Demonstrating cluelessness

‘Practice makes perfect,’ so I’m told.

Unless you’ve had years of experience designing user interfaces, it seems, in which case practice will just cause repeats of the same basic errors.

The image below is taken from the current version of the Hotmail interface. Spot the odd one out:

Easy, no?

Just in case you happen to be a software design ‘expert,’ here’s the answer:

So, what is this intruder? Imagining that I don’t have many years’ experience with computers, peering closely at the screen (these days I have to: my eyes aren’t as good as they once were) I think that it might be a representation of a space tug. That doesn’t fit the paradigm: so maybe it’s a plug of some sort, ready to be inserted into some kind of socket?

OK, facetiousness aside, I admit that I recognise it as a printer icon. But I know some people who won’t recognise it at all. Hovering the mouse over this icon (in the Hotmail interface, not here) brings up the text ‘Print,’ confirming the wild guess – though again, you have to know about ‘tooltips’ to be able to ‘hover’ your choice of pointing device over something in the first place. (Don’t let me get started on tooltips – ‘Click here to begin’ on the Windows Start button, anyone? – that’s a rant for another day.)

Getting back to the original point: the other control buttons are all text; those haven’t been replaced with icons. So, why replace this one? It’s not as though there’s not enough room for the word ‘Print,’ after all.

But… why is this function button even here at all? What’s wrong with the standard ‘File > Print…’ from the menu toolbar? Answer: the standard doesn’t work for Hotmail, for reasons related to other design decisions that are mainly to do with ensuring space on the screen for those irritating adverts on the right hand side (better, I suppose, than being at the top).

In the end it’s a case of tanstaafl: vanilla Hotmail is free. Anything free is worth what you pay for it. Payment may be in other than standard coinage; for instance: annoyance and frustration.

About pendantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
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2 Responses to Demonstrating cluelessness

  1. Unknown says:

    I suppose it is a matter of preference. I am so used to the printer icon that I do not require it be a word rather than an icon. 🙂


    • pendantry says:

      Of course, to some the icon will be familiar; but, to others, it will not be. And do you not think it odd that the other tools in the same group are represented by text, not icons? Why the sudden, jarring, change of theme?


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