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Archive for the ‘Usability No-no’ Category

Footer menus are wonderful things. They make life bearable.

When I finally get to the bottom of a long (or any length for that matter) web page, having scanned all there is to see, it’s nice to have a footer menu saving me from having to scroll all the way back to the top of the screen:

Web site with a footer menu

Unless, of course, this is what happens for each and every menu item I click:

That’s right – no matter what menu item I select, I simply end up back at the top of the current screen.

My Recommendation:

Ummmm…this one is kind of easy….

If it looks like a menu, it should act like a menu.

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Just a quickie for today…

No 'yes' option on 'Are you sure you want to Exit' screen

Maybe this is why online games for kids are so addicting – there’s no way to get out!

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Why is it so easy to find web forms that just don’t work well? Particularly when it comes to what should be simple workflows users are used completing over and over again. There really is no excuse. Here is another example of a simple form gone wrong…

I am submitting a request so the first thing I am being asked for is my contact information:

Contact Form

Scanning the form quickly I see date is already filled in and I am asked to leave it in the field. The rest of the fields are expected information to be asked, and I know this stuff like the back of my hand, so fine with me. Following the instructions, I skip over the date field; enter the rest of the required fields, then hit Submit:

Form with Error Popup

Okie dokie… Why the heck am I getting an error on the one field I was explicitly asked not to edit? Of course, I can no longer see that field since the pop is hiding it, so I am unable to immediately figure why. I decide to move the pop-up window out of the way so I can see what went wrong here:

Error in pre-filled field

Nice! The one field I was not responsible for entering already has an error! The year says 110! So, even though I completed all my data entry correctly, I hit a roadblock. If they wanted me to leave the field untouched, the least they could have done was make sure the pre-entered data was correct!

My Recommendation:

Since they obviously do not want the date changed from today’s date, there is no reason to have the date be a data entry field at all. When a user accesses this screen, the date of request could simply appear (correctly) as uneditable data on the screen. Or better yet, why show it all? Do I need to be reminded that the date of my request is today? I think I know that. If the underlying workflow needs this information it can be added outside of the user’s interaction.

A simple step that could have been removed is instead going to lead to an error for each and every user who doesn’t realize they need to correct the field they were asked to leave alone.

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I happened to be checking out a listing of healthcare application vendors and found the use of tooltips to be kind of backwards – Here’s what I mean:

Table with tooltips for each cell

Each and every cell in the table shows me a tooltip that is an exact copy of the data in the cell itself.

I then started checking out the rest of the table and I discovered a place where tooltips probably would have been helpful:

Table with sort function within column header but no tooltip

Table with sorted column after clicking header

I am given absolutely no indication that an action can be done by clicking the column headers. Turns out the columns are sortable if I click on the headers.

I looked at the page a little closer and at the top of the screen I found this:

“You can view the interactive list presented at the top in which you can click the column headings to sort by column”

They did try to let users know that the sorting capability is included in the table structure (although the wording also has me bewildered). Unfortunately for them, it has been shown that folks often do not take the time to read the extraneous content when the key information is directly in front of them…

My Recommendation:

Tooltips should provide additional, useful context around the item being hovered over (i.e. displaying print when hovering over a printer icon or spelling out a term when an acronym is used within content) rather than just repeating the same information already being displayed to the user.

It would be more appropriate to refrain from using the tooltips for each individual cell in the table and rather put it to use when a user hovers over the column headers to let them know there is functionality built within them (i.e. Sort by Location).

