Sorry about two rants in a row, but this one happened to me today at work and it made me furious. I have an HP NC6000 notebook, and generally speaking, it’s pretty good. It’s a little old now, but I’m getting a new one soon and savouring those last few days of nostalgia. Well, not exactly savouring. Tolerating, maybe.
One of the things about this notebook that drives me INSANE is a design flaw that breaks one of the biggest usability severity rules that there is.
When classifying usability issues (at least in an "old school" way), there are a number of categories that I have used, but one of the original ones went something like this:
Level 1 - Usability issue harms or kills the user.
Level 2 - Usability issue causes data loss.
Level 3 - User unable to complete task, or did not complete task but thinks they completed task.
Level 4 - User completed task with difficulty or by referring to documentation.
With the type of products I’ve worked with, the likelihood of running into Level 1 was always pretty much impossible (thank god), though I know there are jobs where it can definitely happen (designing interfaces for the military or nuclear reactors, for example), so generally speaking, I’ve always worked with essentially a three level system. Even with that, it’s rare that usability issues would cause data loss, but today, I definitely experienced, for the umpteenth time, a level 2 usability problem with my laptop.
My laptop is configured so that if it is not plugged in and you close the lid, after 15 minutes, it goes into hibernation mode to save battery life. Sounds reasonable, and if it was consistent, I would have no problem with it. Actually, I guess the problem is that its too consistent, in a way.
If your machine is in hibernation mode, to come out of hibernation mode, you open the lid, press the power button, then after a few seconds (or a few minutes now that my machine is getting older) the machine comes back on and is ready to go again.
If your machine isn’t in hibernation mode, but is instead powered off, to turn it on, you open the lid, press the power button, then wait a few minutes while it powers on.
If your machine isn’t in hibernation mode, but you want to power it off, you open the lid, press the power button, then wait a few seconds while it powers off.
And therein lies the problem. Sometimes, when you close the lid of the machine, it goes into hibernation mode as expected. Sometimes, there is a process running that for whatever reason keeps it "awake", though to save some power, it turns off the screen. This is very dangerous because when you open the lid, it takes a few seconds for the screen to come back on again. During those few seconds, if you press the power button, it assumes you want to shut the machine down rather than wake the machine up. Then the screen comes on, showing all your valuable unsaved work with a helpful "Windows is shutting down!" message over top of it. There’s no way to stop the shut down, no way to save your work. Screaming doesn’t help — believe me, I know. Would it really hurt to have a dialog that says, "You are about to shut down without saving your work, do you really want to do that?" Heck, give me 10 seconds to respond before shutting down automatically even — anything.
Until then, the screams continue.