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mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users. #241067 18/03/13 03:23 AM
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Raccoon Offline OP
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In observation both personal (with friends and family) and as a long-time op for #irchelp -- in helping and tying to convince people to install mIRC as opposed to a web-client or ChatZilla or HexChat -- I've encountered that it's really really difficult explaining to users how to configure mIRC, let alone having them set it up without assistance.

I'll try to abbreviate this post with a series of points.
  • mIRC has no "Setup Wizard" or "Quick Start".
  • A multitude of mIRC's default settings are non-optimal or obnoxious.
  • Menus, settings and features that have been added over the years are unorganized... scattered hodge-podge in inconvenient and inconsistent layouts.
  • It requires someone with utmost patience, time, and experience to navigate as many as 7 different (completely strewn apart from one another) locations of settings that belong together on the same screen.
  • 4 out of 5 users I've helped in 2013 would rather use HexChat because it's easier. 1 out of 5 rave that mIRC is capable of so much more, but admit that it requires a frontal lobotomy to figure out.

In attempt to update the mIRC Client page on irchelp.org, I repeatedly find myself in the sticky situation of trying to explain and apologize for mIRC's quarks specifically when it comes to getting a first-time-user up and running.

In fact, it's so difficult to explain where a specific setting is, such as changing the font face/size, that even screen shots don't convey enough information to get the user the information they need.

I Love mIRC, especially its quirky scripting language,
but I loath mIRC, especially its quirky settings UI(s).

Let me know if you want some guidance on streamlining mIRC's layout.


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Re: mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users. [Re: Raccoon] #241069 18/03/13 04:39 AM
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Hi Raccoon,
I have to agree with you on it being hard for new users to know where to look for particular settings..

What I did for DCC setting in mirc, and router/firewall settings for windows XP and 8 (which are different too) is setup a tutorial page, with graphic captures to help folks.. However, this does nothing to address the real issue, making it easier for new (and not so new) users to configure a 'new' mIRC.

Maybe a set of instructional videos with the product would help (or a link to some to play from mirc.com site wink


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Re: mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users. [Re: Raccoon] #241071 18/03/13 07:58 AM
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View > Font doesn't seem that difficult to me and it's the most intuitive place to put it (as the font changes the "View").

Do you have any other examples?

Re: mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users. [Re: hixxy] #241079 18/03/13 11:59 AM
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Raccoon Offline OP
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Hixxy: So View > Font is the best place? You wouldn't expect it under Options > View or Options > View > Options or Options > IRC > Messages?

And don't you think it sucks that you have to change the font, individually, for Status Windows, Channels, Query Windows, DCC Chats, and Custom Windows? Why can't it be changed for ALL window types at once? Every time I explain to someone how to change their font it turns into a 20~30 minute ordeal (on a good day).

Then I have to explain how to keep MDI windows Maximized, with "Right-click the Status Window tab" (What's the Status Window tab?) "In the Switchbar or Treebar" (What are those?) "Ok, Left-click the Top-Left icon of the Status Window and select Position > Save As Default" (Not Save All? Do I have to Clear or Reset first?) (Do I have to do this with every window like I just did with Fonts?) ... Oi Vey!


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Re: mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users. [Re: Raccoon] #241085 18/03/13 06:13 PM
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No I wouldn't expect the font changing options to be within the preferences dialog. Look in any word processing app or something else that lets you change the font and you will usually find that it is in a "Format" menu or something. "View" makes more sense in mIRC as there wouldn't be enough options to fill a "Format" menu.

To explain how to change the font in all windows I would say this:

1. Look in view > font and decide which font and size you want. Make a note of these.
2. In the box you usually type messages in, type the following: /font -dz "(name of your chosen font)" "(chosen font size)"

I agree that there should be a built-in GUI method of doing this, however. I guess it's sometimes hard to see something from a newbie's perspective when you've used the client for a long time.

