October 6, 2006

After reading The Design of Everyday Things (DOET) by usability guru Don Norman, this version reflects some surprising and radical changes.

Contrary to modern design fads (spearheaded by spartan Google UI), the Fact200 UI has become slightly more complex. On his site, Mr. Norman has a short critique of Google’s interface that states why he doesn’t think it’s a great design. The gist of it is that if it only does ONE thing, designing an interface is trivial. Indeed, Google does more than one thing these days, and navigating to any of these other things is actually made more difficult due to the interface’s adherance to its old design.

Well, Fact200 was initially modeled in the vein of Google’s interface, trying to make things look as simple as possible. But this came at a price of hiding functionality. One of the principles in DOET is that of visibility: if a users wants to do xyz with your product, it should be readily apparent 1) that it can do it and 2) how to do it.

So, in the end, the mode button which used to switch between loaded internet results and Library filtered results has been converted to a dropdown menu with 4 modes:Loaded results,Filtering Loaded results, Filtering the Library, and Viewing Load History.

The first and third mode are the modes that the old button used to toggle through. Filtering loaded results was formerly a hidden mode that allows sub-searching through recently loaded results only, instead of through the entire library. This has an added advantage over library searching in that it does not rely on the global library indexer. The last mode is new and provides a way for users to retrace their steps.

One of the potential problems of Fact200 in the past was that in indexing all loaded content, it would gradually bog the user’s system down in disk activity and loads would take longer and longer to fully complete. I also surmise that most of the indexing is wasted because 95% of what is loaded is unwanted by the user over the long term. Thus this recent release allows users to turn off the global library indexer.

Un-indexed content cannot be retrieved from the library through search, thus negating Fact200’s original goal of an independant library that is searchable in real time. To help alleviate this void, the aforementioned ‘Filter through loaded results’ feature provides sub-searching functionality and items marked as permanent are still indexed. This keeps most of the functionality intact while drastically improving performance and efficiency. For those who really need to index everything, the option still exists to do so.

Other notable features in this release:

  • The ability to turn off comprehensive image preview generation when doing batch loads. This feature was originally for offline news reading, but Fact200 functions quite well online. When  rendering for online use, every single preview isn’t necessary and helps save lots of time.
  • Wrapping. It’s now possible to see the title/content snippets of search results without having to maximize or resize the window frame
  • Removal of compact tabs option. I used to like the wide tabs, but ultimately, I stopped using them and they really just waste space. So all tabs are now compact and an option is no longer available for them to be wide.

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