Interrupting your user

When designing user interfaces a lot of thought needs to go into when you are going to interrupt a user.  I am going to walk you through an example of what not to do.  My example deals with messing around with CSVs in excel.  I recently have been doing a lot of data loading via CSV and found myself getting consistently interupted by Excel when trying to save.  Pretty simple concept, once I have changed a document I should be able to click save ( yup thats it, nothing else.. pretty simple request huh?). 

 

Well take a walk with me…

Step 1.  Right click your desktop->new->Text Document

Step 2.  Change the name to Test.csv

Step 3.  Double Click Test.csv and it will open in Excel.

Now you will have an empty spreadsheet.  I am going to enter(| indicate next cell) : This | Is | A | Bad | UI | Interaction

 

Excel_CSV_PreSave

Step 4.  Click Save.

Kaboom.  Greeted with a Sound AND Messagebox:

Excel_CSV_ClickSave

So I dont understand?  I just entered text why is it complaining about tabs?  Oh well I want to Save my csv format… so i click yes.

Step 5. Click Yes

Step 6.  Close

I then go to close the workbook and am greeted with:

Excel_CSV_NoChanges_Close

Hmm.. I didn’t change anything so NO!

Step 7. Click No.

So lets open it back up and see what’s going on.

Step 8. Double click Test.csv

Excel_CSV_NoChanges_Close_ClickedNo

Really?  I guess that first warning was justified. Apparently, when I clicked yes to keep the format it meant, collapse into one cell and insert ? character…hmm.

Note: If you are on Windows 7 you might just see ThisIsABadUIInteraction either way it collapsed the text into one cell

Lets get out of here

Step 9.  Close

Excel_CSV_NoChanges_Close

GAH!  Again!

Step 10.  Click No

So now I am just going to take over, I am going to open up the raw text and fix the CSV myself. 

Step 11.  Edit text and place “,” between each word and remove the TABs.  Save and Close.

Excel_CSV_Fixing_WithVim

Step 12. Open this thing back up(in Excel).

Ah.. much better.

Step 13.  Add a new row

EXcel_Csv_Take2

Step 14.  Save (yes)

Here comes that warning again… click yes.

Excel_CSV_Changes_Y_SaveAs_Exist_Y_NonCompatx2 (1)

Step 15.  Close

Nooooo not again.  I don’t think I changed anything….

Excel_CSV_NoChanges_Close

Step 16.  Lets click yes for the fun of it…

Woah…. Save As?  Really?

Excel_CSV_Changes_Y_SaveAs

Well I don’t want to change the name… so I click

Step 17. Click Save

Noooo tooo many decisions…

 Excel_CSV_Changes_Y_SaveAs_Exists

Really?

Step 18.  Click Yes.

We have to be done right…?

Excel_CSV_Changes_Y_SaveAs_Exist_Y_NonCompatx2 (1)

Brain explodes… get a friend to click yes…

Step 19.  Click Yes.

 

FINALLY it closes.

 

So just take that for what its worth. There are really only 3 issues that reoccur that makes the process painful.   One if I open up a document and click save:  Save it, pretty simple.  Excel offers a “Save As” option, if i want to specify a different name or change the type I will select “Save As”.  Second, when its time to close prompt me to save changes (if I have actually changed anything) and then accept my answer and close.  In our situation it took 5 clicks to close… ?

 

Another thing I notices was the dialog that says “filename may contain features that are not compatible with ..(CSV or TAB).  What does that mean?  I didn’t do anything more than enter csv stuff.  I didn’t use formulas, charts, etc so what is it complaining about?  The first time I opened a CSV, it was completely empty.   But for some reason it decided it was a TAB delimited format?  Who knows.  Its almost like they are trying to scare you into the “lastest Excel format.”  Oh well, if you take anything away from this entry:

 

Americans are indecisive by nature, so don’t overwhelm  with unnecessary, and very word prompts.  Code to the things that the majority of people will want/need to do, and only interrupt people when it is completely necessary.

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Posted in C#, Issues, Java, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Programming, Windows

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