by Adam Kochanowicz on 12/30/10 at 3:08 pm
Over the past several months, I’ve been funneling my keen eye for awful interface design into a blog, User Interfucked. Interestingly to readers of UX Movement, it should come as no surprise, a vast wealth of terrible interfaces are not just door handles and kitchen cabinets – they’re right here on the web. For my guest post, I thought I’d write about this year’s worst interface screw ups.
1. Splash Screens
In case you forgot (and needed to know) the name of the application you’re using seconds after its execution, there is the utterly pointless splash screen.
A true splash screen has a fine, albeit mostly aesthetic purpose. While the application is loading, a resource-light branded image is shown as a kind of virtual waiting room. Some companies, such as Adobe, will use the splash screen to run a small ticker of the resources being loaded for your viewing pleasure.
A splash screen becomes pointless when either the application has already loaded or, worse, before the application begins loading. We all remember old school websites whose home page came after a splash page informing us we had successfully arrived there: “Welcome to Bob’s World!!1! [Enter]”
View while app is loading
View after app has loaded
Take this gem from a fitness app I use almost every day. The splash screen begins in a useful way. However, once the app loads, you have to navigate away from it to get to your data. It’s also very confusing because the user might not even understand the app has already loaded if they’re still staring at the logo.
2. “Click here” links
“Click here to continue” is probably the worst practice in the entire span of internet history when it comes to interfaces. We all know exactly what to do when we see colored underlined text. Yet for some reason, website developers insist on instructing us on how to use a hyperlink…with every hyperlink using the phrasing “Click here to…”
This mistake is so pervasive because anyone who knows basic HTML is vulnerable to make it. Instead of typing “Click here to go to the main page,” all a designer has to do is write “Main Page” or “Home” and make it a link. If your users can figure out how to navigate to your website, they can figure out how to click a link. “Click here to” adds unnecessary junk to the user interface and slows down the user’s experience.
3. Unclear dialogue boxes
This mistake is especially prevalent with dialogue boxes, for some reason. A user is given a prompt with a simple yes or no question. The problem is, the developer failed to make it clear what “yes” or “no” means.
In this case, the “Okay” means “Okay, don’t.” This is probably an action in the game where the user has pressed the close button right away. A better prompt would just say “Do you want to save? (Yes/No)”. If the user’s first action was to click an option that says “Exit without saving,” I wouldn’t have a dialogue at all. However, if you insist, it would be less ambiguous to say “Are you sure? (Yes/No).”
4. Fanciness over usefulness
I feel like I was the only one rolling my eyes when the BumpTop team debuted their OpenGL desktop replacement that solved their perceived problem with the traditional computer desktop. The team believed a flat surface did not reflect the 3D environment into which we organize an office in real life. The solution, for the team, was to create a 3D desktop with stacks as the unit of organization. This made for a very pretty “oh” and “ah” interface, but it essentially created an extra cognitive step in nearly everything you do on the desktop.
The reason it’s easier to make stacks and use a 3D environment in real life is because the input of real life is 3D. By making a 3D desktop, the user essentially has to constantly face the hurdle of transforming a 2D input into 3D. It’s pretty, but it quickly becomes annoying to use.
Worse, is this phone from Samsung. You can see why developers might be drawn to using this 3D cube interface. It looks so damn pretty and futuristic. But how does it improve upon the classic grid layout of icons? Now, the user is called upon to use a 2D input to navigate around a 3D surface to find their icon of choice. The design also means only three icons can be fully visible at a time.
If designers want to create the new desktop or startup page, I suggest they look to logarithmic scaling as a concept. This uses linear perspective as a method of increasing virtual geographic space without confusing three dimensions of movement with two dimensions of input.
5. Bad button placement
The rapidly increasing use of touch interfaces has conceived a new category of design flaws which fail to accommodate our big fat American fingers. This is even true in mobile sites such as Google Talk. The send button (“Envoyer,” sorry, I use french) could be placed in that space already available to the right of the textbox; saving real estate in the process. Instead, it is placed so close to the browser’s back button, the user is apt to write an entire message and have it erased by going back to the previous page.
Make 2011 a year of good interface design. Avoid these common interface mistakes at all costs. In the end, your users will thank you for it.