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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! 🙂

Hint, hint…

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.

Go Crazy!

Each of these snippets was taken from a single screen for a particular Cruise website – there was a lot going on!

Screen with multiple 'go' links

But, what really caught my eye was:

  • Each of the blue text titles is a link
  • Yet each blurb also contains a separate ‘Go’ link at the end/bottom
  • And both go to the same place!
  • And this is only a small sampling of the times this occurs on the page

I got to the point where I was so focused on all the ‘Go’ links that I didn’t even notice the actual information they were trying to promote.

This is what I call overkill. 🙂

My Recommendation:

The Go link, while trying to give users extra affordance, actually makes it more difficult. As a user, I am being driven to these links; however, they are a smaller target area than the larger and longer title links, which means it will take more effort for me to ensure I am clicking on this smaller area.

There is really no need for both the title links and the Go links. The title links already include the browser hover effect, giving the user another clue that the text is actually a link, and I find that I cross over many of the title links on my way to click to Go link.

If the designer was concerned that users may not realize the titles were truly links, they would have been better served to simply include the ‘>’ (or similar) symbol at the end of each title link.

It’s easy to layer on more and more features/indicators just in case your users may not realize how something works on your site, but it’s generally not the right thing to do. You’d be better served trying to understand what the issue is and fix that rather than layering on more ‘stuff’ that might, in the end, make the user have to think/work harder.

P.S. I could also go on a diatribe similar to my ‘An Ode to Click here’ post, since these Go links cause the same context concern, but I’ll refrain. 🙂 If you haven’t read it, check it out.

I am Speechless…

I don’t even know what to say about this site…

Site with too many UI issues to list

I try to protect the not so innocent in my posts by blurring out identifying information in my screen shots, but I am so tempted to give the address of this site just so you can experience all the flashing/rotating/mayhem going on!

I can only shake my head and wonder what goes through some people’s minds…

My Recommendation:
Put this site out of its misery…please.

My primary care doctor is getting ready to retire so it’s time to look for a new one – not a fun task, but one that needs to get done. I went to my health plan website to search out a doctor that might be a good fit:
Data form with field labels inside input fields

The first thing that struck me was the field labels placed within all the input fields. I am familiar with this concept, but I am not a big fan – the main reason is that once I click within a field to start entering my information, the label, and therefore the context, disappears. The most common reason for choosing to place labels within input fields is a screen real estate issue, whereby placing the labels within the field helps to reduce the screen space. I can live with that…so I proceed.
Data form where labels jumped to above input fields

Whoa…I had to stop for a second to figure out what just happened. Once I clicked within the Last Name and City fields, the label magically popped up above the input field anyway. So, I guess I didn’t lose my context after all, but it surprised me and caused me to take me the time to realize what had occurred. And it also makes me wonder what screen real estate they just ended up saving since the label is now where it could have been all along – above the entry field. Now I am intrigued by what will happen when I move onto the drop downs…
Data form with dropdown with no field label on focus

I put focus on this field, and yet the label does not appear. Hmmm…I select a state:

Data form where label appears once dropdown item selected

And now this field label also appears at the top, which is slightly different from my first experience. The first time the field label jumped as soon as I put focus on the field, this time it waited until I actually entered a value in the field. Again, it caught me off guard, so I had to step back for moment to ponder.

What went wrong here?

Nothing terribly major, but enough that my train thought was broken, ultimately forcing me to take more time to complete my task. Each time a field label jumped around on the screen, I had to reassess what was happening before I felt comfortable moving ahead.

My Recommendation
The most common reason for choosing to place labels within input fields is because screen real estate is at a premium; however, there are considerations when deciding if this is the path to go down. The primary issue, as I stated above, is the loss of context since once the user goes to enter data, the field label typically disappears. If the form is very familiar to a user, this may not be a major issue, but when considering folks unfamiliar with the workflow it just might be.

And for my particular example, obviously screen real estate was not the primary driver since the field labels are simply being moved once I enter a field. In this instance it just makes more sense to keep the field labels above each input field and not need to include the magical appearance/disappearance of labels in different locations. Nothing is being gained by the screen real estate or the user.

I’m Not Missing

Sorry for the complete lack of posts lately…

Just as I got on a roll, things beyond my control got in the way. But never fear, I have been surfing when I have the time and I have been collecting lots of things to share!

I hope to be back to posting regularly after some well deserved rest and relaxation over the the long Memorial Day weekend. Here’s hoping you get some of the same!

Encore, encore

Another example of a secondary window gone wrong:

Why one earth would anyone allow a secondary window to appear like this?? I did nothing on this screen…no scrolling, nothing. But when I click the Help link the new window appears almost completely out of my sight!

And when I move it into my sight of vision, this is what I get:

The site logo front and center. Not the kind of help I was looking for! Once again, it will be up to me to do all the work of moving and expanding the window to actually get some help from this site…Certainly does not leave me with the impression that I am a valued user.