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   Re: [xml-dev] markup, UI (Re: Attribute Order)

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At 11:06 AM -0400 6/22/03, Simon St.Laurent wrote:

>UI work was a strange and alien concept for most programmers, who kept
>it as simple (and often cryptic) as possible.  Over time, toolkits
>emerged to let programmers create user interfaces more easily, though
>the results weren't always pleasant for users.  Over time, UI work has
>shifted from "make it easy for programmers" to "make sure it's easy for
>the users".

I don't buy this at all. Yes, the story you tell happened, but not 
for the reasons you cite, and without any significant implications 
for XML work.

User interfaces were atrocious despite the toolkits because 
programmers didn't know squat about user interface design. When the 
toolkit sucked it was because the people who wrote the toolkit didn't 
know enough about writing user interfaces. It had nothing to do with 
a trade-off between making the toolkit easy for users or easy for 
programmers. In fact, the opposite is true. Toolkits designed by 
people who actually understand human-computer interaction are easy 
for users AND easy for programmers. The classic example here is Apple 
and the Mac Toolbox.

In many cases, however, the interfaces still suck and the programmers 
still don't know they're doing something wrong. This has nothing to 
do with the APIs, and everything to do with programmer education and 
skills. Today on Windows and occasionally Linux there are decent user 
interfaces in those few cases where the product is large enough for 
the development team to include people whose job is specifically user 
interface design and testing. On most other products, the UIs are a 

Macintosh programs to this day are still easier to use than Windows 
and Unix programs because Apple has spent a great deal of effort 
teaching its developer community the right way to do things. It's 
virtually impossible to learn how to draw a menu bar on the Macintosh 
without simultaneously learning what should be in the menu bar and 
where. On Windows and Linux, I daily encounter programs that screw up 
very basic concerns like what belongs in the file menu and which menu 
items have which menu shortcuts.

Maybe there is a lesson for XML here: a developer who understands XML 
will design both APIs and XML vocabularies that are easy for authors 
and consumers. A developer who does not understand XML will design a 
confusing mess that annoys everybody. The experts will still be able 
to use the confusing mess to make decent software (just like UI 
experts can create usable software on Windows). The non-experts will 
be able to make a confusing mess using even the best API. What's 
needed is both a good API and good education about how to use XML. 
Neither alone is sufficient.

   Elliotte Rusty Harold
   Processing XML with Java (Addison-Wesley, 2002)


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