Monday, September 22, 2008

Users are developers too

From a user point-of-view, there's something that usually annoys me about web interfaces: the size of text areas and rich text editors.

Think about it: how often do you have your code editor in a non-maximized window? Or microsoft word? Or Acrobat when you read a PDF?

I almost never do. I always try to maximize the window I'm using, so that it's easier to focus on whatever I'm looking at, and so that I have as much screen real estate as possible. The only exception is when I need two windows side-by-side (In which case, I try to make the combination of the windows take as much space as possible anyways).

Yet, for whatever reason, text input elements in websites and web apps are often crammed into puny forms or ad-sized (non-resizable) popup windows that give me some 200 x 400px of working space (sometimes less). Do I really have to scroll a tiny box just to proofread a two paragraph blog response? Really.

Last week, I talked about how linearity isn't always the best way to display things, and this is a good example: when I'm writing a longer piece of text, I'm no longer concerned about the email address I entered 10 seconds ago, and I'm even less likely to click on any navigation element on the page. So why do those things need to be there?

In most desktop-based software, navigation, help and even extremely useful tools are all tucked away from our sight because the main canvas is more important.

Users are developers too: they create content and they expect their tools to work well for them. And for someone writing text, a big text area is the way to go.

Think about this the next time you create a form with a "comments" field in it.

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