Re: Toolbars

Subject: Re: Toolbars
From: Stuart Burnfield <slb -at- FS -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Fri, 30 Aug 1996 15:31:01 +0800

14 months as a techwhirler and I finally get to disagree with Sue
Gallagher about something!

David (the idiot) Ibbetson said:
>And this has the result that the types who use the toolbar all the time
>won't know about the facilities that have been hidden from them!

Sue (the usually infallible) Gallagher replied:
>. . . The user isn't there to play with the computer, but to get a
>job done. If the toolbar button accomplishes the result *and* does so
>faster and easier than the menu option, that's the way many users will
>choose to go.

One of the jobs of the user interface is to teach users what's possible,
what other functions are available. Alan Cooper ("About Face") says
"The toolbar freed the menu to teach". As you traverse menus and
dialogues, you can't help noticing other options, and consciously or
otherwise filing them away for future reference.

The menus are like a reference manual. If the information is anywhere,
it will be in the reference. It might not be in the form you expect, it
might not be where you expect it, but it should be there somewhere.
Beginners need to use menus because so many functions have invisible
shortcuts or no shortcuts at all.

Buttons are shortcuts--the stuff you use the most often, the way you
most often use it. Buttons work best as time-savers for experienced
users. They also save time for beginners, by putting basic functions
in plain view, but there's a danger of doing this at the expense of
the beginner's learning.

It's good to hide complexity from new users, but some of that complexity
is what will help them to go from being beginners to using the software
efficiently and effectively. Buttons are good for fast, easy, default
Saves and default Prints. But it's also good to know that there are
options other than the defaults. This is not playing but learning.

Stuart (the stupid) Burnfield (slb -at- fs -dot- com -dot- au) Voice: +61 9 328 8288
Functional Software Pty Ltd Fax: +61 9 328 8616

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