Interface suggestions

The current setup is that when one clicks "Inherited Settings" one gets a dialog like this:

It works, but it betrays "programmer talking to programmer" thinking. As an interface designer, I notice that every Lectora developer I know gets mixed up and starts putting items in the wrong box—if you want something to show the instinct is to drag it to the right, because we English-speakers read left-to-right and we think of "left to right" as forward. Using a dialog also means several extra clicks and mouse-moves, and with the current practice being to have huge monitors, the dialog box metaphor can be thought of as wasting screen space (which for me is taken up by gray nothingness). Instead, why not have a Properties/Inheritance panel on the right, where there currently three rarely-used resource and library panels?

Let me mock one up for you:

Notice that this shows exactly the same information as the dialog box, but it's transparent what it means—checked items are inherited, unchecked are not. Also, it's always on the screen and selecting/deselecting an item has immediate effect, no need for an extra click on an OK button. Undo takes the place of Cancel on the dialog. For questions, I'd also have a Question panel with the same interface. You could imitate the Adobe panels-on-the-right interface (but without its irritating quirks).

Actually I can make a case for a Properties panel that's (optionally) always visible, perhaps as a third tab on the left beside Title Explorer and Thumbnail View. I spend a lot of my time doing development just opening and closing the Properties dialog boxes.

Finally, a couple of small things for a keyboard-intensive developer like me:

  • Why doesn't the Esc key close the File page and return you to editing? (I say "File page" because there are no longer menus and it is not a Ribbon tab—it's a weird page thing that replaces the normal interface.)
  • Also on that page: why would Ctrl-O, which in every other situation means "Open a project" here mean … nothing at all? Why would you disable a perfectly good keyboard shortcut?

Hope you find this useful, and thanks.

Carl Fink

Discussion (6)

Thanks, Laura.

One point. You write:

Just a quick note regarding Ctrl+O – this keyboard shortcut works when you are not viewing the File menu, and you are just in the usual Lectora interface. I’m not sure why it doesn’t work in the situation you described, but we will certainly look into it.

Yes, that's my entire point: why would this incredibly-standard shortcut that all experienced computer users (in English) are trained to use without thought, not work in this one situation? To use a technical interface design term, this is making Lectora Desktop "modal" when there's no reason for it to have multiple modes.

Hi Carl - Thank you for these suggestions and your thoughtful feedback. We will certainly take this into account as we continue to seek ways to improve usability and reduce mouse-clicks in Lectora.

Just a quick note regarding Ctrl+O - this keyboard shortcut works when you are not viewing the File menu, and you are just in the usual Lectora interface. I'm not sure why it doesn't work in the situation you described, but we will certainly look into it.

In turn, I don't disagree that familiarity is a good thing in user interfaces.

As far as the development tools Trivantis uses, I'm still trying to figure out how they got the "two monitors makes maximize fail" bug, which is apparently really hard to fix given that I reported it in 2016 and it's still present in Lectora 17. (I haven't tested 18.) I happen to know that it bugs at least one Trivantis VP (he mentioned it to me) so it seems odd that it has not been fixed.

I like this idea, except that "Select All" and "Clear All" options are needed in the panel.

And not for nothin', Ctrl + O doesn't work on the File pages of MS Office apps either (at least in Office 365 on Windows 10).

Re MS as an interface model, I don't disagree, though their breadth of distribution means that anything they do in UI design will be familiar to a vast majority of users. (And even bad but familiar often beats great but strange; we want learners to focus on the content, not on how to interact with the training.) I'm guessing Trivantis used a Microsoft tool to create the ribbon, and that it's therefore Microsoft's fault, not Trivantis', that keyboard shortcuts don't work on the "backstage".

Stan, "Clear All" and "Select All" would be improvements, definitely. I wasn't by any means saying my idea was fully-polished.

As for Ctrl-O ... please, please don't use Microsoft as an interface model. I point out for the record that the Ribbon is massively inferior to dropdown menus, but MS has convinced companies as smart as Trivantis to use it anyway.

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