What is wrong with this picture?


Don’t get it? Try this version…


Everything outside the text box, everything grayed out in the second picture, is overhead. Wasted space. Pixels serving no purpose. Or very little purpose at the moment. In the above example, 18% active, and 82% overhead - not good. Even better? The text box is not fully on the screen. Have to scroll to see it all. The currently most important element is partly off-screen due to too much vertical clutter.

To be clear - I am not picking particularly on the coders of the web application on screen. This design mistake is very, very, very common.

In an odd way the rise of HDTV makes the problem both permanent and worse. Permanent as “widescreen” displays are from this point forward going to be cheaper than other form-factors, due to sales volume. Worse as the “widescreen” format is, well, wide rather than tall. Look at the above pictures (or the screen in front of you) and you will see a pile of conventional design elements that eat away chunks of vertical space, while serving limited purpose.

Due to the price advantage, in a few years HDTV panels are going to predominate in the workplace. We must adjust our design practices to suit the new and most-common form factor.

The screenshot was taken from my 17-inch laptop screen - which is about as big (or bigger) as is practical for a laptop. That’s all there is folks. You can get higher resolution, but cannot downsize fonts or UI elements without making them hard to read/use.

Yes, I know there is always a crop of programmers that think tiny 6-point fonts are “kewl”. Right. Walk past their office a week later, and you will catch them leaning in so they can read the screen with less effort. There is a good reason the world of print-on-paper uses 10 or 12 point fonts (or bigger) for anything they expect you to read. Nothing shouts “clueless” quite so much as a user interface (desktop application, web page, or whatever) with too-small text and interactive design elements.

Which is what I saw rather a lot of when installing and trying alternate window managers (this is on Linux). Too small design elements is too common in that lot. Bit of a disappointment that, as the Windows developers at Microsoft seem unfortunately clueless (if I had a penny for every mis-click on a cascading popup … that would be a lot).

Is Apple the only hope for something better, in the desktop GUI? Don’t know who else will make the effort.