September 19, 2006
Following my semi-normal 2 week cycle, 1.0b12 has been released featuring mostly bug fixes. The major bug fix in this release is to Google Groups which changed their search result format thus causing Fact200 to return no results. Google has also changed the output of their Sponsored Listings which is why they don’t show up, but fixing this is way, way down on the list of priorities.
The most distinct new feature of this release is the ability to adjust the text size in the results page using the ctrl+ and ctrl- combos. For us young folks (although I think I might be halfway into the middle-ground), having small microscopic type enables us to see more, yet for the older folks like my Dad, large type (we’re talking 24pt here) makes things much more comfortable.
In addition to adjusting the type size, you can also adjust thumbnail sizes from the keyboard. This was and still is customizable from the preferences dialog, but adjusting it from the keyboard is much faster and gives instant feedback (a big theme of Fact200).
There are various other subtle changes to help the UI be a little more intuitive and visible.
I’m about finished reading Don Norman’s “The Design of Everyday Things”. Although it doesn’t contain any stunning revelations (considering Fact200’s UI, I’m sure this is a surprise to some of you), it codifies UI principles I’ve already read and known about for some time. I’m not sure where in the time-line it will occur, but I’ll probably do a systematic evaluation of the UI and try to iron out some of the obvious UI gaffes that are present in Fact200.
The emphasis of Fact200’s UI is to get people using it as easily as possible and I think by providing a typical search/Google look, it has accomplished this just fine. However, the ease of the initial features comes at a price of making the more advanced features harder to use, largely because they’re invisible. The initial features also look a little too similar to traditional search results and thus there’s no apparent benefit to Fact200 vs. just using Google, although I think the hover previews are an exception to this. I’m currently thinking of averaging the difficulty out as much as possible so that the initial simple actions might become a little more difficult (or daunting), but the more advanced features will become more apparent and easier to use. Of course, ultimately this will all depend on user feedback.