Ah, yes. Here’s my favourite user-unfriendly Windows dialog.
This is what you get when you try to synchronize Microsoft Outlook with a Psion 5mx using Psion’s very own PsiWin 2.3.3 and have deleted quite a few of the entries before synchronization:
For those of you who can’t read tiny, compressed images of text, it says:
The Synchronizer has detected 63 missing or deleted items in the Psion. Do you wish to continue and delete the corresponding items?
Click No to retain the items on the other machine.
Click Yes to delete the items on the other machine.
Click Cancel to stop synchronization.
Note: If you have deleted the same item on both machines, it cannot be replaced.
There are a number of reasons that I consider this a terrible dialog box:
Don’t make me think!
I cannot tell at a glance what I’m supposed to do, without having to read all the text and then work out what on earth it all means. In other words, it’s not intuitive.
(Following Mike’s comment) What I want is a dialog that I can look at and immediately understand what is being asked of me. I can then spend my time valuably deciding on whether I want to keep that potentially-important data or not. Rather than spending valuable time simply trying to comprehend the text on the dialog box!
Too much text
Closely related to the previous point: there is too much text. Images would have really helped here; images with the number of missing/deleted items beneath it, perhaps?
Badly labelled buttons
The text tells me to “Click No to retain the items”, “Click Yes to delete” or “Click Cancel to stop the synchronization”. Why not just label the buttons: Keep items, Delete items, and Stop?
The first instruction in the dialog says “Click No to retain the items on the other machine”.
Every time I encounter this dialog I have to stop and work it out, and it always takes me ages: okay, so there are 63 items missing or deleted on the Psion, so the “other machine” must be the PC … right? … right??! So do I want them also to be deleted on the PC? Why could they not just have said: “Click No to keep the items on the PC”?
Once you get past that dialog and decide that yes, you do indeed want to delete the items permanently on both PC and Psion you’re then given the option to back out:
About to permanently remove items from both PC and Psion.
Are you sure?
The options now, at least, are a more intuitive yes or no. It’s just a shame that you have to practically melt your brain answering the previous question to get there!
Sadly PsiWin is no longer in development — version 2.3.3 (build 149) came out in 2001, and still works with Windows XP, and up-to-and-including Office 2007 — so there is no opportunity to campaign to improve these dialog boxes.
Unless someone is handy with a hex editor … anyone?
Following Mike’s helpful comment below, which made me explain myself a little better I’ve mocked up the following dialogs using Microsoft Visio:
I have created two here, which (I hope) makes it clear which machines are being referred to and what to do. At a quick glance I can tell on which machine the data is missing or deleted and on which machine’s data I’m being asked to decide. The buttons are also better labelled.
(Errorâ€™d entries on this blog are named after the popular Worse Than Failure feature.)