A note on pretty design

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George the Flea
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Thu Aug 28, 2008 2:50 pm Post

Siren wrote:It's the software I pay for, not the web design.

For me, good design is about taking the time to get the details right, whether they are details of graphics and layout, site hierarchy, information architecture, or whatever. I tend to find that a software developer who ignores the details and has a badly designed website usually has ignored the details in their software, which is why when I come across a really horrific website for a piece of software I usually don't bother even downloading it.

Of course, there are the exceptions to the rule (in both directions; bad software with a really nice website and great software with a terrible website), but for the most part it seems that software devs tend to approach the design of their site in much the same manner they approach the design of their software.
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Thu Aug 28, 2008 4:00 pm Post

George the Flea wrote:software devs tend to approach the design of their site in much the same manner they approach the design of their software.

No doubt they do, when they get the chance and have the necessary graphical design skills (unusual in the many developers of my acquaintance). And your argument may well be true for indie developers and one-man bands.

But I have never worked with a software company where the developers had any say in the web design, which (in medium to large companies) is usually handled by marketing people (in-house or outsourced, but definitely in a different part of the organisation). If the developers are lucky, they might be asked to check for technical accuracy, but I wouldn't count on it.

Which is why I base my purchasing decisions solely on the ready availability of information, and on trials of the software. It isn't fair to judge software on the evidence of marketing material produced (potentially) by people who may never have used the product. You may say that boycotting software on the strength of its web page sends a message to the company but, sadly, the message is the wrong one, since the marketing people will blame the product for bad sales, and not their own work. I have seen it more times than I care to remember, and have seen companies fail (or decimate their market share) as a result, even with superb software offerings which their customers loved. Sad but true.
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Fri Aug 29, 2008 3:47 pm Post

signinstranger wrote:Mellel IS hard to use, even when you know how the styles and autotitles work. The whole concept is ultimately flawed and the GUI is annoying to boot. :?

Yeah, it's ugly and hard to use. But there is nothing that can touch it for really long projects that involved complex footnoting and/or many sections. I tried all of the major word processors when writing my dissertation, but I always came back to Mellel for these reasons. It's a really powerful program. If you don't need it's functions, then it makes sense you'd not want to spend the time to learn how to use it. But for me, for handling really large projects, it really is the only choice. After Scrivener, that is. :lol:
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Fri Aug 29, 2008 5:53 pm Post

I am not sure why anyone would base their purchasing decision on the attractiveness of the web site, and not on the quality of the software. In small operations, I'd rather have the developers working on improving the software and not on fine tuning their web site. Admittedly, if the web site has major flaws in it -- such as animation that doesn't work or other things -- you might gather some information about the quality of the programming of the software. But even so, if you try the program, like it, and it works fine, then why would you boycott the software because of the web site. This makes no sense! Boycotts are for companies that have unethical or immoral practices -- and there are plenty of them around.

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Fri Aug 29, 2008 6:12 pm Post

Vermonter17032 wrote:I am not sure why anyone would base their purchasing decision on the attractiveness of the web site, and not on the quality of the software.

A classic case in point could be the Tinderbox website, which in my opinion would struggle in a beauty pageant, but which promotes a very useful piece of software. (Come to think of it, TB itself wouldn't have won any beauty prizes either, at least until its latest 4.5 version.)

However, I'm not dyslexic, and I can well understand that I might think differently if I were.

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George the Flea
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Tue Sep 09, 2008 2:55 pm Post

Siren wrote:And your argument may well be true for indie developers and one-man bands.

Sorry, I should have specified this myself; companies that are large enough to hire marketing people are often an exception (although even there the rule can hold; a driving force/vision and attention to details -- or lack thereof -- is sometimes shared across internal divisions).

Vermonter17032 wrote:I am not sure why anyone would base their purchasing decision on the attractiveness of the web site, and not on the quality of the software.

I can't speak for others, but I'm certainly not suggesting basing your purchase decisions on website aesthetics is a good idea. I'm merely saying that past experience has shown me that if a software company ignores the details that make a website attractive or, at the very least, usable they usually do the same for their software. This affects me in that I sometimes don't bother trying software if the website is bad enough.

Whether I purchase something is a decision that I make after I've tried the software, and that decision is about whether the software meets my needs (or tickles my fancy in some other way).
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Thu Sep 11, 2008 10:38 pm Post

Smartarsed quippery be damned. Mellel is good. Damn good. Stable, fast and accurate. Not my fault, some y'all too pussy to heft its mighty powers. Comin' over the hill, auto-titles blazing, any day now, you be blowed away in a hail of note streams.

Website eye-candy be damned, too. Give me a MAN's word processor any day. And hand me those damn Ray-Ban Aviators and the red bandanna while you're at it, pal.

Yee blasted Haw actually.

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Fri Sep 12, 2008 10:01 am Post

I`ll remind you Sir, I`ve prostrated myself at your feet, in supplication, seeking forgiveness. You`re standing on my little pinkey :shock:
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Fri Sep 12, 2008 12:27 pm Post

For me, a website needs to have a good design, which doesn't necessarily mean pretty.

