UI Horror Story of the Day

I finally got around to upgrading to Dev Studio 2010 Express. It looks nice so far but I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the number of fundamental UI mistakes they have made with the documentation system. Have Microsoft learned nothing about user interface and user experience in the 18-odd years they have been developing Windows? I’d like to take this blog post to list some of the issues with this software.

Now in previous versions of Dev Studio, if you wanted to look up the manual for a key word or library function, you placed your cursor on the name and pressed F1. So wanting to know how to create a fixed array in C#, I typed the word ‘fixed’ and pressed F1. Did I see the documentation? Nope.

What I did see was a dialog box asking whether I’d like to look up the documentation on my local machine or on the internet. I wish I’d taken a screen-shot of that dialog box because it was an absolute classic of bad design but I can’t make it appear again. Once I’d chosen, there was no way to go back to it and make a different choice.

UI Lesson #1: Let the user go back. People make mistakes, if it is possible to undo, then allow it.


The choices on the dialog were “YES” or “NO”. Um, does that mean yes, look it up on the internet or no, don’t look it up on my local machine? Heads I win, tails you lose. Bad choice of wording for the buttons.

UI Lesson #2: Label your dialog buttons with verbs – SAVE / DON’T SAVE is easier to understand than YES / NO


So I took a punt on NO which it turns out meant loading the documentation from the local machine. Well that’s OK, it should be faster loading locally right? But then again, should I care where it gets the documentation from as long as it gets it. Microsoft is interrupting my work flow. I just want to see the documentation, right now.

UI Lesson #3: Don’t interrupt the user’s work flow unless you have a very good reason.


So next it goes about setting up a small web server on my PC so it can serve up the documentation in my browser. Takes a few seconds but that’s OK, except – get this – it doesn’t work! I get a 404 error! I did take a screenshot this time:


So what this is telling me is that there is no local help! And the software was too brain-dead to realise it.

UI Lessage #4: If you can automatically check something, don’t make the user manually check it!


There is no way I am going to spend time installing the local help on my PC. Remember what I want to do is view the help, not dink around with my computer all afternoon. So of course I now choose to look for the help online. So I click the link and…


UI Lesson #5: Honestly, just think!


I cannot believe how utterly broken this is. I think I’ll go look up my keyword on Google.


One thought on “UI Horror Story of the Day

  1. JosephK

    Thank you. I thought I was the only one who thought this was the most ridiculous, mind-bendingly, annoying design. But given Microsoft’s poor attention to help systems in the past, it doesn’t surprise me.

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