The 5 Biggest Interface Screw ups of 2010

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. Your users will thank you for it.

About Adam:
Adam Kochanow­icz is a Ph.D. stu­dent in I/O Psy­chol­ogy. He writes as the National Psy­chol­ogy Exam­iner for and main­tains the Tum­blr blogs User Inter­fucked and Papyrus Crimes
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3 Responses to “The 5 Biggest Interface Screw ups of 2010”

  1. Andrew

    Dec 30th, 2010

    Inter­face Screw Ups of 2010? These are more like Inter­face Screw Ups of the last decade.

  2. Mariusz

    Dec 30th, 2010

    Bad UX hap­pens also in real life ;)

    Any­way, i’d say that #3 would be the worst. Imag­ine you have a more crit­i­cal appli­ca­tion. Oh, dear..

  3. Alvin Tan

    Dec 31st, 2010

    Click here” is def­i­nitely not bad design. Links that dou­ble as calls to action have always been rep­re­sented in that for­mat. Doing oth­er­wise goes against com­mon user model and is bad design.

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