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Need feedback on UI

Version 1.0 of my application is now out, with a few downloads and a few sales; I'm encouraged, but would like to do better. So I'm making lots of notes for the next verison of the application, with ideas for better performance, smarter marketing (the website is a work in progress but already reflects some earlier feedback at JoS), and so on.

What I'm looking for here is feedback on the UI. I'm targeting Mac and Windows, mainly (there's a Linux version as well but I may phase that out). The challenge when doing cross-platform UI's is that what works on one platform may look out of place on another. (One reviewer of the Mac version said it looked like "a primitive Windows port"--ouch! Especially considering that I develop on the Mac.) I am trying to find the right balance here but am not sure I've found it yet.

What follows are screenshots, and I'm looking for specific advice on the following:

1. The toolbar: how can it fit better on both platforms?

2. Icons--should I go with a different style?

I'm not going to go so far as to use platform specific toolkits to do this application--I don't have the time or resources for that--but I may develop different sets of UI code and even use different icon sets, if it's warranted (thoughts on that are appreciated). The Mac and Windows guidelines are not only different, but conflicting in some cases.


Mac version:

Windows version:
Kevin Walzer Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
Not really feedback, but I just have to ask: When presented with something like this -- an image on a web page with a screen/window as the image and sole content, how many of you tried clicking something on the image?

I tried to hit the Windows version's "X" button to close it and return to this forum. Felt pretty damned silly when I realized what I was doing. I do this all the time -- it's some sort of Pavlovian nightmare. See the X, click it (knowing full well it's simply an image of the X and not a functioning button on a real window).

Am I just stupid (likely) or does anyone else do this?
Friday, February 24, 2006
I fail to see what anybody would have to complain about and have no recommendations for improvement. Looked good to me. Note that I didn't try to figure out what the app actually does and I've never spent much time on a Mac.

Sgt., you're not alone :) Maybe there is a support group for people like us: Those Who Impulsively Try Screenshots.
Ron Porter Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
It looks fine. I'm just wondering what it does.  Find files?

If you don't mind a small (and off-topic) suggestion, try to make it instantly obvious what it does.
Caffeinated Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
Icons are too big, text for the listing is too small.  What do the traffic lights do?  They're interesting.

WAY too much screen real estate given over to the icons--once I know what they do, I'll never need to really look at them again.  The font size as displayed on my monitor approaches the edge of "too tiny" (admittedly, in need of a new eyeglass Rx but so are a lot of people).  Suggest adjusting the balance.  You probably don't need labels on the icons, at least not as big as the ones you're showing.
Ideophoric Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
The interface is very simple and straightforward.  I like it.

This is a very minor observation/suggestion, but the "open drawer" and "select directory" icons themselves aren't immediately intuitive.  But again, this is VERY minor, as you also indicate the function of each button with words; and I think that often after a few uses, people associate a function with any old picture without caring what it is anymore.
Friday, February 24, 2006
I think that what your reviewers are trying to tell you (but are not doing a very good job of) are the following:

1) the icons don't look Mac-like: except for the folders they are flat and they seem to be based on the standard icons for their tasks on Windows (the red X, for example, is a common icon for delete on Windows but not on the Mac). In general the icons simply look clumsy, as if they were designed by someone lacking artistic sense.

2) the table widget doesn't have sufficient vertical space for the text or icons within it: notice that the file and folder icons in the table header overlap the lower border and the text in the columns looks squashed together. Add a few pixels to the row height for both the header and data rows and it should be good.

3) rethink the tool-bar. Some of these actions should be in the File menu and others might be better done another way (the Select Directory icon might be better represented as a text field ala a web browser's URL field)

4) tone down the blue bars in the table widget or get rid of them altogether, they are a bit distracting and don't add much to the usability (the columns are not wide enough to need them).

You might want to have a look at the Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines
Jeff Dutky Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
Sorry, but Mac users are never going to be happy unless you use the native widgets. They're very picky.
Friday, February 24, 2006
I have no idea what you are looking for.  One screen shot tells us basically nothing about your program's UI.

