I find it interesting to spot those types of systems in commodity situations.
Most oldschool DOS-y business software is very keyboard driven, so the learning curve is much steeper than that of your average web app. But once you're there, and really it's just a few hours of learning to hit the right keys while your experienced colleague is training you up, then it's super fast.
There's no web page loading times. Click ... Wait .... Click ... Etc ...
Inputs are properly tab indexed, because that's the only way to navigate between them.
Every keyboard hit has instant feedback
No time wasted mousing around.
Look, mouse/touch driven UIs are great for discoverability, and web based UIs are great for deliverability, but neither of those are super important when all users of the software are expected to use it a lot, and use it from a known amount of places (eg branches of a retail chain).
Of course there's nothing preventing web based UIs from supporting the same speed and productivity, but I know of few examples that actually do this.
I love web based software and I make it for a living, but I wish UX designers for line of business applications would take a few more hints from the nineties. If you can assume that a new user gets a few hours of on-the-job training from a colleague, then that wildly changes the assumptions underlying your UX design.
For a while I always said, that I preferred a counter for getting tickets (train or something) as the trained clerk is faster on the keyboard than me on the touchscreen of a ticket machine. Nowadays however clerks on counters have to push the mouse more and more and seemingly have less training.
Can you give a few of those examples?
What must be done to accomplish this?
* be 100% keyboard driven (so, indexed inputs for easy TAB navigation)
* really quick and responsive (probably with all the needed code locally available, storing data locally and then sync when no action is going on). It's probably one of the best example where a SPA would be really useful
* be really lightweight so it can run on older hardware (like 10+ years old)
But doing those points "right" with nowadays frontend-mindset I'd say that's pretty difficult.
> (probably with all the needed code locally available, storing data locally and then sync when no action is going on).
I'm not sure this is a requirement. Eg the D forum is extremely snappy yet server side rendered: https://forum.dlang.org/. HN itself is pretty snappy too.
I think "no cruft" is probably the better guideline. And it's a hard guideline to follow in Single-Page Webapp Land :-)
One of the underappreciated things about such productive software which enables it to be used without looking is predictable reaction times. Consider the "amazing data entry" video posted elsewhere in the thread, or good old feature-phones. If you have an action that you perform frequently, the key to learning how to do it without looking is to learn how quickly you can feed the input, where do you have to wait for it to be processed, and how long it takes.
It's one of the things I still miss about my last feature-phone (Sony Ericsson K800i). I could do a lot with it without even taking it out of my pocket, because I committed to muscle memory sequences like "up arrow, up arrow, OK, wait half a second, down arrow x3, OK, OK, exit". There's no way I could do this with an Android phone, because input and processing delays are random. Similarly, on the web, if your action shoots out a network request, it can complete anywhere between half a second and half a minute. You can't do actions like these without looking because there's a non-zero chance a delay will mess it up.
We have pretty much always had iframes and form posts that can be targeted to submit to hidden iframes that JS can read, so XMLHttpRequest is easy to polyfill.
We used to use jQuery and globals or straight DOM manipulation. Or Backbone.js or just straight classes.
It has always been possible to make a SPA. And if you actually are able to download and cache most of the app upfront, it should be pretty quick. The question is, I suppose, how big is the SPA codebase and do newer browsers know how to cache identical codebases into their "entry points"?
The real draw of React and Vue, and more recently, Lit-Element (Google), is that they update the DOM in a smart efficient way, doing updates much more efficiently than you might could do without an intermediate layer.
This is because they are seen among businesses which were early adopters of electronic POS systems (usually linked to electronic ERP) which, back in the day, would have been a huge chunk of cash that they would have needed to spend on something that wasn't a core function of their business. And they're still around today. So that has got to be a successful business by somebody's definition of success.
So, in a sneaky kind of way, you can pretend to be one of them by setting up a vintage- and corporate-looking system like that, even when you are a brand-new and unproven small business.
I wonder what those companies making those programs are doing nowadays.
Austria is a small country, but quite rich on a per-head GDP basis. With accounting software being so strongly tied to local law, that gives the market a fair amount of protection, in the sense that a Silicon Valley startup won't enter this market as they tend to be interested only in complete and utter world domination, and market-leading accounting system for Austrian small businesses ain't that (but I digress).
So here is the curious history of accounting systems in Austria.
In the IBM host-era the market leader RZL was a company that made a decent product for IBM hosts, mostly the AS/400. Then it became apparent that the future was going to be Windows PCs. So RZL developed another decent product, this time for Windows, with a GUI and everything. BMD saw an opportunity and newly entered the market: They made a programme that ran on Windows but instead of having a modern Windows-like GUI, it tried as much as possible to emulate the UX of an IBM mainframe. -- And they won the market. When people threw out their AS/400s to buy Windows PCs, they switched from RZL to BMD.
BMD became the market leader, and they still are to this day. Now, only just a few years ago, BMD introduced a new version of their product (called NTCS) that had a GUI. This was not to replace the IBM-lookalike product line, but an alternative version fully compatible with the other one that people could opt to get instead. Guess what happened. Their customers went apeshit. They wanted to keep using the IBM-lookalike and were really worried that the arrival of NTCS signalled that they'd eventually drop support for the IBM-lookalike. In order to calm the market they gave out the guarantee that their text user interface would continue to be supported FOR THE NEXT 20 YEARS! Imagine that. BMD will be making UXes that emulate an IBM mainframe in the year 2035 (or whatever it is -- don't know the exact number OTOH). Because their customers WANT THEM TO.
Back in the day, POS/ERP systems were custom-made. So they are likely to be extremely well-tailored to the way a given corporate actually does business.
Replicating that in a more modern setting nowadays might either involve buying into SAP's racket and still paying huge sums of money for customization to get what you need, or building a new completely custom-made piece of software. -- There is an attitude in business that I find very lamentable but that is nevertheless a reality in that, nowadays, a business would never in a million years choose the latter course of action (i.e. a non-tech business like a chain of furniture stores would, nowadays, be extremely unlikely to pay for developers' time to build an ERP for furniture retail for their exclusive use).
But back then, that was the only thing you could do, and people did do it, because the gains in efficiency that could be reaped were just so big in relative terms (if your old system was pen-and-paper, it's a huge leap forward). Those low-hanging fruit are gone now.
The thing is: Those investments that were made back in the late 80s / early 90s continue to pay dividends to this day in the form of money that you don't have to pay to SAP. And this is a considerable amount of money if it means having to go out and hire consultants with staggering hourly rates each time SAP ceases support for the version of their product you're on, with data having to be migrated, customizations having to be re-invented, etc etc (The consultants, BTW, have to turn around and give a good deal of money back to SAP for certifications etc).
I think it's exactly what I would do if I was CIO in a corporate like that with a custom-made ERP system from the 80s. My most-preferred option would be to pay for some software developers' time to build a new one. But the likely outcome would be that I couldn't get a mandate to do that. So my second choice would be sticking with the system we have, and try to make it last for as long as it can possibly last. Only when that is no longer an option would I ever consider buying a modern ERP off the rack.