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Native or Cross-Platform Widgets?  RSS feed

 
Gregg Bolinger
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In light of recent discussion about SWT and Swing I would like to get some opinions. Pretty simple really.

As a user (not developer) which would you prefer?

1. Native widgets that look like they belong to the OS they are running on
2. Cross-Platform widgets that look the same on every platform

This is not meant to be a Swing vs SWT debate so I would appreciate simple answers to the "poll". Do not turn this into a flame war pitting SWT against Swing or vice versa. Thanks
[ July 07, 2004: Message edited by: Gregg Bolinger ]
 
Jeff Duska
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From a user perspective, I could care less how something is developed. I more interested in the application working correctly and performing the task it suppose to do. The problem with 'cross-platform' widgets has been the almost like the real thing. Then, there is the issue of performance.

As user, I expect certain things. If you show me a Windows interface, I expect it to act and work like Windows interface. This doesn't mean you could change my expectations. An example is iTunes. You can tell from go that this isn't your normal windows application.
 
John Horton
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Personally I prefer native widgets. Why should I have to learn a new set of standard dialogs and ways of manipulating a gui for the few applications written in java? I prefer my gui to not slow me down by making me figure out how it wants me to work.

And why as a programmer should I have to upgrade my user base to the latest and greatest JVM just to make the gui look like a native app? I still have clients using 1.2.2.

I noticed this kind of reaction to people using the JFileChooser dialog on Motif (jre 1.2.2). Even I had trouble with that thing and I've been writing gui's for 12 years.

And i've talked with Mac people asking them if they would prefer a Windows-style file chooser dialog or a Mac version, and they all say Mac.

If you are working on a particular OS all day long and are used to how things look and behave, you get annoyed when some gui makes you do things different and it reacts differently.

Just my $0.02

John
 
Aaron Roberts
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I was actually going to bring up iTunes. I don't think the average user really cares much any more about 'standard' UI for each platform. Cases in point -

- Cell phones have backdrops and all kids of 'skins' now
- Every MP3, Ogg, Wav, etc music player is skinnable to the point it has no bearing to the 'stock' layout and UI.
- Many 'big player' software companies are specifically making things not look like a native interface (iTunes, MusicMatch, Windows Media Player, interVideo winDVD, RealOne Player, QuickTime)
- In linux the only standard for GUI is change. There are too many windowing systems to shake a stick at, yet all the penguin people seem happy enough.
- 3D modeling packages run the gambit from docile UI to flamboyant icon craze. Lightwave, Maya, 3DStudio Max, Blender, and others all use their own flavors of UI and widgets to some degree or another. It doesn't seem to have stopped modelers from using the programs.

I think making things conform to the OS widgets is a thing of a past era. The focus now is on presentation pizazz and useability. I'm one who really doesn't care, so long as its intuitive, clean looking, and does what it advertises.

My thoughts anyway.

Regards,
Aaron R>
 
David Weitzman
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iTunes isn't a normal windows app, but I find it a pleasant one to use nonetheless. The only thing that bothers me is the use of the word "Clear" where I would expect "Delete" in the context menus, but that's nothing a cross-platform windowing toolkit would be able to change.
 
Gregg Bolinger
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Originally posted by David Weitzman:
iTunes isn't a normal windows app, but I find it a pleasant one to use nonetheless. The only thing that bothers me is the use of the word "Clear" where I would expect "Delete" in the context menus, but that's nothing a cross-platform windowing toolkit would be able to change.


That brings up another interesting point/discussion. Exactly what part of SWT changes dramatically on different platforms? Is a button still a button? Yes? Does it act the same? Sure. Is a Slider the same? Yep. Other than taking on the OS L&F what's different? Aren't Mnemonics still set by the user no matter what GUI Toolkit we use?

There seems to be a big "I want native widgets" but I'm not sure jo blow user really sees it this way. Personally, if the app functions I don't give a crap what it looks like. Other users won't use something unless it's pretty. I don't care if the button is round, square, pink, or purple. If pushing that button does what I need it to do, good enough for me.

So what's left to discuss really? Ok, I went completely away from my own threads topic didn't I. Oh well, let the lashing begin.
 
Ko Ko Naing
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From my view point as a user(Despite being a developer, I'll try to mention my veiw point according to the users that I have seen before), I will prefer the Native widgets that look like they belong to the OS they are running on. Users might not know whether the updated application is the same as they used to use or not... They might just have a look at the outside decoration and think that they might need to learn new things on that application... Sometimes users are difficult to understand... They won't think that they are the same... Kinda psychological stuff...

