Thursday 19 July 2012

UX crimes that should be extinct by now

Over the last few days I've been tripping over a bunch of very basic user experience problems with websites and mobile apps that should have died out years ago. It's all basic stuff yet it seems that too many people want to learn the hard way. Surely after all this time with the web these crimes against on-line society should have vanished!

Numeric Error Codes
I was utterly astounded to be told that error NZX005 occurred while I was trying to login to the Hertz Android app. Turns out this means that the password was wrong. Surely in this day and age we can do better than that? Actually the whole app is as bad as Hertz's airport service is good.

Click and Pay
I've recently found several sites, including LinkedIn, offer functionality which requires you to enter data only to find that when you click the Apply button or equivalent you are taken to a payment page. The whole area should be greyed out and clearly labelled as premium content, not dragging the user into expending effort that is wasted.

Selecting from a choice of one
How many people, do you suppose, have more than one account with Scottish Gas? Not many, I'd wager. Yet the vast majority, those customers with only one account, still have to explicitly select that single and only account before putting in a meter reading. For the hard of programming, there's a simple construct that is quite reliable that starts something like if (noOfAccounts > 1) {... which can be used to suppress things like that.

Hiding validation errors
Too many sites do this to name and shame them all. You've made some small mistake in entering a form, press submit and nothing happens. You try again, still nothing. After some hunting around, perhaps scrolling up or down, you notice a tiny piece of red text saying that there was a problem with one of the fields. Make it obvious, fools!

Galleries with jumping next/previous links
I like photos and often look through photo galleries. All too often when the photos aren't the same size the next/previous buttons jump up and down forcing you to hunt around for them instead of admiring the images. Fixing the size of the frame really isn't that difficult you know.

Horizontal scrolling
Much beloved of photographers for their portfolios, all too many galleries expect you to somehow guess that the other hundred luscious images are off to the right. Or the left. Even before Apple foisted the minimalist vanishing scrollbar on the world this was a really annoying design style.

No progress indicator
Another one from photo galleries - it's really nice to know if you are on image one of ten or one of ten thousand.

No wait indicator
One of my old favorites - show some kind of wait indicator if an operation even has the slightest possibility of taking more than half a second. All too many mobile apps forget to do this. I suspect it's because designers don't allow for real network latencies and do their testing using wifi on the same network segment as the back-end systems. We don't live in a perfect work, so don't design for one.

Fake data
This is common on search-based sites like travel and jobs. You find something interesting looking, click on it, and it vanishes, expires, or turns out to be buried in another site, the home page of which you are redirected to without any specifics. This is perhaps the worst offense of all as it's dishonest instead of stupid.

Can we please try and make these errors go the way of the dodo soon? Please?


  1. Good list Richard.

    One of my pet hates is the still widely held belief amongst web devs that + is not valid in an email address. Not only is it valid, it's extremely useful because good allow any +stuff appended to your email address to get to you.

    The delayed "give us money" page is deliberate, I fear. The cognitive dissonance of "If U give up now I'll have wasted my time" does actually cause more people to pay up :/ of course, now I know this, I never let myself be manipulated this way.

    I think we need to write a "usable web" manifesto.

    1. Aargh silly iPhone! "Google" not "good", and "I" not "U".
      It's AlexH here, btw.

    2. Good point on validation rules Alex! Email, credit card and phone number entry are all hampered by people checking incorrectly. Like putting spaces in card numbers the way they are on the card itself.

      I like the idea of a usable web manifesto... sure it's been tried though. We need usability police that can punish offenders. Severely.

  2. Click and Pay: but they want you to pay! Though I do agree it's a bad strategy

    if (noOfAccounts > 1) {...: I'd lay money on it, it's because they don't know how many accounts you have. You may be underestimating how fragmented their forty five year old systems are!

    Keith W

    Keep on keeping on!

    1. The problem with click and pay is it makes me want to find absolutely anyway except paying - and especially with LinkedIn, you'd have to enter the data again too!

      On the Scottish Gas system there is a list of accounts, or in my case, a list with the single account and a check box to select it. They must have some kind of iteration over the list so I figure they must know how many there are!

      (Good to hear from you Keith!)