Discoverability

Update: this note is not meant to be critical of these users in any way. Sorry if it came across as insulting, I really didn’t mean it to be. On the contrary, it was more of an apology on my part for not designing Tellico better, so that its capabilities were presented better.

I’m not real good with user interface design. There are some features in Tellico that people just never come across, and if they care enough, they might email me to ask. But there are probably plenty of folks who just give up and decide Tellico can’t do what they need it to. For software features, that’s generally called discoverability, I think. That would also cover features that people know exist, but can’t find.

For example, the fact that getting information about an audio CD is done through the File->Import->Import Audio CD menu isn’t clear to Sean. It’s certainly reasonable to suppose that CDDB lookup should be defined as a data source in the configuration, as he does, but that’s not the way I was thinking when I put that feature in. So Tellico (and I) failed Sean, so to speak. And I wouldn’t blame him if he’s rather frustrated about that. The same thing happened to another user when he wanted to try to catalog the files on a CD, which Tellico can do. But that capability wasn’t evident enough.

Similarly, when Christ Mostek wanted to add a new book to his collection by getting data from Amazon, he expected that function to be available when he clicked New Entry rather than from a completely different dialog, accessed from Edit->Internet Search. The perceived inability to create a book directly from Amazon was enough for Chris to use a different application altogether for the initial data entry. Sorry, Chris!

Entering multiple values, such as authors or keywords, is probably one of the most non-intuitive and hard to discover features. I coded the data entry as a single line edit, and expect users to separate values with a semi-colon. There’s really no way for anyone to know that without reading the docs or looking at some other entry. And people sometimes miss that. I can hardly blame them.

I want Tellico to be easy and simple to use, truly. 🙂 So I look at other similar applications, to see if I can mimic expected behavior or terminology. Sometimes, I’ll move menu items around or re-phrase them. The data entry dialog does need a good bit of work. Once I get the v2 SQL backend put in, then I hope to give it some loving. Certainly, I’ll try to make entering multiple values more intuitive and obvious.

Aside from that, I do take suggestions! The mailing list is the place to send them. Tellico does suffer a bit trying to be a general collection manager, rather than specifically for books or movies. But I’m always looking to improve it.