On occasion I find myself having a difficult time completing an assignment or project; constantly distracted by the other open programs on my desktop. I frequently turn to the browser application Write Space when I do, mainly because its design offers a simple, distraction free environment. Donald Norman would say that simplicity does not equal good design, and he is correct, but in this instance Write Space couples simplicity with key design features to create a very useful product.
First, the main screen, while dominated by the simple text area, provides several key capabilities. The bottom bar provides simple, and easily visible information on the number of lines, words and characters typed into the editor. This area provides excellent feedback as it updates quickly in time with the writer, unlike other word count bars, such as the one found in the WordPress text editor. These update only when a file is saved or otherwise checked, forcing authors to pause and interrupt their actions to obtain a simple piece of information. The application also provides excellent feedback overall, always responding accurately to user inputs. This is due to the light demands the application places on computer system resources. Other text editors that are more resource intensive can have a delay between input and display, a visible disconnect that can cause frustration on the part of users who cannot see their actions.
Another interesting affordance provided by Write Space is the use of existing and well known keyboard shortcuts. For example undo is cmd+z and find is cmd+f (on a Mac). By simply using the existing keyboard shortcuts, Write Space uses a standard system that is already in place and which many users have already committed to long term memory. Of course, these keyboard mappings are arbitrary, but as Norman notes this is sometimes unavoidable, and when it is standardization is the best route to follow.
Second, the options menu for the application also includes a well conceived structure for customizing the appearance to user preferences. The initial presentation is of a fairly wide and shallow menu structure, allowing users to select simple options such as font type, size, and the option of turning off such features as the spellchecker. However, several tasks made possible on the page do involve a more deep and narrow decision tree, specifically the need to select colors. These are simply displayed in the main menu as a swatch of the current color selection that when clicked, opens a sub-menu with a wide range of options. This deep menu contains options for both new users, in the form of simple pre-determined colors, and advanced users, who can select customized colors through RGB and HEX options. While subtle, these options contribute well to an application that is intended to allow users to write with the greatest deal of comfort possible.
Finally, the conceptual model of the application closely aligns the system image with the users model. It communicates clearly that it is a simple space when text can be input and saved while providing some basic, but important functions. It does not appear to afford any functions that it cannot provide, and all of its functions are clearly visible or standardized in a way that makes them easily found be users. Overall, it is an application that uses clever design to make text editing, and therefore, writing an easy and simple process