow. The exception to the rule is after the user clicks a button at the end of a flow, i.e. user commits or saves and the webservice call fails.

- Field & input errors: place an explanation mark in a red circle icon beside the field. If the user hovers the mouse over the icon, a tooltip appears with a detailed message. If the user gives focus to a field that is invalid, either with by mouse or tabbing, show a balloon tooltip with the same detailed message. This tooltip stays displayed until the user begins editing the field or it looses focus. A hide delay didn't suite because the message may be long or short.

- If there is an error with the entire form i.e. they are editing a document that has been updated elsewhere in the system, show the yellow box across the top, like IE and firefox. The appearance of this does make the form jump down, but its occurance is so rare it doesn't matter. And since it's usually a very important message, the jump draws the users attention to it, which we want.. Even IE has a dialog saying "Did you notice the yellow..."

- If there are application wide notifications use a toaster popup. The user can click the popup to read more, or simply ignore and keep going. Decided not to use system tray balloon tips as you can only show one message at a time.

- If there is an application wide error, use a dialog. We *shouldn't* get those, but we do :(

Hope that helps!
Friday, November 25, 2005
Actually, it's amazing how often your "important" messages get the user to scream "I don't fucking care you stupid worthless piece of crap!!!!" and make everyone in the office stare at them.

And that's if they notice - if they don't notice, then there was no point in the first place.

What's wrong with putting it in the status bar, then if the user chooses to turn off the status bar, *assume that they don't care about the status information* ?  It is status information, if the status bar is off, then showing status information is off, so status information should be hidden instead of forced back on.  Why do you think people chose to turn the status information area off in the first place?

If they request the "show high priority status only" option, then why not put that yellow bar at the bottom of the screen instead of the top?  It would minimise the disruption, while still being visible, and still being requested by the user instead of forced on the unwilling user.

Besides, if you follow the IE model accurately, you need to make sure that the average user doesn't understand the options available and won't know that clicking a set of options in order to make the dancing bunnies appear is actually just working around the security and letting in a virus anyway.

Most of what's done with that trick is there because noone could come up with a better option than passing the buck to the user. Every such notification that can be eliminated would make the entire process better for the users.

(Check for the dancing bunny problem.)

Monday, November 28, 2005
> Even IE has a dialog saying "Did you notice the yellow..."

In other words, even Microsoft knows that you can shuffle virtually everything on a page and have a big yellow bar, and users *still* won't see it.

Bloody users.  :)

It's actually fair enough, though - users are focussing on one area of the screen, they're used to badly designed software occasionally jumping around, and if they can still see what they care about then they don't waste time analysing the screen for everything that has changed.

One idea I do like: soft and quiet audio feedback for successful operations, silence for failure. It avoids the irritation people have with regular loud error sounds, but people can easily feel that something has gone wrong when it goes silent. It's like any machine - when it goes silent, you know it's not working.

Monday, November 28, 2005

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