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It’s the Little Things – UI Nit in Vista

Pete Brown - 21 August 2008

I like Windows Vista. I’ve been running it since the beta period, and it has been my primary operating system since it was released. Despite some of the common hearsay, Vista is very stable. I typically leave my machine on for weeks on end, rebooting only if I have to install a service pack to a tool or something (like the .NET SP1 and VS2008 SP1 sp). I run all sorts of beta stuff, dev tools, graphics tools, etc. so I should have more stability problems than a typical consumer. I run a decent graphics card, but not a spectacular one (an NVidia GEForce 8500 GT) and two displays (one at 1920x1200 and one at 1680x1050), so you can count me in as someone who pushes the OS pretty hard.

That said, Vista has a few nits that annoy me a bit (like the bogus elevation prompt you get when a file is in use), and a few things about the UI that just seem like they could have been better.

Overall, I like the UI, but it just seems to lack crispness. Since I’ve been unable to articular specifics of why I feel that way, I’ve decided to try and figure out exactly why, and what it is about it that bugs me, so I don’t make the same mistakes (or perceived mistakes) in my own applications.

Here’s one. Every time I notice this button, it irks me just a little bit. Just take as a given that we’re sticking with the standard Windows taskbar approach; whether that is a good idea or not is not under discussion here.


There are a couple things wrong with this:


1. The small triangle “drop down” icon ignores the margin for the rest of the button. Instead, it butts right up against the right side of the button’s border. It actually resides inside the margin, presumably so the programmer didn’t have to redo the layout for the button when the triangle element is displayed. That’s just sloppy.

Here are the implied margins, in green (I run my taskbar at double-height to fit all my junk):


2. It’s on the bottom of my screen, and the arrow points down, but the list opens up. In the vast majority of IE installs, folks use the default taskbar-on-the-bottom configuration, so the arrow really should point a different way, or there should be a different UI element. I imagine the designer wanted to be consistent with the drop-down list control, or the related button menu thingy, but it just doesn’t look right.

(and for the wiseguys who are going to say “the thing wrong with that button is you’re running IE”, I’ll just give you your “har har” right now <g>. I run both IE and FireFox and like them both)

So, agreed that is just a tiny nit. Perhaps OSX has nits like these too if you look at it with a critical eye. Certainly not worth upgrading to Mojave just for this <g>, but I’d hate to see this emulated in our applications as a visual design pattern.

posted by Pete Brown on Thursday, August 21, 2008
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