Point taken with window positions smile

Re: mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users. [Re: Raccoon] #241086 18/03/13 07:05 PM
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I agree that there is room for simplification, but this also sounds like you're dealing with people who have little experience with native Windows software and the only buttons they usually click are for liking.
I don't want to judge this development too harshly, it's just a shame that mIRC has to suffer for it.

A wizard might actually be the easiest solution to avoid reworking the option dialogs.

Last edited by TRT; 18/03/13 07:50 PM.
Re: mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users. [Re: Raccoon] #241089 18/03/13 09:36 PM
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I'd be more inclined to look for the font settings in Options > Display (> Options).

Re: mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users. [Re: Deega] #241091 18/03/13 10:31 PM
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I'd just like to point out that, prior to the ribbon in later MS Office/Windows products, the font selection dialog was usually always in Format > Font..., like it was in Word, Wordpad, Notepad, Excel, etc.

It's fairly standard to have this in the menubar rather than the preferences dialog.

Re: mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users. [Re: hixxy] #241094 19/03/13 01:18 AM
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I agree with hixxy regarding font locations. Fonts have almost always been in either a View menu or a Format menu. It would be highly unusual to find them in a Preferences or Options dialog. It makes sense to have them where they are. In addition to there, you can change them on a per-window basis from the window's right click menu, which is also intuitive once you know there is a right click menu there (of course, knowing about the right click menu may not be as intuitive as it could be). The choice of font as an example wasn't a good one because it really does make sense where it's at.

That being said, other items could be more clear for a new user. Khaled is already trying to push for that by limiting new options and reducing the number of options available in the dialogs. He's been pushing back lately against requests for additional options for that reason. But that's only partially helpful. It would help to rearrange some things and place them in more natural locations. Having to go to multiple locations to adjust DCC-related settings is far from intuitive, for example.

If nothing else, it may be a good idea to adjust the default settings to something a new user with little to no experience with IRC would want. In addition, to provide a short setup "wizard" to set up the main items such as nick, network(s), and channel(s). That would get a new user to the point where they shouldn't have to really adjust anything to use mIRC until they are ready to start playing around with the settings.


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Re: mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users. [Re: Riamus2] #241109 19/03/13 02:30 PM
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Raccoon Offline OP
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Beating a dead horse on the Font issue; The "Menu Bar" is, um, dead. No new products this decade are being shipped with menu bars, and certainly not File or View. That may be part of the confusion.

But the MAJOR part of the confusion is there's no Checkbox to apply the same Font to ALL windows (requiring 5 steps of repetition)... while Position has no Dialog or Checkboxes, but just a huge menu list of confusing selections like "Clear" and "Reset" and "Set Default" and "Clear Default" and "Clear All" and "Reset All" and "Save All" and "Reset Default" and "Save Clear All Default Reset Save" and and...

I'm a proponent of feature rich. It's mIRC's main selling point over HexChat and other clients as I stated above. But the way these features are [dis]organized, scattered hither dither in 7 different forms of presentation is pretty ridiculous.

Also the mIRC.ini has got to die. I like .ini, but it's extremely limiting and cannot support or unify the features we currently have or want -- like Network specific profiles, or Channel specific settings with defaults to fallback on. It was 10 years ago that people suggested we switch to .xml and we're still using .ini. I think this is one thing really holding mIRC back.

If we're going to slash and burn mIRC's settings UI(s), we should then consider a Mozilla-like approach as "about:config", or Microsoft's Regedit, for advanced user settings.

Overall there should be consistency. Consistency if nothing else. I pointed out in a previous post that even the Address Book is haywire with "Nick/Address" or "Just a Nickname" or "Comma Separated List of Nicknames". Why?! When each of these features could technically support a comma separated list of Nick/Addresses.

Anyway. Thanks for engaging me in this discussion.

I do hope the next version comes with a Wizard that can connect a new user to IRC in under 10 seconds, and even get them to where they want to be.

