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The Ugly Screen - cellophane — LiveJournal
the story of an invisible girl
The Ugly Screen
It started a few weeks ago, when our Business Analyst told us to add a whole bunch of fields to a database table. "...but we need a way to test that it works," he said. "So I need you to make an ugly user interface for it. Just slap all the fields on the screen, so I know the data made it into the table."

"Wait," I said. "You want us to write an ugly screen?"

"Yes, something ugly, just a quick way for us to verify that all the fields are there. Eventually we'll play a card that makes it look like the users want, but not this iteration."

"We could make it look good," I suggested. "Just give us a printscreen of what they have now. We'll at least use that as a starting point, so it'll be going in the right direction."

"No no, I don't want you to invest any time in it now. Just leave it ugly."

"You really want the screen to be ugly."

"Yes, don't put any effort into it. Just an ugly UI."

"Okay, if that's what you really want... I can make it ugly."

It went against everything I knew! But if he wanted an ugly screen....well darn it, I could make it ugly. I had a lot of fun with it, actually! The only sad part was that I was on vacation on the day he saw the finished product, so I didn't get to experience his reaction first-hand.

I consider the Ugly Screen to a valuable BA lesson, though I don't know if he took it as such! Don't tell your programmers to do bad work. And don't ask for an ugly user interface unless you want something seriously painful to look at.

Since this is just a screen-print, you don't get the full effect. The monkeys? They're not just normal pirate monkeys. They are actually flying across the screen, along with the title in the yellow stripe. ("Flying monkeys" is a favorite expression of the guy who asked for the screen.)

I'm particularly proud of this screen because, aside from the monkeys and the scary colors, it's a perfectly functional and easy to use screen. Once we stripped out CSS colors, and removed the monkeys and the marquee tags, it easily became a relatively useful page. Much nicer than simply dumping the fields onto the screen -- and more fun to write, too!

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read 26 comments | talk to me!
From: stilldocked Date: July 13th, 2006 11:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

My Eyes!

The Burning!

Make it stop, Mommy!
bluelotus From: bluelotus Date: July 13th, 2006 11:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
That is impressively garish. :D
zenmondo From: zenmondo Date: July 13th, 2006 11:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've seen those monkeys somewhere before...

So any second-hand accounts to his reaction?
renniekins From: renniekins Date: July 13th, 2006 11:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Probably, i just did an image search for monkeys and picked one i liked.

Sounds like he was quite amused. Then other folks claimed that it should be the new standard. It was probably a fun conversation.

The monkeys are removed, but i'm definitely going to put them back somewhere, as an easter egg.... Just don't know where yet!
devnul From: devnul Date: July 14th, 2006 12:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Hurtses us it does, yes!
dagibbs From: dagibbs Date: July 14th, 2006 12:11 am (UTC) (Link)
I think that is your near-butt-pain trying to share your misery and anguish with the rest of the world!
retepsnave From: retepsnave Date: July 14th, 2006 01:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
this has got to be the funniest comment I've read in weeks!

dagibbs From: dagibbs Date: July 14th, 2006 01:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
encorecrazay From: encorecrazay Date: July 14th, 2006 12:46 am (UTC) (Link)
All the others already gave the appropriate comments and you did give the customer what they asked for and snuck in a usable format. I've modified user requests occasionally to give them what they really needed.
cpip From: cpip Date: July 14th, 2006 01:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Yay monkeys!
(Deleted comment)
renniekins From: renniekins Date: July 19th, 2006 05:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Yay, me too! (:

...well... mostly. I do love the monkeys and some of the colors.
thatguychuck From: thatguychuck Date: July 14th, 2006 02:48 am (UTC) (Link)
I've been waiting for this. :>
renniekins From: renniekins Date: July 14th, 2006 02:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I know! So what do you think....do you love it?
thatguychuck From: thatguychuck Date: July 14th, 2006 03:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Pirate monkeys are hawt.
hannunvaakuna From: hannunvaakuna Date: July 14th, 2006 03:53 am (UTC) (Link)
that makes me hurt! rock on!
simplykimberly From: simplykimberly Date: July 14th, 2006 05:32 am (UTC) (Link)
wow ... that's SERIOUSLY ugly! Well done!!! **applause**
renniekins From: renniekins Date: July 19th, 2006 05:43 am (UTC) (Link)
**bows** Thank ya! I'm glad you enjoyed it.
pstscrpt From: pstscrpt Date: July 14th, 2006 05:38 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't know the culture in your office. Can you make the colors a bit more compatible with each other and keep the flying pirate monkeys?

As my company grew, the VP who hired me was forced to go through his older programs and change the names so that they no longer had scatalogical acronyms. Customer Revenue Analysis Program is no more.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: July 15th, 2006 01:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Alas, no... at least not on this page. I fully intend to reintroduce the monkeys as an easter egg somewhere though!
rook543 From: rook543 Date: July 14th, 2006 12:45 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thats really terrible....

...comgratulations...good work...
mrdisco99 From: mrdisco99 Date: July 16th, 2006 08:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Flying pirate monkeys are the greatest thing ever.

Well done.

As a side note, one of my sysadmin coworkers is a self-proclaimed wicked witch and also loves flying monkeys. Think we should hook them up?

renniekins From: renniekins Date: July 16th, 2006 10:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hee! Well, unless your sysadmin is a boy who likes boys, they might not hit it off....
cannibal From: cannibal Date: July 17th, 2006 03:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
You are constitutionally incapable of just throwing something together, eh? Stylesheets? Easily changed it to something nice? I must admit, you managed to break pretty much every rule... unreadable colors, misaligned text, sounds like the only bet you missed was FLASHING text.

I don't know about the monkeys, though, I'm sure he meant the ones from Wizard of Oz, which those look nothing like, no wings. Oooh, and you could've had annoying music from when the monkeys carry off Dorothy and her little dog, too! "diddle ta dum ta dum dum, diddle ta dum ta dum"

I only thank heaven that he didn't like the expression "monkeys fly out of my butt".
cannibal From: cannibal Date: July 17th, 2006 03:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
See Flying Monkey Butt under the Dilbert "stuff that got in trouble" blog.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: July 19th, 2006 05:49 am (UTC) (Link)
I wanted flashing text, but could (easily) find a tag that made it flash in IE. Strange, that. So I went with scrolling instead, and it turned out very satisfying anyway.

Couldn't easily find any small pics of actual winged monkeys! and of course I couldn't spend all day at it. He uses the term "flying monkeys" for "tech talk that doesn't interest me". He'll tell us, "I don't care how you do it, that's programmer talk. You can use flying monkeys for all I care, just tell me how long it will take."

Then we'll start to explain some technical roadblock, and he'll say, "That's just flying monkeys to me. You'd better ask that question of another developer."

I'm not sure if he's thinking Wiizard of Oz, or some version of the monkeys writing Hamlet. Actually they have morphed in his head, or perhaps just mine....
cannibal From: cannibal Date: July 19th, 2006 03:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
But of course, you could spend all day at it, you're a techie, that is what we do! How many flying monkeys does it take to write hamlet on flying toasters?
read 26 comments | talk to me!