Be Concise, Be Consistent

Some people wonder why other people can't get the hang of computers. They find using computers to be pretty easy and can't fathom why others have such a hard time with them. I'm not one of those people. Plenty of people think computers are hard because they are. They're complex, they're confusing, and the worst part is that simple investments at design time could go a long way towards making them easier to use.

Today I'm going to pick on Foxit Software, makers of the great, free, PDF reader for Windows. Like many of you, I grew tired of the bloat in Adobe Reader and decided to try things without it. While installing Foxit Reader, I was presented with an installer that, on the surface, looked just fine. However, if you take a gaze with a critical eye, you'll notice plenty of things that us geeks just accept but confuse the crap out of non-technical users.

In the first screenshot, we're being asked to choose a folder to install our application to. A reasonable default is preselected.

My problem is the Disk Space section. First off, what's a disk? I thought we were picking a folder? Then we see some stuff about total disk space and free disk space. I'll be honest, I've seen these things hundreds of times but at first I thought the total disk space was how much the app was going to burn!

It took me a bit to notice that the "disk to use" info was down in another section of the window. Why is the focus of this window the disk space indicator? Shouldn't the focus be the folder to install to and the disk space required? They don't even give me any indication if the selected disk has the appropriate room to install. I guess I could do the math, but wait, can I? I see I have 2205 MB available and the app is going to use 2.5M. Now, I know they are using the same units here, and you know they are using the same units, but do non-technical users know that an MB and a M are going to be the same in this case?

Why didn't they use the same units? Why did they include a space on one and not the other?

In our second screeshot we see something called a destination location. What's that? I thought I just picked an install folder. If you want to call it a destination location, then ask me to pick a destination location, not an install folder.

Now, a lot of you have already cursed at the screen and decided that I'm overly critical. If you have, good. I writing this post to you. This stuff does matter and it does confuse people. It would have taken about 20 seconds to have changed the installer at design time to use consistent terminology and put focus on the things that needed focus.

1 comment:

Jason said...

Good points, but there are also 3 things I find of interest while reading this.

[side note]
I was going to use ironic, but I realized I wouldn't be using it correctly. What is the the correct term for it -- I believe this requires research and a blog post of its own.
[side note]

1. Foxit as a piece of software, completely fits the title of the post. Contrary to Acrobat, it is indeed the concise PDF reader that just plain works, without bloat. Somewhat sad then that the installer doesn't follow suit.

2. Until the latest release, which had huge improvements, foxit actually didn't use an installer. It was just a .exe that just ran. I prefer that. I'm guessing less experienced users didn't know what to do without an installer. Again, if I knew the proper term for this, not ironic, I would use it here.

3. Why are they using such a sad installer? There are tons of good free ones, such as Nullsoft, why do developers feel obligated to create their own. Quit reinventing the wheel (although somebody could still stand to make a simpler and easier one, but this is obviously not it).