~ Raccoon [EFNet/#IRCHelp]

(P.S. I am completely sympathetic to how mIRC has evolved over the past 18 years to what it is today, and how things like File and View menus are not only heritage, but may have even been required for accessibility features for the blind, and such. mIRC's interface is a love/loath relationship for me, and I hope to miss navigating it.)


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Re: mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users. [Re: Raccoon] #241111 19/03/13 02:52 PM
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http://forums.mirc.com/ubbthreads.php/ub...conf#Post220439

I've suggested a Firefox-esque advanced options dialog before and I definitely think that is the best way to implement lots of customisable options whilst keeping the options dialog simple. The options dialog should be for those most-used options. Things like what you want the nicklist to do when you double click on it can be relegated to the advanced options dialog.

Incidentally Khaled said he was planning on making mIRC easier to use for new users in that thread too!

Agreed about XML and it would be great if the scripting language supported XML files too.

Not sure I would agree that the menubar is dead just yet, at least for desktop apps. Maybe for Windows 8/Metro, but mIRC is still a desktop app and the menubar is still commonly used in such apps. The menubar has been deprecated by the ribbon in some apps but I don't think that has a place in mIRC.

Re: mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users. [Re: Raccoon] #241118 20/03/13 10:19 AM
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I agree with hixxy on this. The ribbon is hardly the standard these days. Sure, M$ uses it and certain other apps do, but there are a LOT of new apps that use the menu bar. In fact, I'd say that over 90% have a menu bar instead of a ribbon (that's a guess from experience and isn't necessarily correct). And that will probably not change anytime in the near future. The ribbon has some use, but in many cases, it really isn't the best option. Anyone who has used a computer for more than a few years should know what a View menu is and that it's a common place for things like fonts and zoom. You mentioned Mozilla and Mozilla not only has a menu bar, but in the View menu is the zoom text option, which is basically a font setting.

As long as mIRC has a menu bar, the font should stay in the View menu. Maybe there can be an option to right click to change it in the channel rather than on the treebar or switchbar to make it easier to find, but that isn't how mIRC is currently designed.

And I haven't disagreed with you about being able to change the font for all windows at once. I think I saw that this was being looked at a little in regards to having the double checkbox option that is confusing, but it still doesn't necessarily provide a way to quickly change it for all windows if you have previously changed the font in some windows. But that doesn't have to do with where the font option is located... just in how it works.

No one is disagreeing with you about the difficulty of setting up mIRC for a new user; just in whether or not the font dialog makes sense in the View menu.


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Re: mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users. [Re: Raccoon] #241133 20/03/13 11:38 PM
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Overall reply:

I think mirc, for many new users, is clunky to setup properly as has been discussed. The problem most users find is there is no clear guidelines on HOW MUCH needs to be tweaked on setup. When I used to help out in a mirchelp channel, that was one of the biggest questions we'd get asked; "What really needs to be messed with to run right." and produced a length explanation (as discussed here already).

What i'd love to see (even tho I don't IRC anymore), is mirc to develop a setup interface covering only that which NEEDS to be setup. After instal, it will bring you to a screen or screens that will guide you thru it. MOST things in mirc are optional, but we know quite a few are not. So, how about this, after instal, IF you choose "first time instal" during the instal process, you would then get to (as an example):

Connect Options (only those options that NEED to be filled in, some with explanations of what stuff does):
Nickname
Alternate
Identd
proxy
Local

Can somebody name me an option that is absolutely required to connect to ALL servers outside of those?? If so, that's fine, let's include those too, but utilize K.I.S.S. Irc, Sounds, Mouse, DCC, Display and the Other submenus are not NEEDED to connect, so don't show them on instal.

