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2009-03-06 📌 The interface to PebblePad is shit

Tags 🏷 All 🏷 Tech

See link above for a short video intro. So... why is PebblePad shit?

Early giveaways are that their site uses Javascript for some internal links, relies on pop-ups and the interface once you get past a login is coded entirely in Flash. The main menu (which is fixed-width and by default doesn't fit into 1024x768 resolution, always a good assumption in the educational environments the software is intended for) turns up consisting of an "overview pad" sat next to four rocks in an ocean.

Each rock ("create new", "view", "tools", "upload file") conceals menus, two of which helpfully can't show all of their options in the limited space forced by the design, and none of which offer any contextual help (which might otherwise be a saving grace of the interface being created entirely in Flash — not that it's difficult to do rollover prompts without Flash, but even a complete muppet could provide it with.) Don't know what an "ability", "experience", "proforma", etc. is in the context PebbleWeb have chosen to employ it? You're stuck delving through helptext — though at least its interface is much better than the main one. As an added bonus, the interface has sounds that you need to dig into preference dialogues to turn off.

Whilst in there, you'll find that you can thankfully do the same with the rocks, and adjust the size of the applet inside the browser. Though this doesn't do anything to show the full content of menus where there's now space to do so... and the "basic buttons" interface, whilst looking a bit more sane, doesn't bother offering icons for context... spurn the developers' efforts to treat you like a five-year-old, and apparently you don't deserve those.

Once you've added some content, you can have fun trying to keep track of it in a fixed-sized viewport that only shows nine items at a time (or less than that if you don't have the applet set to 'large' view.)

Thankfully that's the extent of my usage, being tech support for a lot of people I know. Maybe the networking features hidden behind the kiddy interface aren't bad, but the whole thing reminds of software packages that comes bundled free with entry-level hardware... the ones that, rather than having a simple but standard interface that will enable granny to pick up basic skills she can reuse, force her to learn different interfaces for printer, camera, scanner, etc. In already time-pressured environments, teachers and students deserve better than to be forced into using patronising design-school-reject crap, especially those that already have basic IT skills.

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