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‘Because we CAN’ vs. ‘Because we SHOULD’

Though this is primarily a comics blog, I’m taking off the comics-guy hat for a few moments of venting.

I went to Kent State University for 2 1/2 years of graduate school in Library and Information Science. While there, I attended classes with and interacted with students and professors involved in a “usability” program which would—to my understanding—study the “usability” of web sites and other user interfaces. Basically, “how does the end user use this” or “how easy is this to use for the end user,” which is a step beyond the folks designing something. When you’re the one designing something, of course it’s going to be intuitive and easy to use—you’re the one thinking about how you want to use it, and your will be done.

Anyway…I have long been frustrated and annoyed with use of Flash and other “technology” to FORCE a user to use one particular “way” or “path” through something—particularly websites. I’m a multi-tasker/multi-tabber…if you have multiple links/bits of information I’m interested in, I want to keep one page open in a tab, and be able to simply go down the line and open numerous links in new tabs—then I can go through and read what I want, and branch new series of tabs off of that…and it is NOT uncommon for me to find myself with 30-50 tabs open after an hour of using Wikipedia to look something up.

Sprint is my extreme example right now, though, of something that goes against anything I can think of for “usability.”

A number of years ago—late 2005 or so—I decided I wanted a backup of all the photos I had taken on my Sprint cameraphone. So I went to the Sprint Picturemail site, and after logging in was able to select an existing folder, and simply download that folder to my computer as a huge .zip file, that contained all of the photos, at full size.

However, those photos—that download/backup—that was all lost over a year ago now when the computer I had them on crashed the weekend I’d planned to do a proper backup of the machine.

Now, I again find myself trying to get those photos, which now span 7 years and number above 5,000…and in the years since that old download, Sprint has changed their site and interface.

They’ve implemented an interface far more reliant on Flash, and tried to make themselves like some other social network site or photo site, promoting features that—for someone like me—are totally useless or redundant or just uninteresting.

Their promo screen also—to ME—is a blatant LIE (though technically true, but that’s all relative to your purpose).

easiermyfoot

They’ve made it HARDER to download ALL your media and albums to your PC.

Just drag and drop them—“them” being INDIVIDUAL PHOTOS. One at a time, you can download these. A multi-step process—select the photo, drag it to the PC, wait for the download dialogue box to pop up, hit ok, wait for the download, then hit ok on a popup telling you how to download multiple files, and then you can go to your next photo to download and repeat the process.

OR—get this—you can hold down the Control key, and select multiple items…UP TO 21, because there is NO option to display more than 21 items at once. But if the Flash interface “hangs” or otherwise delays, your smooth mouse-pointer movement from one photo to the next will be affected, and register as you NOT holding down Control…and you have to start ALL OVER AGAIN selecting photos.

Sure, this interface is fine if you’re visiting someone ELSE’s collection of photos—you want a handful of photos, cool, select ‘em and go. You’re the owner of the photos, and you want a few select photos to upload your best to facebook or twitter of flickr or whatever—great.

But you’re the owner of the photos and you want to download everything to your own machine, to use in software on your own computer and not just the limited set of options on the Sprint site…

Well, there’s NO provision for THAT.

So as a result…I’m dedicating a big chunk of my day to going through, using this crappy, UN-friendly interface, attempting to download over 5,000 photos 21 at a time…and will then still have to go through over 240 such .zip files and unzip these photos, just to have a usable photo archive.

And maybe sometimes soon I’ll get into my feelings about numerous sites all trying to emulate facebook, and/or sites and services trying to make it easy for you to use them as your CENTRAL, core, prime “homepage” or home site by allowing you to import content from other sites/services…and yet making it impossible or extremely difficult to take data from this one to one of those others.

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