Software developers are patronising

I just switched on my pc and went and brewed up. It turned itself off – thanks.

I read some software developer guidelines years ago that the default action of any dialog should be to leave the computer as is. Great! that saves idiots from accidentally destroying their computer. But it also means the default action is to ignore the users request. That seems pretty dumb/arrogant to me.

The Apple approach (as I understand it) is to let the user do whatever they want, but make it easy to undo. That seems to make more sense than to make it hard for them ‘for their own good’.

I did try turning off the ‘are you sure you want to delete that file’ warning, as I know I can get it back from the re-cycle bin, but I like the comfort of clicking Yes (without thinking) to the warning so I put it back.

I find that I turn off many of the Excel warnings, as they are covered by undo anyway. Things like ‘are you sure you want to overwrite those cells’ when pasting is turned off (along with all similar warnings) as I know I can either undo or revert to a saved version if things go badly wrong.

Do you agree that some of this stuff is patronising?

Do you turn off the warnings (Excel and elsewhere)?

What do you do with the systems you build for others?




2 Responses to “Software developers are patronising”

  1. Mike Staunton Says:

    Yes, the default with Vista is Sleep mode – and no learning from my manually changing it to Shut Down all the time – eventually, I happened to be sorting out another possible problem and saw that I could change the default behaviour to Shut Down

  2. Harlan Grove Says:

    You want an adult OS, use Unix variants or mainframe OSs. If you tell those to delete everything, they do with no questions asked. Best when paired with a sensible tape backup policy.

    With regard to Excel and undo, not so much patronizing as brain dead. My favorite example: Excel asks for confirmation before deleting worksheets. That’s because Excel can’t undo worksheet deletion. However, Lotus 123, Quattro Pro, Gnumeric, and OOo Calc can all undo worksheet deletion. Is it likely Excel is so uniquely complex that it’s impossible to undo worksheet deletion, are the developers on the Excel team so inexperienced or incapable that they’re unable to provide this feature, or does Microsoft not see sufficient ROI to bother with this?

    When it comes to Microsoft software, IMO it’s arrogance, but not the developers’ arrogance. It’s senior management’s arrogance that it knows its customers have to buy its software regardless of good or bad design.

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