Software Misuse

Darren Barefoot writes about one incident of Microsoft Excel’s misuse. I’ve seen it used as a word processer, for games, as a database, and a drawing program.

I’ve received emails where the email’s content is in an attached Word document instead of in the email itself.

I’ve seen Flash used for a web site when HTML will do.

I’ve seen people use fancy, expensive programs to do screen captures when pressing the PrtScr button or Alt+PrtScr buttons will do.

Have you seen programs used for other than their intended purpose?

Flash Is Being Abused

Not The Flash, the comicbook character, but the multimedia application used by too many damn web sites for their entire content. I don’t mind Flash if it’s used minimally, as a tool used to deliver content HTML can’t provide; but why the hell do site designers use it for EVERYTHING. Fancy graphics and confusing user interfaces do not attract visitors who are simply looking for information, especially when the user has to wait for a Flash application to load.

I suspect a lot of site owners are convinced by would-be developers to have their site designed all in Flash because they’re told it’s the “latest and greatest” technology in use now; and then, once the finished site is presented in some fancy boarding room, the audience “Ohs” and “Ahs” over the neat, creative interface and features. And that’s it. No usability testing, no browser compatibility tests, and no feedback from objective users is given.

If I have to wait for more than 3 seconds for a site to load, or can’t figure out how to navigate a site in less than 5 seconds, I’m outta there; they’ve lost me as a visitor forever.

Some advice about programming user-interfaces (with Flash in mind):

  • Make site navigation obvious. Don’t use gimmicks where a user has to move the mouse over every pixel on the screen to see where the links are on the page.
  • Enable users to EASILY skip introductory splash screens.
  • Enable users to turn off sound and other annoying features.
  • Don’t manipulate the browser’s window. If I want to make the browser go to full-screen, *I’ll* do it.
  • Don’t use Flash when HTML and CSS will do.

Turn-signals

A new category! Annoyances will contain short posts that describe things that annoy me and probably others. For example, I’m going to add the post about drive-throughs to this category.

Send me any suggestions.

First on the list: people whining about things that annoy them. Haha. You wish. First annoyance:

Drivers who don’t use the turn-signal properly (if they use it at all): it’s a warning device, not a I-am-now-in-the-process-of-turning device. I think there are four types of turn-signal people:

  • Those who use it properly, using it as a warning that you’re going to turn a few seconds (depending on your speed) before you make the turn.
  • Those who use it JUST before they make a turn, as if the turn-signal switch is an ON button that enables them to make the turn.
  • Those who use it while they’re in the middle of the turn.
  • Those who don’t know what that rod is that’s sticking out of the steering column.

Drive-throughs

I read a Bill Bryson essay (from his collection Notes From a Big Country) about how Americans embrace “conveniences” that end up taking longer than before the “convenience” existed, like drive-throughs.

I stop at one of the 600 Tim Hortons’ coffee shops on the way to work, picking up a coffee and sometimes a muffin. If there’s a line-up of more than 3 cars at the drive-through, I’ll park and go into the store to purchase my items; it’s a waste of time and fuel to wait in line for more than 2 minutes for a damn coffee. Yet, I’ll see people driving into the queue NO MATTER HOW MANY CARS ARE ALREADY THERE. It’s insane. They’ll be 10 cars waiting in line and people won’t give it a second thought to join the queue, idling in their car for however long it takes to order a $1.20 coffee. They’re too lazy to park and walk into the store where there’s NO line-up.

And now there are self-serve cash registers at grocery stores. I’ll save my complaints about how people use those for another time.

Alarm Clocks

I hate alarm clocks; they either grind into your dreams, corrupting the bliss you thought you were in, or hover in your subconscious like a lion ready to pounce on its prey, keeping you (i.e. the prey) alert to its inevitable alarm. I’d like to try the Ah! Wake Clock, but I suspect I wouldn’t get out of bed, if my wife could even tolerate it me having it.

I’m proud to say I don’t use an alarm clock any more; I’ve been waking up on my own between 6 and 7am for the past month and I don’t know why; but I love it. I had some tight deadlines recently, so worrying about that may have been keeping me up, knowing I should get to work to get something completed. Or maybe I’m getting old. Old people DO wake up early, don’t they? I don’t know any old (“old” being over 60) folks who get up after 6am.