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The other day I was working on a basic HTML editor bar that floats right above a comment textarea and adds some insertion code. It's just like the one right here on the StackExchange sites, except this one was in HTML instead of Markdown.

Anyway, I came a point where everything was working - except in IE. I then started to work out the IE JavaScript bugs when a question dawned on me.

Should IE users have complex things like this even available to them?

Exactly what kind of person that knows HTML is still using the web in IE? Wouldn't IE users be less confused with a simple textarea rather than trying to figure out what the <ul> that was just inserted into their text is?

Isn't that why google is removing the cap-locks button?

At what point should we start worrying about removing features for less-savy users rather than adding them?

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migrated from webapps.stackexchange.com Jan 3 '11 at 0:31

This question came from our site for power users of web applications.

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If you removed the anti-IE flame bait then this question might be suitable for ui.stackexchange.com. However, as it stands it's highly likely to get closed as "subjective and argumentative". –  ChrisF Jan 2 '11 at 22:48
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Why would a tech-savy user want a button that inserts <ul> anyway? It seems... primitive –  Oskar Duveborn Jan 3 '11 at 13:54
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@Xeoncross: you implicitely correlate "IE users" with "users confused by HTML." I'd bet (not my cat, but perhaps a beer) that the "grandma market" has seen significant penetration of Chrome and IE, simply because of family-based tech support. –  peterchen Jan 3 '11 at 14:37
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I work as a web applications developer. The place I work has an IE-only policy for all users; Firefox in particular is explicitly forbidden. And I can hand code HTML in Notepad if I have to. Just sayin. –  morganpdx Jan 10 '11 at 22:53
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You're making the assumption that those using IE are doing so because they don't know any better. I'm pretty sure that you can't actually justify that assumption. Some people work in environments with mandated use of IE; there are some who stick with IE (v6 especially) out of inertia or because of familiarity; and I'm sure there are some who use it simply because they're bloody minded. –  Bevan Jan 11 '11 at 21:44

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Three things:

1) If your premise is true (IE users are less sophisticated) then it seems like you should draw the opposite conclusion - that you need the editing bar. An unsophisticated user will have less trouble using it than writing raw HTML in a text box.

2) I'm not sure what you're talking about when you refer to "complexity". Complexity of implementation of the UI? Amount of UI? How hard the UI is to use?

3) I would say that your premise is flawed (that IE users are necessarily unsophisticated web users). I see no evidence of that. You're talking about a third of the people using the web!

Many people use IE because that's the only option available to them (e.g. because it's the mandated web browser at work for example). Many people use it because modern IEs are pretty darn good web browsers.

Personally I prefer Chrome - but I'm certainly not going to assume that somebody using IE is unsophisticated. I'd also be very concerned if a third of my potential customers couldn't use my product.

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As I understand your argument:

"We don't offer formatting because IE users don't understand HTML".

(Is that your intention?)

Mistakes:

  • As argued in a comment, I doubt the correlation you assume
  • Even if such a correlation would exist, it is not static.
  • You mix up feature and implementation:

The feature you (want to) remove is rich text formatting. By following the stereotype in your question, IE users are more likely to expect that. because they know, you know, Word: "Where's the "[B]" button?"

The implementation you chose is apparently to represent them as HTML tags. Now, that is going to confuse my mom: "Clicking the [B] button doesn't work." (Yes, that's what my mom says. If I'm lucky, she tells me something about "funny symbols".)


Your general question is interesting, though.

(1) The most common approach is:

  • Market determines features and audiences
  • Features and audiences determine UX

i.e. the UX has to deliver whatever it's asked for, dropping the feature because of complex UX can happen, but is a secondary.

Features roughly get sorted by additional revenue / implementation cost (I use the terms losely here, revenue could be Stallman Karma for OSS projects), and are dropped below a given threshold.

An additional feature can drive up cost, and reduce users (because they stop liking it).

(This formula is to simple to drive a decision, of course, since features are interconnected, e.g. supporting different platforms can affect the cost of many other features.)

Your question comes in after this: when you can't build your UX to remain simple after the addition of the new features, or the cost of that would become to high, you rather drop that feature.

(2) OTOH, there's a good market for "the most simple tool to do X":

  • start with the required user interface
  • see what features you can cover with that without extending the UI

That's very similar to the case above, only you assume a sharply declinig user base when the UX gets more complex.

(In any case it's a good approach to avoid having to cut features.)

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Not the "[B]" button, but the "Bold" button somewhere hidden in the ribbon. –  rightføld Jan 9 '11 at 0:23

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