October 13, 2005 | Category: Uncategorized

Design: Lotus Notes

Anyone ever used Lotus Notes? No need for hands in the air, I’ll pick you out from the gentle sobbing. I feel your pain. Notes has got to be one of the worst pieces of crap software I’ve ever seen in terms of design. It is woefully poor. Here are 4 of my favourite headscratchers:

  • Alerts that aren’t – Sometimes you’ll set a reminder in notes, say for an important meeting at 4pm. A sensible program would tell you 5-10 minutes in advance, thus providing a “reminder” that you have something to do fairly soon. Not so with Notes. Instead it tells you half an hour after the event begins, by default. Genius; you’re so late that there is no longer any point in going. Thanks for streamlining my life like that, Notes.
  • Save – The Save button often, but not always, means “Save and Exit”, kicking you out of the document after every save. This is despite the frequent inclusion of a separate Save and Exit button.
  • Standardised Exiting – Instead of doing the same thing that every other Windows App has done since 95, the Lotus team seem to have thought they know better. If you’re writing something and try to exit without having saved it, a normal app will ask you if you want to save before exiting and provide 3 buttons: Yes, No and Cancel. Everyone who has used Windows knows what these do. Notes provides a slightly different solution: 4 radio buttons labelled “Save and Send”, “Send only”, “Save only” and “Discard Changes”, combined with “Ok”, “Cancel” and “Help” buttons. With this bizarre bit of UI, I can see why they included that last button.
  • Mixed Metaphor – What UI form component am I describing: rectangular, white background and black text, a grey button-like square flush righ with a symbol in it that looks like it provides the main action? If you said a dropdown, you’d be absolutely right. Except in Notes. Here it describes a focussed tab. You will click that symbol at least a half dozen times without thinking about it, finding it exits that tab.

I should say that these all come from version 5. I have no idea if they’ve been fixed in newer versions, but that they happened at all is fairly shameful. There are another few obvious ones to come. Note that these are just the things that really bug me, not the day to day annoyances.

For more, see Design: Lotus Notes, Part 2.