A couple of weeks ago, I was demonstrating appTranslator
to a potential client. That client was using a competitor's product. The kind of product which has a load of features but horrible usability. For example, it has several toolbars totalizing close to 50 buttons. Yes, Ma'am: FIFTY buttons !Long toolbars are counter-productive
At some moment, I showed him a button and asked what was the function. The guy didn't know. Then I asked him if there was a button to do function X. He didn't know neither. Actually, the button I showed and the function I asked are among the most important UI functions in a localization tool. And the guy had no idea how to use the toolbar to trigger these functions.
The point is that toolbars with too many buttons are worse than useless: They are counter-productive. Don't think that adding buttons to a toolbar is harmless. You may think that users who don't know what a button does can simply ignore it while power users have more shortcuts.
WRONG! Adding buttons to a toolbar contributes to hide the important ones into the mass. Result: The buttons that should be obvious for every one are no longer obvious to anyone.Two kinds of buttons
Keep your toolbars short. Don't add too many buttons. Because you'll quickly hit the limit of the icon paradigm: It's almost impossible to make a self speaking 20x20 pixels drawing. And the more you add such drawings, the more they will look like one another, making it even more difficult to distinguish which one is which.
Actually, the only buttons that users are able to recognize are the ones they are used to recognize because they see them in most programs they use: Open, Save, Cut, Undo,...
Besides these buttons, you can add a few ones for functions specific to your app. But remember that users won't recognize them. Some will fly their mouse over these buttons to see if there is an explanation (tooltip). They may even remember one or two of them but not much more. That's the best you can expect.
If you really want to please your power users, add support for customizable toolbars. But don't expect many people to use that.
toolbar contains 10 buttons, 8 of which are the most standard buttons you can think of. And the remaining 2 are usual appTranslator commands (Build
and Dialog Layout Mode
). And I'm pretty sure almost nobody uses the Build
There are also two comboboxes whose contents should hopefully be fairly obvious. Because it's easier to make self explanatory text than icons. After all, the default layout for the Internet Explorer toolbar displays 'Search' besides the magnifier. Which means that people don't associate the magnifier with the search command.
Comboboxes fit very nicely in toolbars: They allow users to make choices in text lists, which is easier that choosing a button among 3 or 4 which all look like each other.
By the way, FogBugz
doesn't have toolbars at all. Only menus. And frankly, I'm happy with these menus. Why ? Because even if my bug tracking system is opened most of the time, even if I use it several times per day, I never spend hours in it. So there's no chance I would remember what its icons mean.