(2003 to 2005)

Official Windows Design Guidelines

Tue Mar 30 19:33:00 UTC+1100 2004


From MSDN, the Official Windows Design Guidelines for Win98/Win2k.

I had a trawl over this just now. It's interesting to see some of the ideas that users have in their head, or things that they don't understand that I take for granted. Many of them I've witnessed before, like the “I double-click everything just to be sure“ syndrome, but one that I've noticed a user exhibit symptoms of before that I didn't quite understand was that they don't grok the window environment as a 3D space, so when a window is obscured they think it's *gone*.

I've seen users get confused about this before, but I didn't quite understand what was going on in their head. For me it results in “close everything in sight after closing”, perhaps with the same fervor they use to close pop-up windows that they don't understand from web-sites. I've tried to ask them why the didn't ALT-TAB to an already open window, or why they ran an application again that they already had open, or why they clicked close a billion times while closing, and they dodged the issue (I guess not knowing that they didn't know something, or fearing to expose their ignorance) but I guess if you didn't understand that the window environment was a 3D space having all these windows “pop out of no-where when they were supposed to be closed“ might be kind of scary.

Thinking about it now, I realise that on several occasions a user has been showing me something and when these 'mysterious' windows appear as the result of their 'close' action they frantically close them, because “that's what they always do“ and because they don't want to give me a chance to “see what's going on“, because they are probably thinking “this always happens but it's no big deal if I just close them because that's what I always do, and I don't want him to ask me questions about this *problem* because I'm trying to get his attention for another matter“.. very enlightening, and so true.

On many occasions where I wasn't sure what was going on in the users head when I saw them do odd stuff with their computer it was probably because they didn't really understand that it's a 3D environment. Many users operate all their windows in a 'Maximized' state all the time, and may even have a hidden task-bar, and I guess are probably often intimidated by the 'window buttons' as they appear on it. I tend to have anywhere from 10 to 50 top-level windows open at a time, and make good use of the window buttons on the task bar and ALT-TAB but I've seen people nearly faint seeing me work like that, I guess it could be kind of overwhelming, particularly without an understanding of the 3D environment and perhaps even of modal dialogs, etc.

That little insight aside, the article (I got the impression it had been published as a book in the past) was definitely worth a read, even just for the sake of reminding me that I take all this stuff for granted but most people don't.


Copyright © 2003-2005 John Elliot