Harsh review of the user interface for

posted by Jason Kottke Oct 18, 2005

Harsh review of the user interface for The Complete New Yorker. My experience was better (changing issues took me only a few seconds), but the interface does leave a lot to be desired.

Reader comments

Martin S.Oct 18, 2005 at 2:33PM

I always knew that Mac users were fascist. What was that bollocks about the "Print" buttons anyway? Is tino actually surprised that the New Yorker takes its aesthetic look seriously enough to design its own print button? This bothers him? There's nothing redeeming about that? I thought Mac users were in favor of aesthetic choice -- guess not.

Changing issues also takes me just a few seconds, and I'm using a Dell laptop. I wonder if tino realizes that if you subtract this complaint from his diatribe as inapplicable, his entire case falls apart. I.e., something like the seach results screen limits, which are real, are probably far less annoying if you're not pissed off the whole time because you're forced to stay within the April 4, 1978 issue or whatever.

The installer didn't restart the computer on Wintel.

I haven't had the application crash a single time.

I never got the .NET error he complains about.

I guess his "very bad" is my "about average." The interface is a little clunky, but then the New Yorker itself is a little clunky, always has been. That's why it's the New Yorker. If he wants Wired-level interface, he should wait for the Wired DVD-ROM set -- but it won't have Saul Bellow in there.

jkottkeOct 18, 2005 at 3:48PM

I always knew that Mac users were fascist.

Knock it off...save the fascist remarks for Italy circa 1940. He could just as easily used the standard Windows UI buttons as an example.

markOct 18, 2005 at 4:55PM

One aspect of the UI I that I really liked (at least in the demo) was how it highlighted the last line you were on when using the page down buttons...its one of my biggest annoyances when reading online, trying to locate the line you just finished reading after paging down.

Martin S.Oct 18, 2005 at 6:13PM

Jason: Fair enough. That was a flame, sorry.

mark: It's a very nice feature, I'm actually surprised at how well that works. The grey line only hangs there for maybe 2/3 of a second and then vanishes, making it less intrusive.

Tino D’AmicoOct 19, 2005 at 9:53PM

Maybe my problems with the issue-switching speed on the Mac were due to something else running on my computer; I did test it on two computers, but then those both have most of the same third-party hacks etc. installed. Regardless, nothing else on either of these computers is particularly slow, so I'm still blaming The New Yorker.

I know that the Windows installer doesn't make you reboot -- but I haven't had a chance to actually try out the Windows version much yet, because it *will not run* unless your computer is set to display dates as day-month-year. Or so I am told by a helpful comment to my original rant; the error message that pops up isn't helpful. This is amateur hour stuff.

My complaint about the non-standard UI widgets is grounded not so much in the idea that it's so terrible to re-work the UI for your application (though generally it is), but in the idea that while they were re-inventing the wheel (or at least the print button etc.) they were leaving far more important tasks undone.

And it wasn't my frustration at the speed that caused all the other little problems to rise up and appear larger, perhaps, than they really were: it was the knowledge that because of the primitive copy protection on these documents (standard DjVu readers won't display them), I must use this and only this application to read the things.

And that's *particularly* annoying for two reasons: first, the collection itself will never go obsolete; it'll be as useful in ten or twenty years as it is today, but barring some update from the New Yorker people, I will either still be beating my head against this application or violating the DMCA in the future to be able to use the information I paid for. Second, the 'protection' scheme doesn't actually protect anything since you can just redistribute the application along with the documents: it's less than half the size of most of the issue files.

jamesDec 19, 2005 at 11:07AM

I'm getting this for Christmas and am pretty excited, but the reviews have been enlightening.

I'm very interested in whether there will be enough users interested in extending the product's usefulness to come up with, say, a complete index, or a way to unshackle the data from the proprietary viewer format. Let's hope so.

Howard WestJan 02, 2006 at 12:43AM

I did get this for Christmas, and I love it, mostly.

All the interface gripes are pretty justified, in my opinion. The one that really gets me is that you don't seem to be able to multi-select items to put into reading lists. Say I want to create a reading list of all John Updike fiction pieces. Narrowing the search down to just these items is trivial, but when you want to put them into a new reading list, you appear to need to do it one item at a time. When I did the Updike search, I think I got around 70 hits. Who wants to do that?

Has anyone heard if there are plans to produce an updated viewer program along with the annual issue updates?

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.