Adobe is really persistent about updating

Problem

Adobe Acrobar reader has this update dialog that shows up every now and then. The dialog has a Yes and No button but that’s just an illusion. The No button is practically not clickable and not focusable! But if you keep clicking on it eventually the dialog disappears. This has happened several times and every time I have to press the No button harder! So I decided to take a snapshot, blog about it and contact Adobe regarding this issue.

Adobe Acrobat update dialog

Adobe Acrobat update dialog

I personally don’t like it when a part of the system is aggressively asking for update. Particularly when it is Adobe. We haven’t forgotten Flashback, one of the biggest Mac security issues. I know the virus wasn’t made by Adobe, but when an application trains the user’s mind that it needs to be updated often, that very user experience will be an easy target for hackers.

Even though this dialog has a No button, Adobe is actually forcing you to press Yes. It’s not nice. It’s not intuitive. It’s not respectable. It’s annoying.

Solution

There are three solutions to this issue:

  1. First of all, improve the quality of your software to reduce the number of updates. There are many applications on a system. If each of them wants to update every now and then user experience will reduce. Remember: no one buys a computer for the purpose of updating it. People buy a computer to have some tasks done (work or game or whatever). Don’t get in their way, even for seconds.
  2. Do the updates automatically behind the scene. I really like the way Google Chrome updates itself. It’s very subtle. It’s polite. The menu icon will glow to indicate an update. The update will automatically install on your next browser lunch. It remembers the tabs and goes exactly to the state it was before the upgrade. That’s good user experience.
  3. The least you can do is to make the No button clickable. The very fact that there is a button that only works when someone is punching it angrily shows Adobe user experience designers either don’t feel responsible, or don’t care for the user’s peace of mind.

Note

Adobe’s Flash update window shows unnecessarily too often. Maybe I’m an exception, but I haven’t bought my computer for spending time updating system software. I happen to own a copy of Cretive Cloud as well. Adobe updates happen so often that sometimes I think updates are being pushed for the sole purpose of advertisement.

Adobe Flash Update Screen

Adobe Flash Update Screen

WordPress update fails

Problem

I was trying to update my other blog which runs WordPress on a PHP host. After about a minute, the following error showed up:

WordPress 3.4 update error

Naturally the first thing I did was to click the “Help” button. But nothing showed up! In fact it seems the “Help” is there just to make you more annoyed about what things don’t work! ;)

There is no clear action to do –no button, no suggestion! The error description is not very understandable for the average user. Obviously there is an error in line 200 of some PHP source code of WordPress software. But am I (as a blogger) supposed to solve it?

Some other users had a similar problem after upgrading from WordPress 3.3 to 3.4.

Solution

Provide simple information about what went wrong and how the user can fix it. In this case, maybe the error can suggest an error code to search on the Internet, or simply suggest the user to send an error report. Sure there’s someone in WordPress community who can take care of the error in line 200 of that PHP file!

But the best error is the error that doesn’t happen. My blog is pretty simple in terms of software –no special extension or fancy plugin! Yet it failed to upgrade. WordPress developers probably haven’t tested this release thoroughly. And poor quality is the last thing I would like to assign to a popular software like WordPress, but quite frankly I expected better from such a widely used product.

Ubuntu shows a dialogue box in a menu

Problem

My Ubuntu 11.10 computer lost its connection to the Internet and after a while a little red warning sign appeared on my “menu bar“. When I clicked it, an unusual menu appeared with a very long message as a disabled menu item saying:

The update information is outdated. This may be caused by network problems or by a repository that is no longer available. Please update manually by clicking on this icon and then selecting ‘Check for updates’ and check if some of the listed repositories fail.

Anyway, the message talks about Ubuntu’s inability to check if software update information is accurate OR if I’m not connected to the Internet! Two very different reasons but the latter can be checked with software and be removed from this message. In fact if I’m not connected to the Internet the update program should not even show this error message.

The message asks the user to click this icon and “Check for updates” but there is no such item in this menu!

Solution

First of all, the weird look of this menu screams that it should be implemented as a dialogue box. The long message needs to appear on a standard confirmation dialogue box with an OK/Cancel button. It can have an unchecked checkbox reading as “Don’t show again”. The “Preferences” menu item can be moved to the main Ubuntu software update application.

But the most important suggestion is to make sure that a dialogue box is absolutely necessary before showing it to the user. If the software knows that this problem can be caused by network problem OR outdated files, it should first check for the network problem before showing this message. Programmers may think one little extra dialogue box can be ignored but it just confuses the users besides taking their time.

I don’t agree with the claim that Linux users should be experts. At least Ubuntu promises an easy to use experience. Ordinary users don’t even know why there are “Outdated update files” in the system. Why should they care? All they want to do is to use their computer for their specific purposes. A good operating system is an invisible one. The users don’t need to be constantly reminded about internal algorithms of how certain utilities work in an operating system. Every application should do its best to be maintenance free. It should keep unnecessary user interaction to a minimum.