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Microsoft Ignores Usability With All-Caps Menu in Visual Studio 415

Posted by timothy
from the this-glass-house-sure-is-pretty dept.
mikejuk writes "The recent release of Visual Studio 2012 contained a UI element that few believed could make it into the final version — ALL-CAPS menus. After lots of user criticism and disbelief, Microsoft has moved swiftly to do something about it — by tweaking the typography. '... we explored designs with and without uppercase styling. In the end we determined it to be a very effective way of providing structure and emphasis to the top menu area in Visual Studio 2012.' This must be a new meaning of the word 'structure,' because putting the menu items into all-caps means that they are all the same height. When each menu items starts with a cap then there is structure because you can see the change in height, marking the start of the next menu item. The idea that putting a menu into all caps adds structure is something that is very difficult to see. If you wanted to put structure into a menu, well how about color? Oh wait, I forgot the design department dumped color in favour of the 'everything-is-grey UI.' Developers are the people who invented CamelCase to make sure that the structure of run together words would stand out better — and now we are asked to believe that making a menu all-caps adds structure. I don't think so."
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Microsoft Ignores Usability With All-Caps Menu in Visual Studio

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  • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @09:51AM (#40244465)

    alas mainframes (or at least - thin clients attached to remote processing power somewhere on a network) are back, only they called them "the cloud" this time round to make it sound a bit cooler.

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @09:52AM (#40244475)

    Previously barring a lot of eye candy that could be turned off , MS did generally get their UI about right. Now with spillover effect from Win8 they seem to have completely lost the plot and this is simply an example of them reloading the gun once more to take aim at whatever is left of their feet.

  • Hands Off (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07, 2012 @09:52AM (#40244493)
    My fucking tools and workbench are not you damn designer plaything Microsoft, we're developers not plebeians. we can navigate the damn interface as it is and the things wrong with it can't be fixed by bloody changing case of menus. Go screw around with OneNote if you want to experiment with new user interface workflows and readability. I hate vendor lock-in.
  • by chaidawg (170956) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @09:55AM (#40244545)

    Only someone who has a website with such bad usability can truly see horrible usability in others' work.

  • Project Direction (Score:4, Insightful)

    by brningpyre (2114648) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @10:04AM (#40244683)
    This is such a laughably bad decision, I can't see it making its way into the final product. I even tried to type this post in all-caps, but /. reminded me that it was wrong. When it comes to something people have known and taken for granted for years, it seems very odd that Microsoft would go backwards and decide on this. Exactly where is the leadership for this project?
  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @10:06AM (#40244709) Homepage Journal

    I would have used the example of, "This is the company that gave us Windows 7." Where they deliberately move stuff around in order to make users play hide and seek or hunt and peck in the hope they might chance across what they are looking for.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07, 2012 @10:10AM (#40244783)

    er, really? What planet are you from?

  • by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao@hotmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday June 07, 2012 @10:15AM (#40244849) Homepage

    Regardless of one's feelings on Microsoft, that company has consistently and continually tried to make their user interfaces as attractive and easy to use as is possible.

    Which only proves that trying hard does not mean you will necessarily succeed.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @10:18AM (#40244883)

    Mod up! This is absurdly true. Office got a new interface that it didn't need that seems no better (just different) from its last interface. Now the same thing is being done for windows. Why not just add a "Tablet/Phone Shell Mode" and be done with it? I'd me much more interested in a faster file system, fast, usable search (still waiting, Microsoft), fewer blue screens, Azure presented in such a way that anyone can host any windows application, legacy or not (Once again, they miss the obvious).

    In the last 20 years, Microsoft has been busy solving problems nobody I know seems to have had. I guess they're just going to continue the tradition.

  • Re:Hands Off (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheNinjaroach (878876) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @10:30AM (#40245073)

    My fucking tools and workbench are not you damn designer plaything Microsoft

    As long as you continue to purchase your tools from Microsoft, that's exactly what they are!

  • by Chirs (87576) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @10:47AM (#40245303)

    Define "Mainframe". From what I can see, "mainframe" is a term for very expensive ultra performance hardware.

    Nah, it's more than that. It's about redundancy, high I/O relative to compute power, optimization for throughput rather than latency, and high availability.

