Bad Design In Programs 3

5th December 2003 · Last updated: 5th October 2016


(UPDATE: the menu is indeed a standard design. I got it wrong.)

ATI setup screenshot

This example of bad design comes from the setup screen for the ATI Radeon 9600 Pro graphics card. I couldn't see a way to save the profile after adjusting the colours on my monitor, so I hit the Help button. Only then did I discover that you're meant to type a profile name into the drop down menu! That's just ridiculous - drop down menus aren't text fields!

I suppose the programmer thought it was a clever use of forms. Again, the result is confusion, even to people used to Windows. I wouldn't mind so much only today I find my saved profile has disappeared and cannot be reloaded. It might be due to trying a dual-monitor setup last night, but surely the profile name should still be visible, even if it can't be loaded for whatever reason? Instead the menu is completely blank.

Comments (8)

Comments are locked on this topic. Thanks to everyone who posted a comment.

  1. Daniel:
    Well, I don't see that as a design mistake, that is actually very logical, and I would bet that when you hover the mouse over the combo box, it shows the text writing cursor. It is very logical that you can choose one, and save it to the one chosen, or if it is not there, then you can just type it up. Why would you add more form elements just to add a new one.

    Posted on 9th December 2003 at 3:13 am
  2. Chris Hester:
    I think the only reason for combining two form elements into one is to save space. Otherwise, in all my years of using Windows I've never seen this behaviour before. A drop-down menu is always a fixed list of items - they cannot be typed over or edited. There is always a separate text entry field for typing into.

    Posted on 9th December 2003 at 7:57 pm
  3. Daniel:
    Oh yeah? Then that error is all around Windows (XP?), just open any program (Notepad), and click on Save As... Look at the textbox where you type the name. Well, it turns out that it is not just a textbox, it is a combobox with similar features to the ATI one, where you can choose resent file names, or type the one you like.

    And there are lots of other places where it is just like that, must common dialogs, IE or ny browser's address bar, Window's run command dialog, etc.

    Posted on 9th December 2003 at 9:13 pm
  4. Chris Hester:
    You're quite right. I am utterly stupid. Too much time spent coding menus at work and not realising I'm typing in them all the time in Windows!

    Posted on 9th December 2003 at 9:42 pm
  5. Maarten:
    A very good example of the common use of this dropdown/textbox form is located very near to the start button. Start --> Run.

    The use of it in the way ati does is rather tricky though. I still think it might have been better to use a different approach...

    Posted on 10th December 2003 at 10:09 pm
  6. Pete Lyons:
    No need to be so hard on yourself. In the context of how the type-in combo was used its not the most obvious UI. Back in the earyly Windows days before combo boxes became standardized products would create what I would call 'smart input' fields that contains a small button with some graphic (other than a down arrow) next to the input field. I always that that was a better UI than what we have now.

    Posted on 11th December 2003 at 4:36 pm
  7. Ed Gunter:
    :-O I have never seen such a boring dicussion group in all my life! You lot need to go out more!

    Posted on 30th May 2004 at 1:59 pm
  8. Ed Gunter:
    By the way, sorry for that last post, no real offence intended

    Posted on 30th May 2004 at 2:00 pm