changing the default for --keyid-format
Robert J. Hansen
rjh at sixdemonbag.org
Tue May 29 19:44:41 CEST 2012
On 5/29/12 1:18 PM, Werner Koch wrote:
> Frontends should handle this problem.
The problem is that most people developing front ends are making them
pretty darn user-hostile.
A few years ago while taking some HCI courses, I did a usability study
on the most common certificate interface -- the tabular widget. It
turned out to be just beyond-Godawful.
Tabular data is the Right Thing To Do in two major use cases.
The first is when you have a noninteractive display of identical
field(s) for multiple pieces of data. Consider a printed almanac: if it
wants to convey a list of countries and populations, the best way to do
it is with a table. Different records (countries), identical fields
(population), and since the paper is noninteractive, the table is a win.
Now consider if instead of an almanac you have Wolfram Alpha. Typing
"population of Switzerland" immediately yields *just* the data you want,
and you don't get confused by your eye accidentally jumping a row and
reading the population of Sweden instead. A table widget is more prone
The second Big Win for tables is when data must be contextualized by
other data. Consider a spreadsheet showing profits and losses for
different divisions of a business: if all you know is that a given
division made $X, you don't know if that's your most profitable
division, your least profitable division, or what-have-you. The other
data is necessary to put the data you're interested in into a larger
Now consider the tabular widget as used in PGPkeys, GPA, the Enigmail
key manager, etcetera. The certificates don't need to be
contextualized: all the data necessary to evaluate a certificate is
present in the same record as the certificate. And since it's a
graphical application the interface can be interactive, which means the
other major use-case isn't applicable here.
Enigmail tries to have its cake and eat it too by prominently featuring
a large search box at the top of the window. But this isn't a very good
solution. In terms of screen real estate, about five-sixths of the
screen is taken up by the tabular widget. The search box takes up a
relatively small portion. The human eye tends to view large things as
more important than small things -- so the center of attention is
naturally drawn to the tabular widget, not the search box. Further, the
human eye tends to view complex things as more important than simple
things -- so the eye is drawn to the tabular widget again, not the
search box. I'm grateful Enigmail has a search box in the certificate
manager, but I doubt if new users even notice it.
According to Google's HCI guys , 90% of the U.S. internet-using
population doesn't know how to use Control-F to find a word in a
document or a page. That's the level of skill most people have with
user interfaces -- awful. And if you count up the number of widgets on
the screen in your average certificate manager, you'll find that there's
more visual complexity there than in Microsoft Word.
Anyway. If people are interested in what I found out about effective
user-interface design with respect to certificate managers, say the
word. Otherwise I'll crawl back under my rock and leave the subject
alone for another couple of years. :)
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