Programming that screws things up

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

As I am waiting to respond to a friend of mine today because my browser won't respond, I'm reminded of a few really stupid things that hopefully will become less common in software in the future.

The specific incident today was that I wanted to click on a link (Outback Steakhouse Menu), but the browser stopped responding. Was my computer slow? No. Was it doing something else to the point where it couldn't handle my command? No. What happened was that I had been downloading a 50MB file from a web site. The other browser window just finished downloading the the last step in the process is to copy the file from the temporary directory to the final download directory. During that step, apparently all other browser windows stop operating.

These issues make computing frustrating, and to the casual user, makes the computer "slow".

Other annoyances:

  • Modal dialog boxes. These are barely tolerable under normal circumstances, but are horrible in applications with multiple windows when the modal dialog box requires input before any operation can commence in any window. Adobe Acrobat does a fantastic job with this one...they have a window come up for their product updates that sometimes pops under the browser when you view a PDF through the browser. It can hang Firefox and can appear to hang Internet Explorer.
  • Waiting to have it "perfect" before displaying results. Windows explorer is a good example - some directories will take 30 seconds or more because I have large files and it wants to do something (to prepare thumbnails maybe?). I don't even need the icons right away - just show me the file names and fill the rest in on your own time!
  • Lack of user feedback. This just happened to me also. Click on a link (Quicktime movie) and nothing appears to happen. It's actually downloading but I don't have any feedback, so I click it again, and the download restarts, but I am completely unaware of this. I see others struggle with this one. My favorite is when someone launches a really big application but there's no feedback, so they launch it again, and repeat until eventually the computer brings up the application, but then brings up like 10 more windows and is completely choking on memory.

Other examples aren't coming to me, but I'll try to post when I run across one. Feel free to leave comments with other good annoyances that appear to slow/stall the computer, but really aren't.

Emil's Wicked Cool Blog