User interface is a basic fundamental of computing.  Applications must present themselves in a clear and easy to follow method in order for users to accept them.  I believe this is why iPods and iPhones are so successful.  An MP3 player in itself is not a complicated device – it plays music.  Simple, right?  The iPod and iPhone have really set themselves apart from other similar devices by presenting the user with a very clean, polished, consistent and easy to use interface that makes the device a pleasure to use – not a chore.

I’ve been working with the Microsoft Exchange 2007 management tools for a while and found the user interface to be very inconsistent and visually chaotic.  Alas, this is true for Vista which is why it  has not achieved mass acceptance whereas Apple products are happily found everywhere these days.

Anyways, here’s a good example of why I find the Exchange 2007  Management Console confusing:

Exchange 2007 Management Console

The operation was to remove a permission from a mailbox.  Apparently this was successful.

Reading the screen left to right, the first image presented is a red X followed by a green checkmark that says “completed”.

At first, an end-user isn’t sure what to believe – did this operation work or not?  On reading futher, it would appear the operation completed correctly but since the operation was to remove a permission (indicted in the long technical command description), the icon presented is a big red X – which is generally used to indicate a failure.

OK, I see what is going on here and now understand it now.  However, the initial screen presentation can certainly be confusing and mistaken for an error.  Some might think it is a minor detail but a proper well designed user interface should never leave an end-user confused.  Confusion will only impede acceptance of software.  Software that is not accepted will lead users to find alternatives.

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