A few months ago when we released CityDesk, I got an email from a customer complaining that he was used to doing Alt+F, Alt+S to save files. Unfortunately due to a tiny, unnoticed bug, that keyboard shortcut saved the file and then closed it, irritatingly. I had never noticed because I'm in the habit of doing Alt+F,S to save files, not Alt+F,Alt+S -- a tiny difference -- and Alt+F,S worked fine.
Once you get into the habit of doing Alt+F,Alt+S to save, it becomes so automatic you don't think of it as Alt+F,Alt+S. You think of it as save. And when you push the "save" button in your brain and the file you were working on goes away, it makes you feel like you're not in control of your environment. It's a small thing, but about the fourth time that it happens, you're going to be seriously unhappy. That's why I spent several hours tracking down this bug and fixing it. In a bizarre application of Murphy's Law, this fix led to a cascade of events that caused us to waste something like a week, but that's neither here nor there. It was worth the time spent. This is what it means to be concerned about usability. If you still think that something as small as how long you hold down the Alt key when you active a menu command doesn't matter, well, your software is going to make people unhappy. These tiny inconsistencies are what makes Swing applications so unbearably annoying to use, and in my opinion it's why there are virtually no commercially successful Java GUI applications.
I say time and time again that the reason good UI design matters is that it makes people happy. I mean that literally. If your UI design is good, the people who use your software will be happier. If it's bad, they will be unhappy.
What does this have to do with a book on depression? Well, it turns out that people literally become clinically depressed when they feel like they can't control their lives and their environment. And Seligman, a pioneer in the field, has found that one of the most effective known non-drug therapies for depression is encouraging people to take small steps to exert control over their environments....Continua