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I was reading an article about ways to increase traffic to your blog, because who doesn’t want more folks coming their site and realizing the wisdom in their words. 🙂

Anyway, the article mentioned submitting your site to a multitude of free blog directories, so I figured I’d give it try. Site after site asked for the same basic information. Here I am on about the fourth site:
Blank Registration Form

Piece of cake, I’d already filled out this same basic stuff 3 times before. The one thing I didn’t want to do was put reciprocal links on my blog, which according to the terms was fine, so I just left that field blank each time. I finished filling out this form, hit submit, and got this:
Registration Form with unseen error

Hmmmm….did it submit? My guess is no…but if not why didn’t it? I start inspecting the screen, field by field, until notice this:
Unobvious Error Message

Suddenly the reciprocal link field has become required (yes, scroll up to the first screenshot if you don’t believe me!) – or maybe they are using the exact same image for their error notation?! I have no clue. And even more interesting the error message (in the exact same font color and size as everything else on the screen) states that I entered an Invalid URL – can the lack of a URL actually make it invalid?

I was basically stuck at this point, I wasn’t going to go down the whole reciprocal link path, so I abandoned the task. I guess this is one blog directory you won’t find LiveUX in…

My Recommendation:

If a user makes an error in a workflow you want to direct them right to the source of the error so they can fix it quickly and easily.

  • The error message itself can appear either at the top of screen (indicating the specific field that is in error) or placing it in close proximity to the field itself (usually to the right or below the field).
  • Use an indicator to highlight the invalid field (for example a red X to the right of the field). Do not use an image that has more than one meaning.
  • The error message should by styled to stand out from the rest of the text on the screen. The norm is to use red text.
  • The error message should accurately describe the error that was made. It is also best to include the step(s) a user can take to correct it.

Okay, that’s about it for me today…I’m going to register LiveUX with a few more directories…wish me luck!

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I love perusing decorating sites. It’s always fun to collect inspiration photos to add to my collection. So off to a well known decorating site I go. Today I was looking for ideas for a kid’s room, preferably something nautical. I typed my search criteria (Nautical Bedroom) into their handy Search field:

Search input field

And here are my results:
No Search Results found

Huh? I’m on a decorating site! Why did I just get a ‘No recipes found’ message?! Once I look back at my original search I realized that the default search option is for the Recipe section only. This seems so odd to me on a decorating site.

My recommendation:
Make sure your default settings match what your user would expect them to be. I am hard pressed to believe that the vast majority of searches on this site are for recipes as opposed to decorating or some other topic. Or, for a site like this that has many topics, search the whole site, then allow the user to filter based on the topics that might be of interest to them.

Funny thing…As I was preparing this post I went back to the site to check something out and lo and behold, they have updated their Search. The whole Recipes/Site paradigm is gone and the default is now to search the entire site. Maybe they got an advanced copy of my post! 🙂

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Entry hints in web forms and text entry fields are handy little things. They give a user more context about what they might want to enter in a text field. For example, if I was filling out a registration form where I need to enter my date of birth, an entry hint of mm/dd/yyyy gives me the valid format I should enter it in. In giving me this simple hint, I have been saved from wasting my valuable time trying to guess what the appropriate format might be. I like not having my time wasted. 🙂

So how could one go wrong using entry hints? Let’s take look…
Search field and button with search for blog entry hint

I am browsing a particular site’s blog directory and notice the Search capability. It’s even telling me (with an entry hint) that this search is specifically for finding registered blogs. Great! I want to know if my blog is registered, so I’ll simply type in ‘LiveUX’, hit search, and see if my blog shows up in the search results…
No results found message

Huh? All I typed in was LiveUX! How did I get this mishmash of words in my search? Well, it turns out that maybe this entry hint wasn’t as helpful as it could have been. When I retrace my steps, here is what I discover:
Entry hint remains in field on focus


When I put focus on the field (by clicking within it) to begin typing my search criteria, the entry hint does not disappear.
It is up to me as the user to clear out all of the entry hint text before I am able to enter my search criteria. So much for not having my time wasted…

My Recommendation:

Entry hints area great tool that can make a site more user friendly when it comes to completing forms. However, when incorporating an entry hint, it needs to be done correctly. When a user puts focus on the field, the entry hint should disappear, making way for the true data to be entered.

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