Is that the entire UI?  If not, then we need to see more stuff.

If so, I'd say that having the search field way to the right is backwards, and it's too small.  The field should be on the left side.  I'd suggest moving it up so more can be typed - unless you only want/expect people to type in a tiny bit.

If this is supposed to find all files with "HTML" in their extension, I don't see how the several files with that extension are differentiated from the other files in the list.
Karl Perry Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
The most obvious observations have already been made. My opinion:

1. Lose the alternating blue and white line shading in the list. For text, white is always best.

2. Increase the height of the list items. When the list is fully populated, increasing the list item height form 16 to 20 makes a huge, huge difference in readability.

3. Consider an icon column for the list based on file type - typical Word icon for doc files, Notepad for txt etc. Most people focus much more quickly on recognisable images than file extensions, especially if their machine hides file extensions.

4. Nothing wrong with the icon size, but the icons themselves are far too bland and meaningless. The file icon on the toolbar differs from the file icon on the list column header - they should at least have a common base image.

5. Text on icons should always be kept to a minimum - one word if possible. The text is simply a reminder of what the button does, a fuller explanation belongs on the tooltip.

6. The Open/Close Drawer button might be better as an up/down button with the icon changing to reflect the state.

7. Use the title bar to show more than just the application name - possibly the search string or current folder.

8. No indicator of the number of files found.

Anyway, that's my short opinion.
Reckless Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
It's so lame when a screenshot shows part of the desktop or worse, another underlying window. Next time use ALT+PrintScreen or simply learn to cut the image normally.

5 seconds to impress somebody. I clicked away after 5 seconds after seeing that.

Friday, February 24, 2006
The icons look very much like Windows icons to me. That is going to instantly make you unpopular with Mac zealots.
Andy Brice Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
Thanks to everyone for the feedback.

A few thoughts:

1. Mac guidelines say toolbar icons should be 32x32. Windows say 22x22 or even 16x16. How should I resolve this? Have separate UI modules for each platform?

2. Indicator of number of files found: good idea. Thanks.

3. Is it commond for xplat applications to use different icon sets depending on platform?

4. I can remove the alternating colors if that's a drag on readability.

5. Window title: I will give that some thought. Thanks.
Kevin Walzer Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
>1. Mac guidelines say toolbar icons should be 32x32. Windows say 22x22 or even 16x16. How should I resolve this? Have separate UI modules for each platform?

Really? The feedback I got on my software from Mac users was that the 32x32 icons looked too big:
The MacOSX system ones look about 24x24.

>3. Is it commond for xplat applications to use different icon sets depending on platform?

Not as far as I am aware. I use the same set.

>4. I can remove the alternating colors if that's a drag on readability.

I think alternating colours can be helpful if you have several columns, but they need to be a light, unsaturated colour.
Andy Brice Send private email
Saturday, February 25, 2006

Regarding icons: I will think about reducing the size.

What do the Cocoa interface snobs say about your icons? Does it affect your sales as much as they say it will?
Kevin Walzer Send private email
Saturday, February 25, 2006
I was more picked up for the size and number of icons, rather than the appearance. Mac apps tend to have a lot less toolbar icons.

I was also criticised on a Mac forum for the lack of workflow in PerfectTablePlan. I took this to heart and included a simple modal workflow in version 2 (Windows and Mac). I think this simplifies the UI a lot has been very well received.

I intend to make some more tweaks in 2.1 to make PerfectTablePlan more mac-like.

I haven't been selling in the Mac market for long, so its difficult to say what the effect is. Anyway, not all Mac users are Mac zealots.
Andy Brice Send private email
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Good diagonal lines in icons require alpha blended versions. The steps in the Remove File cross lines look amaturish.

Windows users normaly use the notation C:\Windows instead of C:/windows
Monday, February 27, 2006
How can anybody respond to these screenshots saying things like, "Looks good, but not sure what it does".

For the UI design, knowing what it's supposed to do is *critical* to evaluating if it's any good.
andrew mcg Send private email
Wednesday, March 01, 2006

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