Hiding non-essential information can improve the usability of an interface, unfortunately, displaying key features and options based on application state effectively returns users to modal interfaces found in 3270 applications.
Previously, I mentioned that I was trying to search the GroupWise for a colleague using his first name. I mentioned my frustration to other team members, who told me that there was an option to change this. Unfortunately, no one could remember where this option was located. Even after spending some time searching the Options and Preferences dialog box.
It turns out that there is an option to change the name format. It can be found on the “View” menu for the Address Book feature. You must open GroupWise, then open the Address Book (select “Tools->Address Book”), select “View->Name Format…”. Which brings up a dialog box that allows me to configure the “Display Name Format”.
Why is this bad? It’s as if…
I couldn’t change the radio station in my car, because I was in the driving mode, not the radio mode. The GroupWise interface forces me to enter different modes before I can access global preferences.
Simple solutions to this problem
Place all of the options, preferences and configuration properties in a single location. May other programs, Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer, place these options in a single location. Tools such as Microsoft Entourage and Outlook break the key preferences into 2 main sections: Mail and PIM Settings; and Account settings. These options are available with out requiring me to be in a specific mode of operation. To use GroupWise I need to learn the application state, it’s like trying to use Vi or Emacs with out the power and benefits of these programs.