Put down the cheese please

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Years ago I worked for a company like so many, where the main application was an internal one that supported whatever work the other employees needed to do - a jack of all trades kind of app. There wasn't a lot of red tape to cut through when adding a feature, especially early on when the company was smaller.

I remember one time, just a few years into being a dev - when I knew enough to get into trouble but not enough to avoid it - and I got the misguided idea to rearrange something in the UI because it made more sense to me. Do other developers have a moment like this? I don't remember what it was, but I remember catching crap for it when it went live. What made sense to me didn't make sense to the people who actually had to use it, and it wasn't appreciated.

It was reverted in short order and life moved on. Lesson learned. Nowadays I'm much more hesitant about changing or adding complexity to the UI. For some reason, this always reminds me of a book called "Who Moved My Cheese", which is actually about dealing with change (ironically), but the title makes me think of some jerk moving a mouse's food around at random. Poor mouse. ๐Ÿญ

A couple days ago, Microsoft moved the cheese around in Outlook. I just rolled my eyes when it greeted me with this optimistic little announcement in the morning.

There are two (incorrect) assumptions in here...

  1. That I want to access other Microsoft apps from Outlook. I don't.
  2. That I need a consistent experience between Microsoft apps. Outlook, Word, Teams, etc have different feels and functions. I don't need them to look alike.

In the end, all the change did for me is move some oft-used navigation buttons to a different corner of the screen. I can't count the number of times in the last few days that I moved my mouse to the wrong corner to switch between email and calendar, and then had to consciously look around for the missing buttons again. It's aggravating. It led me to this question, a lot of angry people, and a temporary solution that reverts it.

I feel for the devs that had to code this, then code a workaround pronto, and then deal with the fact that the best-case scenario is if people don't care. I find it hard to believe anyone would find this to be the thing that puts Outlook over the top for anyone in the arena of email applications.

Yes, I'm whining. But that's the way it goes (as I found out many years ago) when someone moves things around in your office (and Outlook is part of my digital office) without asking.

Where I work now, the primary application has been around for decades and has hundreds of customers and thousands of users. Many of the users know where everything is that they need daily, and have committed locations and movements to muscle memory. When they need to get to a specific area of the app, they can click and tab around before the UI even fully renders each screen. Moving UI elements around without a good reason means screwing that up, slowing them down over and over, and maybe causing them to accidentally click the wrong thing.

That's a lesson I'd say Microsoft forgot here. Your users spend every day, for years, expecting parts of the UI to be in a certain location. Don't move them just because it benefits a marketing campaign.. especially without an option to disable it, and instructions on where to find it included in that little popup. Don't be that jerk... put my cheese back where it was, please. ๐Ÿง€๐Ÿง€๐Ÿง€

Author

Grant Winney

I write when I've got something to share - a personal project, a solution to a difficult problem, or just an idea. We learn by doing and sharing. We've all got something to contribute.


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