  • by Dishevel (1105119) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @10:58AM (#40245467)

    Do people playing Diablo III have anything to say worth reading?

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday June 07, 2012 @11:06AM (#40245605) Homepage Journal

    I'll bet it's Ballmer's doing. If he can't throw a chair at least he can YELL

  • Looks good to me. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MaWeiTao (908546) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @11:07AM (#40245607)

    Clearly, whoever wrote that article is not a designer. Capital letters are NOT inherently more difficult to read. They're more difficult when you've got a paragraph of text. But when you're talking about buttons and menu items they can aid in legibility and emphasis.

    In my experience programmers make for the worst designers. Admittedly they have specific needs, but like anyone else they're slaves to habit. So just because they want something a certain way doesn't necessarily make it right. There's always backlash when someone deviates from the expected, even if it's for the better.

    I actually like the all caps approach. The menu items are very clear and legible. They're a lot more distinct than in the traditional initial caps approach. Now, you could argue that it makes them too prominent. It may also have the side effect of de-emphasizing the Application title too far.

    So to suggest that this approach somehow ignores usability is ridiculous.

    I notice that the article also takes a jab at the all-grey interface. If they're going to knock Microsoft for this then they should take aim at the worst offender of all: Apple. I've always found that Windows provides enough contrast between windows, using distinct borders and colored headers, that it's fairly easy to pick them out. In OSX, however, everything blends together.

    I do find it amusing that this I Programmer site is dumping on Microsoft for something so minor when the site itself looks like total shit. Look at that freaking logo of theirs.

  • Re:VS is horrible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by logical_failure (2405644) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @11:09AM (#40245633) Journal
    We all know VS is and always has been the worst IDE in the world.

    Knock, knock.
    WHO'S THERE?

    The Worst IDE in the World.

    Oh, hi, Apple's XCode! Now GTFO.
  • by g051051 (71145) * on Thursday June 07, 2012 @11:12AM (#40245661)

    As much as I loathe Microsoft and everything they do, it’s silly to post this as a news story. Who’s Mike James, a.k.a. “mikejuk”? What’s this other than his opinion? Does he have any design and usability chops to speak of, so we can treat this as anything other than trolling? I’m willing to believe that they actually conducted real usability studies and decided to try this because it worked better. Even the Ribbon, which I personally hate, was a hit with most users.

    Is it generally considered appropriate for authors to submit their own “stories” to Slashdot?

  • Re:Ribbon menu (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Schnapple (262314) <tomkidd@v[ ]exas.com ['iat' in gap]> on Thursday June 07, 2012 @11:36AM (#40245985) Homepage
    It's because you can rely on a developer to be able to figure out the right way to do things even if he has to go through menus and such. The average person will just uses spaces instead of tabs because they don't know what they're doing
  • by OverZealous.com (721745) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @11:51AM (#40246179) Homepage

    While I agree with those complaints, every single one of them except the jQuery window problems are design issues, not usability problems.

    The two areas of expertise are independent yet often correlated because they frequently go hand-in-hand during the design of an interface. You can easily have ugly yet highly usable, or stylish and entirely unusable.

    The all upper-case menu is actually a usability issue and a design issue. Not only does it look bad, but it also makes reading more difficult because humans process the shapes of whole words. All uppercase words are basically rectangles. It also makes distinguishing independent menu items more difficult (although proper negative space would help with that).

    But that picture pop-up window thing is atrocious.

  • by Tridus (79566) on Thursday June 07, 2012 @12:38PM (#40246837) Homepage

    The only people worse then programmers at design are designers who have become totally disconnected from their audience. Like say, the ones doing this. The audience is programmers. They probably know what they want, and the areas Visual Studio needs improvement in were not caps locked menus and monochrome grey icons.

    Also, all caps is harder to read: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15990443 [bbc.co.uk] . We've known this for decades. It was determined before Microsoft existed. They were with the program for a while, then this "Metro" disease showed up in Redmond and now everybody is screwing everything up and calling it Metro (though when they call VS Metro I really don't know what they're talking about, unless Metro is code for ugly).

    And while we're on it, what does Apple have to do with this? You're saying they should bash Apple for something that Microsoft just changed their UI to do. Since Microsoft wasn't doing it and now is, why wouldn't we go after them for screwing it up when they had it right before?

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