After that, a list of checkboxes covering a wide range of THE MOST FREQUENTLY USED options (I think we can agree on many that basic users would want to know about), where the words are hyperlinked right into the help file so people can see what the option does (a more advanced help file would link directly to mirc's website which would have screenshots as well. Doing it this way would also keep the instal file size down). Some of those options would be:

Prefix own messages
Show Mode Prefix
Reconnect on startup
Reconnect on Disconnect
Use Invisible Mode
Enable Connect Retry (with it's retry options)
Show When people join and leave a room
Timestamp
Code Stripping

Things like that. Once that's done, that's it, you hit ok and start connecting. Everything else varies soo much from user to user, but at least with this, it accommodates the bulk of the NEW USERS, minimizes the intimidation of such a hefty (and powerful) client and yet, allows for the full functionality/tweakability to be utilized later on.

Minimizing options locations would be a great idea, and using a Firefox-esque platform would do it, however, I think there needs to be an extremely transparent approach to it. It needs to be simple, so everybody can understand what it does. Grouping all the options based off of what they ACTUALLY do, not where it just "makes sense to put them". Over the years (and I couldnt say what right now) I've found options that just don't make sense where they're put (discussed already), and this would absolutely minimize that. Does it affect the program display? Then it gets grouped under program display. Does it affect connection displaying? Then it gets grouped under Connection Displaying.

I have LOVED mirc from the first version I used back in 97 or so, and have ALWAYS wanted to be able to go back to mirc vs many other chat options, because it works. perhaps Khaled needs to ask us, the userbase, what we'd like to see IF this type of installation is utilized. Maybe we could help him decide what options to be shown, and how to sort them. I am certainly NOT suggesting the man is stupid, I'm suggesting that the thousands of ACTIVE users that also utilize these boards would show a better set of polling data over how mirc should act/feel than one man (who has done an incredible job so far, and I've never said otherwise).


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Re: mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users. [Re: landonsandor] #241141 21/03/13 06:37 PM
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while I agree to this...

"perhaps Khaled needs to ask us, the userbase, what we'd like to see IF this type of installation is utilized. Maybe we could help him decide what options to be shown, and how to sort them."

It will (i believe) open a nest of worms that might take Khaled away from all other development..

Personally, I think this thread is the way to continue this conversation, this way he (Khaled) has one thread to follow on what users think about changes to options.

Just my 2 cents,

HorseC

(afterthought): I am sure Khaled does see this thread, but a nice little.. Yes I am following it.. would let everyone know the is aware of this particular thread.



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Re: mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users. [Re: HorseC] #241158 23/03/13 02:59 PM
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well, yeah, it will certainly dissolve into a "I dont agree with this option so you should have that option" type of thing. my point was more to get information from the masses which options they feel are the "most common" options. I think (altho I'm sure I'd be surprised if we actually did a poll) we could agree on about 10 or so of the most common tweaks, from mirc's own huge list of options, that people change immediately on start up after the first few sessions. If the object is to make it easier to instal, something he said he wanted to work on, then input from those people who help new users would be important.


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Re: mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users. [Re: landonsandor] #241159 23/03/13 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted By: landonsandor
well, yeah, it will certainly dissolve into a "I dont agree with this option so you should have that option" type of thing......


That was my point exactly. But we are on the same page that is and area that needs some work. this thread should (my opinion) should go on for the life of the product. Since (again my opinion) there can never be a 'perfect' way to setup options so everyone is happy.





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Re: mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users. [Re: HorseC] #241160 23/03/13 08:42 PM
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I agree, nothing is perfect, tho mirc has been one of the best programs Ive ever used. The best part is, the longer this goes on, the more the options will change.


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Re: mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users. [Re: Raccoon] #241221 29/03/13 03:53 AM
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Originally Posted By: Raccoon
Beating a dead horse on the Font issue; The "Menu Bar" is, um, dead. No new products this decade are being shipped with menu bars, and certainly not File or View. That may be part of the confusion.


