When we first starting thinking about building Windows Home Server we knew that there would be a natural (or unnatural) tension between “technical enthusiasts” and my “mom and dad”. Enthusiasts want lots of “knobs and buttons”, options for configuring everything, basic options, advanced options, hidden options, options that enable other options, drop downs, check boxes, radio buttons, etc. etc. My mom and dad want the clock on their VCR to stop flashing 12:00 pm. We decided to settle somewhere in the middle leaning a little closer to the “mom and dad” side of the fence from a user interface perspective, yet a little closer to the “technical enthusiasts” in developing some cool software that does some pretty complicated stuff in a pretty simple way, like the Windows Home Server Backup & Restore functionality, and Windows Home Server Drive Extender™ technologies.
As Charlie Kindel mentioned a while back in his post “Why Doesn’t Home Server do foo?” there are a few principles that we used to guide the Windows Home Server project. One additional principle we continue to focus on is trying to “Build an acronym free user interface.” Why should people have to know what their TCP/IP address provided by their DHCP server is, when they just want to access their files on their home server from one of their home computers?
In the Alpha builds and Beta I build of Windows Home Server there was no way to configure the Server Settings from the Windows Home Server Console. We listened to a lot of feedback (both positive and NEGATIVE), we did a lot of usability testing, and we have done a number of surveys. We started adding a “knob” here and a “button” there to deliver the functionality that a lot of people asked for over and over:
- How do I set the time on my server?
- How do I set/change the password for the Windows Home Server Console application?
- How do I configure Windows Updates?
- How can I shutdown/reboot a headless server?
We continue to listen to the feedback from everybody that is using Windows Home Server Beta 2. There are some suggestions that are easy to address and there are some that are considerably harder. My favorite – “How do I change the name of my home server?” will be a new “knob” (or is it a “button”?) available in a post Beta 2 build.
Our goal is to make a simple yet powerful product that people can readily understand from the user interface without having to read a manual or consult the help file. It is easy to add lots of “knobs” and “buttons” and build convuluted user interfaces with 3 or 4 different ways to accomplish the same task. It is smart design when the VCR sets the time automatically based on a GPS (Global Positioning System) chip set inside of the box and automatically adjusts to weird changes in daylight saving time. By the way, most people in the USA are turning their clocks forward this spring a little earlier than normal, except for those lucky people that live in states or parts of states that choose not to pay any attention to this stuff.
Anyways, it is time to hit the “Publish” button and go home.