When I was a child, my father would quote the Victorian era expression “Small children should be seen, not heard” when I became overly boisterous. At that time I was not sure whether or not he meant it. I do however believe it should apply to computers…
Don’t put words in other people’s mouths!
Safari’s URL and form autocompletion really irritate me: they always add their guess to the end of what I’m typing a third of a second later. That means I press enter, only to find incorrect data was added to the field, and then submitted. Others have the same complaint. Nevertheless people do want some form of autocompletion.
For Find It! Keep It! I added an almost identical interface: the same popup window, the same use of up and down keys to choose, the same ability to click or double click on a choice, but crucially, you’re always in control. Nothing is added behind your cursor until you use the up and down keys to choose a selection. Type a new character in, and your selection is cleared.
Don’t just grab something that I was about to use!
Spotlight invariably updates its window the instant before I click the file I want to open, causing me to open the wrong thing.
A different solution is to use colour to show which page contain the search term. Although it does mean more information on the screen, it lets users click on pages as soon as the search term is found. That’s what I’m doing in Find It! Keep It! when searching pages by content.
Don’t jump up and down to get attention!
An application’s icon will bounce automatically when the application opens a modal panel if it is running in the background. It is possible for each application to remove this effect on a per-application basis. The problem then is that either one has to set a preference in each app to override default behaviour, or apps behave inconsistently. Apple could system wide preference for this to alleviate the problem.
Delay informing people about things until it’s relevant!
Software Updaters are another source of interruption that I don’t believe is necessary: as long as I don’t adversely notice the change when I use the tool, I don’t need to know that it’s updated the moment I use it. Web applications change constantly, but no one complains unless they stop working. Desktop applications will, I believe, adopt a similar model. How then, will the user know about the latest improvements? By email! People are in the mood for reading things when reading their email, not when working. Apple’s Software Updater is the worst in this category: it interrupts you and then asks you to drop everything and restart your computer.
Software should not behave like 3 year old children
It is difficult to hold a conversation when someone continually interrupts: one can’t organize one’s thoughts while being bombarded with new information. Using a computer is a similar situation. When the user talks, the computer should just listen.