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Why the fancy UI

Why is it that manufacturers of AntiVirus and Firewall software think that their application needs a fancy skinned UI?

Skinned UI for a software firewall

Another skinned UI for a software firewall

Their development time must be larger to include this faff. And if the development time goes up so does the time to market. Which means greater costs to the software house which, in turn, means greater costs to us.

But how often do I see this UI? Well, hopefully not very often, it's supposed to be a background application! The sad thing is, when I do have to use it I'm filled with a sense of dread. The custom controls are a pain to use and the UI as a whole is nearly always unintuitive.

For example, the client firewall I use offers me this listbox to view and adjust permissions for all the software on my computer:

The control to view and modify application permissions

It's tiny! And it can't be resized! So I have to scroll one pixel at a time which takes ages! ARRGH!! To add insult to injury - the UI always takes an age to load and I'll bet this is because it's loading all those fancy graphics.

Please, AV and Firewall developers of the world: Stop It! Just use the wonderful built in windows forms controls. Users all over the world will thank you for it!

Josh Post By Josh Twist
1:30 AM
26 Apr 2006

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Posted by Pandurang @ 28 Apr 2006 5:57 AM
LOL :)

I agree. But then I think it is the market forces at work here. The desktop user has been lauded with graphics and kickass UIs over a period of time now. With contributions mostly from Microsoft, the way Windows has evolved over the years.

So the desktop user associates the UI with the quality of the overall product. If your UI sucks, your code probably sucks too. Imagine running a Win 3.1 16-bit style UI on your Win XP or even a Win 2K style UI on a rich platform like Vista.

Posted by Eric D. Burdo @ 28 Apr 2006 7:28 AM
Sweet UI's make the difference in an app that is used a lot in the foreground. Background apps need a nice looking, but very functional UI. And I agree with you Josh... most of the AV and such type utilities are horrid in the UI department.

You can create a very nice looking UI using the default controls in Windows, and a bit of polish (simple graphics and good continuity in your layout). But alas... most developers have no concept of this, and the marketing "experts" get to create what they want...

Posted by Josh @ 28 Apr 2006 11:46 AM
I think you're right Pandurang. Take my mum, I just know she'd be in the PC store looking at the screenshots on the back of the box and thinking "Oooh, this one looks much more professional"


You too Eric - if you use the standard winform controls you can create a good looking app with some nice icons AND your app won't look *old* when the next version of windows is released.


Posted by David @ 23 Jan 2008 2:06 PM
The problem with using the "wonderful built in windows forms controls" is that they are far from wonderful. They are buggy, functionally deficient, and generally a pain in the ass to deal with. That said, developers have been creating decent software products with them for a couple of decades now, so they can't be all bad. And I agree that trying to create your own UI elements usually just ends up making your application unintuitive.

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