Three points = a circle

A few years ago (2000 or about then – the year 2000, I mean) I was charmed so much by a new and interesting software that I decided to learn it by myself. 

I printed its help and started to learn and do things with it. 

Long time ago, when it didn’t have ActionScript, it was Macromedia and not Adobe yet, I became a Flash expert. That much of an expert that I applied for a Flash-designer job. 

I charmed a manager with a hand-drawn page turning animation and that got me a part-time job. 

This is how I started a short web design adventure.

Not long after this start, we went to a sales pitch meeting, planning to convince a big client to redesign their website using this new thing everybody soon will become crazy about and later scared of – Flash animated preloaders, intros, menus and games.

I was introduced as an engineer with a passion for web design, the Flash Guru.

We showed them the newly released website of Acme GSM Corporation – one of the biggest telecom companies in the world, that just updated their website, adding Flash preloaders and sci-fi menu animations. 

We could for sure do that for them. 

I even had a very nice animated logo of their company, cleverly correlating their production process,  their global reach, and their commitment to nature preservation. 

The sales pitch presentation was indeed very good but unfortunately did not go well because of a stubborn lady that blew up all our arguments for Flashing their new website. 

“No! No-no-no! Preloaders? For what?

You mean that a client of mine will have to wait for my site to load?

Animated intro and logo? 

Do you think we are Disney, to blow fireworks over castles? (this is added by me for colour!)

We sell this thing (I don’t want to mention what – something abundantly used in construction). I want my clients to see at a glance what we sell, what our newest projects are, how to order, how to get in touch with us, where we are based and how low our carbon footprint is!” (long before her time she was!)

“Flying menu?

We don’t need that!

I don’t care about these flashing things Acme GSM now has on their website!”

Looking at me …

“You’re an engineer?! 

To draw a line you need two points. For a circle you need three.  (she knew a few things about geometry and alignment design – we shared a few Uni professors. One was nicknamed Mengele).

This is how I want my site to work. Give my clients the minimum number of clicks to what they came on my website for!

No useless clicks or features. 

No annoying or charming distractions!”

I should have realised then that this thing would not last long. Flash has always been a distraction.

This meeting was also the best lesson of interface design I ever had. 

Later, I read about golden rules of interface design and about how to turn your user, your client, into a friend just by building a good interface.

A few years later, when I started to work as a track designer, I learned by myself another software and I was charmed by the way its tools were flowing … 

“Insert a curve? You’ll need cant for that! Here, this is how much that cant needs to be based on the previously input data or your alignment speed! Change it if you want!” all in one window, easily accessible. 

“Biiig Exclamation Mark! You said you don’t want to place this on a vertical curve! Wanna switch to vertical, to move this curve away? 

Press here! 

Lock the previous gradient by pressing B(efore), the following by pressing  A(fter) or the point of intersection by pressing S(tation). 

Change only the curve length by pressing C(urve)! 

You want this as an alternative vertical alignment to check it later?! Press N(ew)!”

No annoying or charming distractions! Everything flowing, placed where it was needed.

Two clicks – a straight!

Three clicks – a circle!

It was normal for me then, but sounds amazing now to mention this: the software had a library of all the common rail types and sleepers used in railway and tramway track design – all ready to use in defining the cross sections. 

“CEN56? Here! 

NP4sS?! Tramway, baby! Are you sure you need sleepers?! Enjoy!

Rheda 2000?! Ballastless track then. Here, different parameters, my friend!” I don’t recall the German acronym for “hydraulically bonded layer” but it was there.

Oh! The good old times when I could leave the rail dimensions and shape to the software!

Oh! How nice it was when the ballast was just depth, gradient and shoulder, and not a complex polygon with rocket-science rules between points.

It didn’t have “Cul-de-sac”. Indeed, that essential feature we all use in track design was missing.

And the time passed. 

My location changed. 

New place, new software. 

Not the same thing…

After you get used to driving a BMW it is very difficult to switch to a Ford T.

Now it’s the time to switch again … 

Oh, how good even this good old Ford T really is! 

At least it has four wheels! And no offsets for clothoids!

The most humiliating moment of my track designer life. What should I choose?

(This post is entirely a work of fiction, an expression of deep frustration and of infinite disappointment. No comments allowed! Go away!)