I was refactoring some of my moderation logging stuff on the forthcoming v8, and was curious to see how some other forums do it. I had not looked at vBulletin in a very long time, and was excited to see that they have a demo system that launches a completely new instance of the app with a fresh database for you. Sweet. While I can't really get into PHP, I'll be the first to admit that it's one of the best forum apps out there, even if it does flirt with being too feature rich.
I had never seen the admin stuff at all. Imagine my horror when I saw how many options there were just to create a new forum! There are dozens upon dozens of fields! I absolutely could not believe it. Looking around, I found that much of their admin stuff is similarly bloated and complicated. I guess I shouldn't be that surprised, seeing as how the public side of the forum has a lot of junk in it, even if most of it is hidden in menus and such.
This is the struggle of a feature-rich application. How can you possibly organize all of this stuff in a way that's useful? A lot of people will say that feature-rich apps are inherently complex in the UI, but does it really have to be that way? Obviously that's something that was on the minds of the Office team this last go around, and it will be interesting to see how their work is received.
This is very much an area of software development that fascinates me. I think for many of us, the user interface is frequently secondary to everything else, and I think I would argue that's totally backward. I mean, it's like creating the ultimate writing surface without considering whether we'll use a ball-point pen or a hammer and chisel.