That's a very blunt statement. It's also very easy to disprove. For one, I just cycled through all my windows, most of which are applications released in 2012 or later (Steam, Origin, Skype, Chrome, Firefox, Thunderbird, Photoshop, Ableton); only Chrome's and Firefox's are hidden by default. Note that I say hidden, not gone, because the conceptual UI element still exists as a contextual menu in Chrome, and in Firefox it literally is just hidden (actually this is a lie-- I've configured Firefox to display it by default since I use it quite a bit, but I'll give this one to you). Also note that, contrary to your statement, Firefox has "File" and "View", and wuddya know, View is where you can set a font (through CSS overrides, albeit). Do you still think Firefox's UI is the way to go? Also, mIRC has (and does) already have this support, but it's just not on by default. Even Win8 didn't get rid of the menubar, it's just not visible by default. So, the menubar has not disappeared, it's just been shoved into a drawer because it's not immediately necessary anymore.

But let's step back, because it's important to understand the context in which UIs are used. The menubar was not shoved into a drawer because it's being killed off. It's being shoved into a drawer, because, just like your forks and knives, you don't need to keep them sitting out on your table all day. 90% of the time they take up space. That said, you still need them to eat. By the same token, the menubar is still necessary. We can talk about making the menubar hidden by default-- that's a valid suggestion-- not really that necessary, but valid. If you removed it altogether you would need to replace it with something.

Onto replacing... the ribbon is the only possible choice here. But let's step back again and understand what the ribbon is meant to solve, and why it's NOT being applied everywhere. You heard me, even MS explains when to and when not to use a Ribbon. The following is from MSDN:

Originally Posted By: MSDN
Is there a large number of commands? Would using a ribbon require more than seven core tabs? Would users constantly have to change tabs to perform common tasks? If so, using toolbars (which don't require changing tabs) and palette windows (which may require changing tabs, but there can be several open at a time) might be a more efficient choice.

Does the program benefit from making the content area of the program as large as possible? If so, using a menu bar and a single toolbar is more space efficient than a ribbon. However, if your program requires three or more rows of toolbars or uses task panes, using a ribbon is more space efficient.


If you're actually suggesting mIRC move towards ribbons, we should be having a discussion about whether the answer to these questions actually falls in the favour of using them. But the point here is that even MS knows ribbons are not meant for everything. If you read the above text carefully, they even imply that menubars and toolbars are not going to be removed from every part of Windows. They also did a lot of usability research to decide that the places where they DO use it do in fact benefit from ribbons. It's hard to say that mIRC would benefit, without any data at all, but that said, my hypothesis would be that mIRC does not have nearly enough toolbar buttons or menubar items to fill the conceptual nature of the ribbon's "rich commands" and multiple tabs. The ribbon is more than a way to display larger toolbar icons, and frankly, mIRC doesn't have a need to take advantage of its features.

I want to circle back to the crux of this argument though, which is that mIRC is too difficult to setup for new users, because I think it ties into this specific tangent.

MS used a lot of usability data to drive their design decisions about the ribbon usage. Similarly, mIRC should do the same. Your data seems fairly anecdotal, but more importantly, it's also questionable in validity, as it's subject to heavy selection bias. Quite simply, your sample isn't random. The new users that you are helping are there because they are frustrated by mIRC, so it follows that they have things to complain about. The problem is they do not represent the entire mIRC userbase.

Let's go back to MS's research in ribbons. One of the reasons they settled on the UI was because they discovered an interesting fact about users: most of them aren't trying to do anything crazy with the software they are being provided. In other words, they found that 70% of all clicks were on the default pallette, and I've seen other numbers in MS's redesign of the explorer ribbon that show similar results.

Following that, I would hypothesize as well that many of those users aren't very interested in customizing their look and feel of Windows or Word, if they aren't even interested in using major subsets of the program. If mIRC's userbase is similar to Windows' or Word's userbase (which should follow, since they are Windows users after all), then you should be seeing similar numbers on the amount of users that actually spend time customizing the look and feel of the program. We as support volunteers may hear about it more in channels like #mirc or #irchelp because they only join when they have problems, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's common in absolute terms.

Final thought: I'm not saying mIRC is perfect, and the font dialog could use a simplification, but if the goal is to make recommendations, let's do it based on data, not conjecture. There's no evidence that the problem with Font options is that they are in the View menu


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