Suggestion for Human Interface Improvement of Wi-Fi Configuration Utility

   #1  

PanEuropean

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Hello Folks:

I began the process of configuring my HEX-NET gizmo to function in 'Infrastructure' mode (as explained in post #2 of this discussion: HEX-NET Firmware Update: Just how is this task accomplished?), and was a bit startled to discover that when the little Java Wi-Fi Configuration Utility was launched, it appeared in an awfully tiny window on my computer.

I use a Microsoft Surface Pro as my 'garage' computer. This computer is physically quite small, but has quite a high resolution display (1920 by 1280). The size of the window that opened was only 6 cm wide by 5 cm high (about 2.5 inches in each direction for American readers). It was difficult for me to read the text within the window, because the darn window was not even as wide as three keys on my keyboard.

Way, way back in the old days, 800 by 600 pixel displays were standard, and for that reason, I believe that the VCDS application (not the Wi-Fi utility) still opens at 800 by 600 pixels when it is first installed. Users can, of course, increase the size of the VCDS application in the Options dialog.

Today, it's pretty rare to find anyone using a computer display that is less than about 1,200 pixels wide, and 1,900 or 1,920 pixels is pretty common. As the physical dimensions of the screens shrink, but the pixel density increases, this can result in some ridiculously small windows being presented if the application developer does not consider the implications of user screen size when writing the application and/or the application installer. So, to address this problem, I have a few suggestions:

1) Please modify the Wi-Fi configuration utility so that it draws the window at at least 800 pixels wide. Personally, I think it would be very safe to draw it at 1,000 pixels wide... I can't imagine anyone purchasing a HEX-NET interface and running it on any computer that has a display less than 1,000 pixels wide.

2) If at all possible, please consider modifying the installer for the main VCDS application so that the installer takes a look to see what resolution the monitor attached to the target installation computer is running at, and automatically adjusts the display size of the VCDS window so that it occupies 2/3 of the width of the screen. Not only would this save experienced users the trouble of having to go and adjust application window size (not only at initial installation, but after every software upgrade, I might add, cough-cough, harumph), it would greatly simplify the process of getting up and productively running for new customers, and make for a better initial application experience for new users who are installing the VCDS software for the first time.

Thanks for your consideration of this request.

Michael

The Wi-Fi Configuration Utility Window, current size as displayed on a contemporary tablet computer
 
   #2  

Uwe

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Micheal,

The Microsoft Surface Pro has a very high pixel density compared to most computers out there. 1920x1080 on a 10" screen is really quite unusual for a Windows machine. In fact, I can't think of anything other than a Surface Pro that matches it. 1920x1080 is still considered high on a 15" laptop and normal on a ~20" desktop monitor. Can we programmatically detect the resolution of the user's screen? Yes we can. But what we can't detect programmatically is the physical size of that screen.

Would it be safe to make the our windows bigger at this point? Yeah, probably. Would it be desirable for most users? I'm not at all convinced. Most people are not using such high pixel density screens, and when their pixels are bigger, our programs are entirely legible. Moreover, not everyone is a fan of having programs take over most of their screen. My personal philosophy is that a window should be no bigger than needed to present the information contained in it. Why would you want a little configuration utility to hog most of your screen?

As for VCDS itself, I'm not inclined to make the default any bigger, but I'll take a look at the installer. In principle, it should not overwrite an existing CFG file (which is where the user-set window size is stored). Personally I always use it at the default size, even on a 2560x1600 screen, so I wouldn't have noticed if it does.

-Uwe-
 
   #3  

PanEuropean

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Hi Uwe:

I kinda-sorta think that you and I have different philosophies (or perhaps different priorities) about the extent to which 'norms and trends in software practices' should influence the development and design of VCDS. It's going to be difficult and tricky for me to express my suggestions here, so, please keep an open mind when you read this, and please accept that I am offering these recommendations 'with a good heart' and for the purpose of enhancing the commercial success of future Ross-Tech hardware and software products.

I believe that the majority of users of Ross-Tech hardware and software have some familiarity with configuring computers, but the majority of purchasers (and, most importantly, prospective purchasers) are not computer wizards. I believe that the majority of prospective future purchasers are automotive technicians, especially automotive technicians who are unhappy with the demands that the current VAS diagnostic software places on them. Prospective future purchasers are the key market that has to be considered if we want to increase Ross-Tech sales this year and in years to follow. There's no revenue stream from existing customers... once a person buys an interface device (cable or wireless), they don't generate any future revenue for Ross-Tech because the software and firmware updates are free. Thus, everything I write below will be based on thinking about maximizing sales to prospective future purchasers.

