Surfing around the web, I often run into web sites that contain critiques of various aspects of Windows UI.
One of the most common criticisms on those sites is "old style" dialogs. In other words, dialogs that don’t have the most up-to-date theming. Here’s an example I ran into earlier today:
Windows has a fair number of dialogs like this – they’re often fairly old dialogs that were written before new theming elements were added (or contain animations that predate newer theming options). They all work correctly but they’re just … old.
Usually the web site wants the Windows team update the dialog to match the newest styling’s because the dialog is "wrong".
Whenever someone asks (or more often insists) that the Windows team update their particular old dialog, I sometimes want to turn around and ask them a question:
"You get to choose: You can get this dialog fixed OR you can cut a feature from Windows, you can’t get both. Which feature in Windows would you cut to change this dialog?"
Perhaps an automotive analogy would help explain my rather intemperate reaction:
One of the roads near my house is a cement road and the road is starting to develop a fair number of cracks in it. The folks living near the road got upset at the condition of the road and started a petition drive to get the county to repair the road. Their petition worked and county came out a couple of weeks later and inspected the road and rendered their verdict on the repair (paraphrasing): We’ve looked at the road surface and it is 60% degraded. The threshold for immediate repairs on county roads is 80% degradation. Your road was built 30 years ago and cement roads in this area have a 40 year expected lifespan. Since the road doesn’t meet our threshold for immediate repair and it hasn’t met the end of its lifespan, we can’t justify moving this section of road up ahead of the hundreds of other sections of road that need immediate repair.
In other words, the county had a limited budget for road repairs and there were a lot of other sections of road in the county that were in a lot worse shape than the one near my house.
The same thing happens in Windows – there are thousands of features in Windows and a limited number of developers who can change those features. Changing a dialog does not happen for free. It takes time for the developers to fix UI bugs. As an example, I just checked in a fix for a particularly tricky UI bug. I started working on that fix in early October and it’s now January.
Remember, this dialog works just fine, it’s just a visual inconsistency. But it’s going to take a developer some amount of time to fix the dialog. Maybe it’s only one day. Maybe it’s a week. Maybe the fix requires coordination between multiple people (for example, changing an icon usually requires the time of both a developer AND a graphic designer). That time could be spent working on fixing other bugs. Every feature team goes through a triage process on incoming bugs to decide which bugs they should fix. They make choices based on their limited budget (there are n developers on the team, there are m bugs to fix, each bug takes t time to fix on average, that means we need to fix (m*t)/n bugs before we can ship).
Fixing theming bug like this takes time that could be spent fixing other bugs. And (as I’ve said before) the dialog does work correctly, it’s just outdated.
So again I come back to the question: "Is fixing a working but ugly dialog really more important than all the other bugs?" It’s unfortunate but you have to make a choice.
PS: Just because we have to make choices like this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t send feedback like this. Just like the neighbors complaining to the county about the road, it helps to let the relevant team know about the issue. Feedback like this is invaluable for the Windows team (that’s what the "Send Feedback" link is there for after all). Even if the team decides not to fix a particular bug in this release it doesn’t mean that it won’t be fixed in the next release.