Look/feel improvements (was Re: Smalltalk: Requiem or Resurgence? {Dr. Dobb's Journal (05/06/06) Chan, Jeremy})

tim Rowledge tim at rowledge.org
Fri May 12 03:02:04 UTC 2006

On 11-May-06, at 7:18 PM, Todd Blanchard wrote:

> I agree - it would be cool if the community could pony up for a  
> really good visual designer to design a slick "look" for the  
> environment.

While the visual stuff is certainly important to initial perception  
we mustn't forget the feel half of look&feel. That is something that  
*does* need engineer type effort.

My current pet peeve on 'feel' is the abysmal feedback provided (or  
rather not provided) by buttons and lists. When you click a button or  
a list item something visible should happen *immediately* to show  
that the press/click has been picked up. This is an attribute of the  
widget, not the application using it by the way. The application  
handling the press/click should also provide some visual feedback if  
there is any delay whatsoever in responding; it takes time to query  
sockets, open files, read data, whatever and if you're left hanging  
while that goes on you can end up stuffing the event queue with  
spurious events. My favourite example is using a remote MC  
repository. Click on a package. Wait (reasonably - it's going to  
Germany from Canada and those little nano-pigeons can only swim down  
the wire so fast). No feedback. Hmm, did my click actually select the  
package or merely move the focus to the MC browser window? Or even  
just move focus to the Squeak window from some other app? How long do  
I wait before clicking again - and finding that I've just deselected  
the package that is just being displayed! Arrgh!

We have a pretty decent progress bar facility that needs to be used a  
lot more. It would also be useful to extend it so that it would have  
a small delay before appearing - say 1/3rd sec - so that operations  
that complete 'nearly instantly' don't clutter ones perception  
needlessly. RISC OS started doing something like this in around '88  
and it can be very simple to use and helpful to users. For operations  
of indeterminable length a progress bar that regularly updates in  
some 'fuzzy' fashion would be nice. It would at least let the user  
know that something is going on and the system hasn't locked up! The  
old Perq workstation window system used to do some thing vaguely like  
those random-block page transitions so beloved of powerpoint abusers.  
One could even use the same feedback provide by the project loader  
with the bar moving back and forth like a Cylon eye.

So my suggested plan would be to
a) improve the button list immediate feedback
b) improve and extend the progress bar
c) make use of the progress bar in (many) more places
Then it might be worth spending time or money to improve the visuals.

tim Rowledge; tim at rowledge.org; http://www.rowledge.org/tim
World Ends at Ten! Pictures at 11 on Fox News!

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