Just my 2 cents as user view point...
 
Alan Walker
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When it comes to getting a job done, people are fairly adaptable. It's not so hard to drive a different car, even though the controls look a bit different and are not in precisely the same places as you're used to.

The only thing that can cause major problems in moving between applications is when things function differently - for example, do you single-click or double-click? I don't imagine switching between Swing and SWT is going to have any effect on GUI functionality in this sense.

However, a different look and feel can probably have a significant impact on a user's perceptions of an application. But there is probably no single answer to whether it is better to stick to the platform standard look and feel - it depends on the type of user and the type of application.

If you're using a business app for the first time, and it looks a bit different from everything you're used to, you might feel a little unsettled. The different look and feel could be a distraction that makes it a little bit harder for you to come up to speed with the content (information model and functionality) of the application.

On the other hand, if you're running a fun-type app, like a music player or a game, you might feel more of a buzz if it's not just the same in appearance as every business application you're used to. These recreational applications often aim to give the user a break from "serious" computing, and make them feel as if they're visiting a different world.

Ideally, you'd probably like a tool that lets the developer decide what is appropriate in each case. (You could even pass the choice on to the user via a preferences window, but I doubt if most people can be bothered with such options.)
 
Pradeep bhatt
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Native widgets that look like they belong to the OS they are running on


As a user I would prefer a native widget rather than a GUI which looks different from the native one.
 
Axel Janssen
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I've learnt that user interface design is very important for the perception of the application.
And users of office software is in a overwhelming mayority conservative.
They prefer standard look and feel of their OS.
Its more psychological issue than rationale.
Nothing to discuss about with users of your app.

Axel
 
Jan Rotthaus
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Personally I don't care what an application looks like, as long as it works for me (and I really like iTunes ). But from my experience as a professional developer I can say that most users usually only work on one platform and they want their applications to look and behave like all the other applications they are used to. To give an example: In one of my recent projects the users asked for a functional extension of a file chooser dialog, so I had to write a file chooser on my own. When we started testing, the users complained about my dialog not looking EXACTLY like the new windows file chooser (Quote: "It should look like the Word save dialog.").

Conclusion: Know your audience (resp. customer)!
[ July 08, 2004: Message edited by: Jan Rotthaus ]
 
Don Kiddick
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Just a point while looking at my desktop....even widgets don't seem to be standard on a platform. If you run the later versions of Office on NT or Win2000, the widgets & menus look very different (more XP like) than the rest of my windows applications.
 
Aaron Roberts
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UI is a very funny thing indeed. I know some users who prefer IE or Netscape/Mozilla. One of the things they complained about was that the preferences weren't under the tool menu, like IE has. I prefer Net/Moz. On those browsers the prefs are under the Edit menu. Widgets wouldn't solve this issue, much like the iTunes comment about clear/delete.

I'd bet if you made a non standard button, say one that when clicked changed its text to the next item in a list of three or so options, you'd confuse most users. Drop downs, scroll boxes, and radio buttons are 'meant' for that job.

Now take a 'normal' button and make it look like something not on the native platform. Put the button in a dumb place on the app. Say its an ok button, and you put it in the top right corner, while the cancel button in on the bottom area. I'd guess that most users would complain about 2 things - Dumb looking button and its in a stupid place.

Now take the button and put it where people expect, near the cancel and you probably won't have any complaints.

Performance issues aside, I doubt most users care, so long as they can use the app and it runs as advertised.

Regards,
Aaron R>

PS - Ever notice when you post a messaeg the 'Add Reply' button is a native widget, but the Instant UBB Code buttons below it aren't? I wonder how many people will stop using the forums when the discover this?
 
Gregg Bolinger
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I think that there are very few native widgets users expect to see.

  • File Chooser
  • Save Dialog
  • Color Chooser (I hate Swing's Color Chooser BTW)
  • Tree


  • So in the whole scheme of things, how important are these widgets? Does it depend on what the focus of the application is? And will users actually stop using an app because "the Save Dialog just doesn't look the same as it does in Word".
     
    Don Kiddick
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    Maybe it depends on your users, their ability (with computers) and previous experiences.
     
    Jan Rotthaus
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    Hi Gregg,

    probably no one will stop using an app because "the Save Dialog just doesn't look the same as it does in Word" - if this is the only issue. But if there are two similar apps, a user will choose the one, that fits his needs AND he is comfortable with.

    In the special situation where you develop applications for a certain customer, there can be a requirement for a special look and feel. And if you want to make your customer happy, you should follow his requirements (happy customer -> more money , unhappy customer -> NO money ).
     
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