Last week PRD Software had an unexpected, although very welcome visit from the Australian Microsoft MSDN regional director Adam Cogan, founder of www.ssw.com.au. I had caught up with Adam at the recent SQL Server code camp in Wagga the previous weekend, so it was a great surprise to hear that he was in Canberra and headed my way. Adam was doing some consulting here in Canberra, so whilst in town he made good on his promise to visit PRD Software.
For those who don't know Adam, or who have never heard him speak at Microsoft events all around the world, you should know that he has a keen eye for user interface design. He's so passionate about it that he has written the rules on it! After a quick tour of the office premises here at PRD Software, Adam quickly found himself seated at one of the developers workstations, doing an impromptu code-review of HelpMaster Pro, and trying out the emailing capabilities of HelpMaster Pro and it's integration with the Email Manager. One of the first things he tried was to see how the new HelpMaster Pro Email Manager could automatically handle an error report that had an embedded screen-shot attachment. He promptly created the following email...
... and sent it away for processing. As expected, the HelpMaster Pro Email Manager picked it up in seconds and logged a new helpdesk job for him, complete with the embedded email attachment. HelpMaster Pro makes an excellent development team bug tracker.
But Adam wasn't finished just yet. He gave us quite a few tips on user interface design, and made some very good suggestions on our use of source control, coding standards and a few settings in Visual Studio 2005 that we didn't even know existed. Most interesting to us were certain user-interface elements of HelpMaster Pro that didn't agree with him. In particular..
- Too many toolbar buttons. His comment was that it makes the product look overly complex and intimidating for first-time users.
- Too many colours on the toolbars and screens. "You've got a kaleidoscope of colours here...." were his exact words.
- Non-standard use of some screen behaviour - in particular the way the Welcome screen expands out to the right when you click on customize.
As usual, we've taken all suggestions on board and will be reviewing some of our design practices. With these observations in mind, I would like to ask the HelpMaster Pro blog-reading community what they think. Do you agree, do you disagree, or has something else about the new HelpMaster Pro v8 version offended your sense of style, performance or useability? If it has, we need to know so that we can do something about it. Please let me know you thoughts, no matter how trivial, or profound, and I'll be sure to review your suggestions with the development team.
I look forward to your comments.
Thanks world-wide HelpMaster Pro users.