Friday, June 12, 2009

Bad Design: Windows Task Manager

I've decided that Windows Task Manager is ill-conceived, poorly designed, and extremely misleading. Especially the following:



Most people have seen the "Performance" tab and that memory usage chart. Charts have a more powerful influence than a bunch of numbers and statistics. Take a good look at the chart and answer one question: What is the user going to think?

Most users have no idea what a 'page file' is. But most can understand the terms 'memory' and 'CPU'. The chart is extremely misleading. The chart above this chart is 'CPU' usage. In terms of all the charts in Task Manager, that chart is the most useful.

Think in terms of the average user trying to figure out why the computer is extremely slow. Now, based on this image, what can you tell about the current system?

That is right - the average user cannot figure it out. This means Task Manager is poorly designed and is downright misleading. The user is mislead to believe that the page file chart = RAM usage. Additionally, there appears to the user to be plenty of RAM for programs (220MB), so that couldn't possibly be the problem.

In all actuality, RAM usage _IS_ the problem for why the computer is so slow. There is 1GB of physical RAM available to the computer, 1.6GB total is being used, 2.1GB was used at one point during the session, and 2.5GB was used sometime in the computer's past. The solution to this computer's woes is to chuck in more RAM. But the average user won't know that because Task Manager is not showing them useful information via the chart. Using the page file as a chart is a bad design decision. At least change colors showing critical cutoffs so the average user can decipher that RAM usage is the issue when hunting down the reason for why everything is so slow.

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