Monday, June 15, 2009

Applications with worst UI

After looking at some of the IBM products, I'm convinced that you can sell anything if you have the right connections. How else can an organization go for something like Lotus Notes!

IBM is not known for applications with good UI. I already blogged about DB2 installation a few weeks ago. When it comes to enterpricey software that runs on big servers with green monitors, nobody would care about a nice UI. But that was some 30 years ago, when most of the world hadn't heard of computers.

But Notes is an application for collaboration - that means real people will use it. Well, if the sales process is taken care of, real people will have to use it.

For those who do not know how Lotus Notes UI looks like, here are some low lights.
  • The Window style and font don't conform to the ones that you are used to with other Windows programs. (Note: I'm not using the term standard. Standards aren't important as long as you can find the information you need, who cares!)
  • To set an auto-forward, you have write some code. I'm not sure if that's VB Code. But if you have to write code to do something as simple as auto-forward, who cares if it is VB or Simula.
  • If there is an easier way to set auto-forward, I couldn't locate it in the past two months - weekends included.
  • The visual cue that you are used to in other email clients on whether it is an email or meeting invite are so poorly done that I end up missing some of the meetings.
  • It doesn't remember any of the addresses you had typed. You got to add them to the addressbook for it to search.
  • The default font is so clumsy that it feels like using a green console.
I might be looking at an older version of the application, but not earlier than 2005. The application UI is about 20 years behind the rest of the collaboration tools. Now for the web interface part.
  • The web interface for the app, called iNotes is a horror. The UI has the least useful default sort order. The earliest mail shows up first.
  • The navigation is undefined when you delete a message in the message view. It would show a page with no context and you have to navigate to Inbox by clicking on the link.
  • On deleting the message, the message would continue to show up in the Inbox with a trash can to the left. I don't understand the purpose as there is already a trash folder and why can't this mail be moved to that folder?
  • Even on IE, there are usability problems. Pressing the up arrow within the editor will change the font. I didn't bother to try it on Firefox or Chrome which is my default browser.
  • I didn't expect a Gmail like interface as the app might be a few years old, but Squirrel mail would beat iNotes hands down.
Overall, I'm glad that I didn't get to use it regularly so far and I don't have to use it in the long run.