I have problems navigating the Mellel website, simple because I can't scroll the page by any other means than the mouse (and I can scroll pretty much any other page without it, with or without frames). I don't want to have to use my mouse unless absolutely necessary (which in OS X, doesn't happen a lot).
After I managed to download it, I started it. Booted up fast enough, a pro. It looked okay, had this toolbar with options. And then it went wrong for me: I couldn't do anything with the toolbar without a mouse. I also couldn't hide the toolbar.
These things combined make me feel slightly negative about the software and the company. Mac OS X makes it possible to virtually work without a mouse (the setup usually requires a few clicks and sometimes getting focus of a specific type of window doesn't work, but in those cases I use my mouse-keys on the keyboard) and I have issues with programs that don't respect that setup.

I know, this looks like a minor thing to most people and I by no means mean to bash Mellel or the company. Should the toolbar have worked, I probably would have had no use for the program anyway. I browsed through the menus a bit and looked at the possibilities and for me it does a hell of a lot more than I need :)
Like many other people I can get by with just Bean, Textmate and Scrivener. My home computer does not even have Word on it, though my work computer does (many managers where I work like to send Word-docs, also overkill, as most of the time, they just contain a big blob of text. Not complaining, it makes it actually very easy for me to convert such documents to RTF and plain text without having to put in a lot of time and effort to make it look the same.)

However, if I needed a program like Mellel, I will look really hard to find one that does let me use it without a mouse, because that matters to me. No point in buying fancy software if I can't actually use it, no matter how good others consider it.


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Fri Sep 12, 2008 1:06 pm Post

Actually, once you get Mellel set up, it's pretty keyboard-centric, and the toolbar doesn't come into it much. There are a lot of keyboard shortcuts - the userbase on the forums is very keen on them.

But the toolbar is non-standard, and you can't change it and it is a pain. From memory, the dropdown box at the bottom left of the window controls most of what defaults to appear or not, including the toolbar.

Like you though, I find it overkill for my needs.

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Mon Oct 06, 2008 10:28 am Post

Sorry to post so late on a thread, but I just noticed this:
Its [Mellel's] other major downfall is that exporting to Word/rtf, which for most people is really important, just uses the OS X exporter

That's not quite right, in an important way. Only the .doc import is handled by the OS X routines. The .rtf import and export is handled by Mellel's own built-in translators, which are very fast and do an excellent job, within certain limitations.
I seem to remember also that in recent versions the .doc export is done by exporting to .rtf and putting a .doc extension on the file, so that is not limited by the OS X routines either.

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Thu Dec 11, 2008 5:14 pm Post

There is a sound reason for Commercial Art, Advertising, Design, and Marketing.
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Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:23 am Post

Vermonter17032 wrote:I am not sure why anyone would base their purchasing decision on the attractiveness of the web site, and not on the quality of the software.

I feel the same way, but many people are influenced by factors extrinsic to the actual software. This phenomenon applies in a variety of industries as well. I guess it's a type of halo effect.
As Wock mentioned, there's a reason for marketing and advertising.

Regarding design -and focusing on the software itself- I'm a fan of great design. Unfortunately these days eye-candy seems to be confused with design, and a "nice looking" application is considered a Mac-like application.

I'm happy with programs like Thinking Rock 2, Araxis software, Purify, and many others which may be considered ugly by many Mac users. As "ugly" as they are they work for me better than prettier alternatives.
Consideo Modeler will not win a beauty contest, and their website does not even have an online store. Support has been great and if we can figure out what's causing problems on my system which does not have the latest version of Java since it's PPC, chances are that I'll buy it.

Midnight Inbox has a beautiful interface, but when I tried it it was useless for me. The same applies to other "GTD" programs. Fortunately some developers are very open to constructive criticism. When I tried iGTD I told the developer about some features that the software was lacking, and very shortly thereafter he incorporated them or planned to incorporate them. But for many people these shiny applications are so incredible, so intuitive, and so Mac-like :mrgreen:

OmniFocus got a lot of praise and 5-star reviews even as a buggy beta. OmniPlan is a joke compared to FastTrack Schedule or Merlin 2. Merlin actually has a nice balance of brawn and beauty. :)
I mention Omni because typically I have enjoyed their software in terms of both form and function.

I never got the hype behind programs like Disco or iClip 4, for example. Great marketing though.

OS X, and more recently OS X 10.5 also received a lot of praise. IMO it took Apple until 10.4 to finally deliver a great version of OS X. It did improve quite a bit with each release, starting with the awful public beta. For many people nothing Apple does can be bad, and they overlook bugs and problems and focus on how "cool" the software looks.

One of the nice things about many software developers is that they're receptive to ideas. Yesterday I emailed Araxis suggesting a couple of changes to a program's interface, and today I got a nice response mentioning that they're now formal "enhancement requests."
The same happened when Default Folder 4 came out with its black look so popular these days. I told Jon "I don’t mean to sound negative, but I hate the new look..." (It was a friendly comment, btw)
This happened one year ago (Dec 12, 2007), and by January 24, 2008, Jon offered the "Gray Sidebar" option. Even without that option I would use his software, but I like the fact that he's always receptive to feedback.

KeyCue for example has some nice options (Themes) in addition to the "Darth-Vader" look.

(As a side note I have not visited this forum for a long time, but the level of sophistication here and at the Devon forums is different than that of other forums where Cha-Ching, Disco, iClip, and other programs cannot be criticized and are the "best in class") :mrgreen:

Sorry for the long rant :oops:

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Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:54 am Post

Eddie wrote:Sorry for the long rant :oops:

Long rant? You have been gone a while.

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Fri Dec 12, 2008 3:29 am Post

That's true. :lol: