Shoehorning: or why nobody uses Maya for spreadsheets

10 01 2007

I like my job. I get to do plenty of different things and learn a lot while I do. Sometimes my work is unused and lies dormant, sometimes it’s mission critical. Sometimes I feel like I’m being counter-productive.

I’m currently working on adapting an application to perform a task it was not intended to do. I can’t modify the program, as it’s closed source. While it may be possible to change it’s function, it isn’t easy and more than likely won’t yield very good results. In a perfect world I’d grab the source code and mod it myself, but I haven’t got the option this time.

Lets take for example an application designed to send an email, so your user interface has a button marked ‘Send Email’. An untrained user can rev up your app and know instantly what that button does. Now lets assume that you need this app to instead send a net message, you plug in a new DLL and it now does net sends. That’s great, but that big button still says ‘Send Email’. You see the problem?

I don’t have an issue with getting more value out of a product, but to use it out of context is just confusing for users. It’s much better to use a less specialised application with a customizable interface, than one with the required functionality but the incorrect UI.

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One response

18 01 2007
Reverend Dooth

So I just discovered your new blog, you cheeky dog.

Like you I am also currently working on repurposing an application, so I feel your pain. And customising its UI is something I’ve had to get involved in quite deeply over the last month and it has to said: It’s hard to build a customisable UI. It’s *really* fucking hard to build a good, /usable/ customisable UI.

For this project at least, I’ve given up entirely on using the tools that come with the product I’m tailoring. It’s just easier to get knee-deep in code. Luckily for me, my project is based on an open source product. 🙂

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