Themes and Individuality

Jensen Harris writes:

One challenge that some people have raised against a gallery-based approach to formatting is that “all of the documents are going to look the same.”

And pigs go ‘oink’. Gallery based approaches don’t make all documents look the same, defaults do. On how many blogs can you identify the blogging software just by looking at it? At least half, I’d bet, because people use the default theme. Or how many static webpages do you see that use a built-in FrontPage theme? When’s the last time you got an Excel spreadsheet that didn’t use Arial or a Word document that wasn’t in Times New Roman? It doesn’t happen very often, for me at least.

If anything, I think galleries will create more variety, not less. If there are nine kinds of pie charts in Excel’s pie chart gallery, that will be eight more than most user would use now. I’m not some kind of cheerleader for the new UI or galleries, but that seems like a pretty weak criticism. Let’s focus our complaining on things that really matter: keyboard accessibility. :)

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9 thoughts on “Themes and Individuality

  1. The defaults are killing us. I have a client with a firm vision of how their reports should look, because the first one they did, umpteen years ago, was a PowerPoint slide show with tons of MS Graph charts in the default clustered column with 3D effects format. They solicited my input, agreed to the changes, then one by one started reverting back closer to the old formats. Even though they’re paying for the rework, it’s frustrating because I am prevented from doing interesting work in the meantime.

    Microsoft needs to do a couple things to make this gallery concept useful.

    1. Give careful thought to the default in the first gallery listed, which is what will be used in 90% of the documents produced. I refer to the Ppt 3D Column design mentioned above, as well as the ugly default design of an Excel chart, with that muddy gray background.

    2. Make it easy for the user to modify the gallery defaults, and make it easy for the user to know they can modify these defaults. So many users thing the “built-in custom” chart types in Excel are the only available combination charts. They are not hard to change or design from scratch, but people don’t even know that they can.

    Just my 2?, don’t spend it all in one place.

  2. Yes I believe you’re quite correct. However, the keyboard thingy tends to date you. From what I am witnessing in today’s user habit, is orientation to the mouse.

    Yesterday I was watching a young lady fill in a page of text boxes and would use the mouse to go from box to box instead of using the tab or enter keys. Now that may be an extreme, but when I asked her why she did it that way, “There’s another way?” was her response…

    Another phenomena I see is the users’ complete unwillingness to go beyond what is minimally necessary to do the job, being completely indifferent to the possiblilities and/or capabilities of the product (Office products). (I am still being asked how to save a file to disk by some employees where I work.) You think I am kidding – I am not.

    Now, I know that is not true of those we rub shoulders with here on this site. But a lot of effort and expense is given to bells and whistles (and I am glad) while the majority, I suspicion, could care less.

    doco

  3. I’ve always thought the auto fomat thingy was underused, and that styles were a bit crappy to use. I hope that this new feature will be good enough to be usefull!!!

  4. Dated? What? Here’s my analogy for why I’m still hip: In the first days of the www, you had to be technically savvy to use the internet. Along came AOL and made the internet accessible to the great unwashed. At one point, many people used AOL as their ISP – I was not one of them. Just because many or most people do it, doesn’t mean it’s the best way. And when it comes to technology, it almost certainly means it’s not the best way.
    So I agree that most people use the mouse considerably more than the keyboard for other than typing words, but I’ll be one of those people as soon as I switch to AOL. :)

  5. Tell him, Dick!

    I was a Netcom Netcruiser myself, but I got flamed for not having a shell account like a real man.

    I have to say, the most annoying thing about mouse-centric users is watching them scroll down a 30,000 line spreadsheet using the little down arrow. It’s not so much that they refuse to learn the many ways to get to bottom of the document with the keyboard (even a page down would make me happy at that point), it’s that they can’t even efficiently use the mouse right.

    That said, there are some nice things the mouse user can do that this keyboard guy is jealous of. For example, they can double click the little plus at the bottom right of the cell to autofill a formula and it automagically goes to the last cells in the adjacent range to the left.

  6. Dick –

    I’ve never used AOL, but I bet I’ve used a mouse since before you were in high school. Anyway, you guys have it all wrong. It’s not a matter of mouse vs. keyboard, its a matter of mouse AND keyboard. They’re both very useful tools with some overlapping functionality, so you can use both to good advantage.

    It’s like VBA vs. worksheet formulas, or array formulas vs. a pivot table. Multiple tools with some overlap in the middle. Excel vs. Access, even.

    And zfraile, you’re going to have some real fun watching them scroll down a million rows in their big new flat database!

    – Jon

  7. Jon: You can’t be *that* old. :) I started on Dos and Lotus 123 v1A which were pretty keyboard centric. When I worked for KPMG, I used a Mac. I used the mouse extensively there and pretty much continued until about three years ago. I don’t know what happened or why, but I’m so sick of scrolling and clicking. I’ve come to prefer a keyboard method when one’s available and I’m disgusted when one’s not. But there are some things that are clearly better with a mouse (I can’t imagine using MS Paint with just a keyboard). I don’t hate the mouse but I hate that I have to use it to upload picture files to this blog. That’s not one of the tasks that’s clearly better and they shouldn’t make me do it.
    I use the mouse (pencil eraser) on my wife’s laptop quite a bit. So I think it’s not the mouse I avoid, it’s the moving all the way over to the mouse (and I could use the exercise). There’s a laptop in my near future, so maybe I’ll stop whining about keyboard v. mouse.

  8. Old is a relative term, like good. What I was referring to is in computer time. My first introduction to computer was a TRS80 64K. Everything was done by keyboard. And if you used it, it meant that you also programmed it. I had a small logging company then and kept track of loads, logs, and man hours. So, I guess it is I who am the wuss now: I traded arrays for Access and Excel ;-)

    doco

  9. My very first consulting gig was to write a database program in BASIC for the TRS80. The storage medium was a cassette tape.

    Fortunately, it was a very simple project. Amazingly, I actually got it to work. Slower than hell, but it worked. He eventually upgraded to a floppy disc and I had to rewrite it. But it was blazingly fast!

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