VCDS's predecessor, VAG-COM, came out in 1999, back when the only people who used computers were 'enthusiasts' (computer enthusiasts, not just VW enthusiasts), and long before user-friendly operating systems and user friendly iPhones were available. Back then, a customer needed to know that a 'driver' wasn't just the person behind the steering wheel in order to be able to install VAG-COM. Today, there is a general expectation of consumer electronics purchasers that when they buy a device - a computer, a tablet, a smartphone, or a car GPS - the thing is simply going to 'work' when they turn it on, they won't have to read a manual or go through a learning curve with the new device. Companies that pay attention to this consumer expectation and cater to it are the companies that dominate their marketplaces. Apple, with their iPhone; and Garmin, with their Nuvi series of GPSRs are two very successful companies that come to mind. Apple's philosophy is that the iPhone should work out of the box and anticipate and cater to user expectations. Garmin's philosophy is that 'your grandmother' should be able to figure out how to use the device without having to read the instructions.

So, my constructive criticism of the VCDS user experience - what the user has to do, or learn, in order to take best advantage of all that the program has to offer - is heavily influenced by the best practices followed by current industry leaders.

You are correct when you say that the Microsoft Surface Pro has a high pixel density. You are also correct when you say that 1920x1080 is unusual for a Windows machine. But both of those statements are only correct if you compare the Surface Pro to all of the computers that have been sold in the past 15 years (in other words, if your perspective for comparison is looking back in time). If you compare the Surface Pro to all the computers that are offered for sale TODAY at your local big box store, the screen on the Surface Pro is only fractionally more dense than the screens on the monitors and tablets to the left and right of it on the store's shelf. If we shift the perspective for comparison to what is being sold today, I think it would be impossible to find a display for sale at any big box store that does not have at least 1280 horizontal pixels. If we look at the general trend of where things are going, 1920 pixels wide is well on its way to becoming the new standard for displays (including tablets), simply because that happens to be the width that supports HD television.

Certainly, when developing software that will be used across a wide range of machines, you have to consider everything that is out there, not just what is being sold today and what tomorrow may bring. But, realistically, I think you would be hard pressed to find more than 5% of your customers using displays with less than 1080 pixel width, the same way you would be hard pressed to find more than 5% of your customers using Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, or Windows Me. You don't support those long out of date operating systems (rightfully so). Hence, it doesn't make sense to me that you are sticking with 800 by 600 pixels as the default resolution for the VCDS application when a fresh version of VCDS is installed on a computer in May of 2014. It makes even less sense to me that the Java window I referred to in my original post is narrower than a Microsoft default size modal dialog box.

You asked "Would it be desirable for most users [to programmatically make the windows bigger if a high-density display is detected"? You said you are not convinced, so, I'll try to convince you. Most automotive workshops are not well lit - they don't have a lot of natural light (this because windows present an opportunity for break, enter, and theft), and the overhead lighting is usually degraded by automotive dirt on the lumieres or bulbs, or obscured by hoods that are up, overhead cabinets, etc. Similarly, most residential garages are not well lit. People buy big monitors (or small but high-density monitors, such as the whole current crop of smartphones) because they want the image to be easier to read. People over the age of 40 can't quickly and easily change visual focus from infinity to a 50 cm reading distance - that's why we all wear reading glasses. So, by all means it is to Ross-Tech's advantage to make the display of the primary VCDS screen (and the Wi-Fi configuration screen, and all the other screens that may appear) take maximum advantage of what the user's hardware can offer. I'm not suggesting you maximize the display and take over 100% of the screen, because that might be annoying to users who have other windows open. But, for sure, it would be both appropriate and prudent to have application windows open to a default size of 2/3 of screen width.

You wrote "My personal philosophy is that a window should be no bigger than needed to present the information contained in it." That is a perfectly sensible and appropriate philosophy for the way you use the application, which (most of the time, I'm guessing) is as a programmer and a developer, sitting at a desk in a well-lit office with lots of natural light. But, that is not anything like the typical user scenario. The typical user is working in a poorly lit garage and probably has their laptop within the car (this because they are constrained by the length of the interface cable). For future users of HEX-NET, they will be working in a garage, but the computer will likely not be in the optimum position for computer use. Workshops are optimized for toolboxes, hoists, and cabinets... placement of the computer is always a compromise between putting it somewhere that it won't get damaged (or have stuff spilled on it) and putting it in the ideal location for viewing and operation.

For all the above reasons, I urge you to take maximum advantage of today's hardware technology (in other words, whatever hardware the user is running the application on) to optimize the display size for easy readability, and to minimize the amount of time and effort that the user has to put into "tweaking" the UI to make it big and easy to read. The goal should be that if a technician who is using a VAS diagnostic scan tool walks by the bench of a technician using VCDS and looks at VCDS running on his co-worker's computer, that technician thinks "Gee, that VCDS sure looks a lot easier to use than what the boss gave me... maybe I should think about getting one for myself".

Michael
 
   #4  

Uwe

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Not only would this save experienced users the trouble of having to go and adjust application window size (not only at initial installation, but after every software upgrade, I might add, cough-cough, harumph)
I just checked this. Updating the software does NOT change the 'Window size' settings a user may have made. The only catch is that each installation location is unique so if you've got a Release version installed in C:\Ross-Tech\VCDS\ and then install a Beta in C:\Ross-Tech\VCDS-Beta\ then they use separate settings.

-Uwe-
 
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