Get it right dammit!
Here’s something I can never get over - a long quiet pause followed by a booming “hello?!” in my ears. Looks like Skype has deemed the age old “ringing” of a the phone as thing of the past and now making calls between Skype connections gives you no audio feedback except the actual person on the other line. No need to let the caller know his call is being connected. Let’s just keep things quiet and then surprise him!
If this ever happens to you with headphones on and the volume on high - you’re going to loose some hearing and a year of your life.
Seriously guys! When I make a call - first I want to know what’s the progress - “Ringing…” just doesn’t cut it for me. I know what a ringing sound is like, and on my computer it not only helps me gently prepare for the call to happen, but it also helps me know how my volume is. It’s gentle, it’s comfortable, it’s predictable and familiar. And those are important things. So for the love of God please bring back the ringing…
Meanwhile - Google Voice inside of GMail has gone a slightly different way wit the silence. When a call ends it never gives a sound. This doesn’t seem a big deal but a lot of times it’s hard to tell when a call has been cut off, the other side disconnected or there’s just a pause in the conversation. I’ve found myself talking into GMail a bunch of times. Skype actually gets this right by giving a nice soft sound that you can’t mistake for “something not-call-related has happend/ended the call” and Google would do well to adopt the idea.
Stop being so stingy with sounds! Sound is a great tool to draw our attention and keep us in touch with what’s going on - so bring back the goddamn sound! ( I’m looking at you too Apple )
I’m not even sure where to start with this one…
During the Windows 8 Preview installation you get asked to give your PC a new name. So you put in a nice name. And then you get this monstrosity:
"The PC name is too long OR contains invalid characters".
You don’t say… Error messages have a very specific purpose. They aren’t just there to inform you “oh some shit went down sorry”. They exist to give users an understanding of what happened and the ability to ACT ON IT! Error messages you can’t act on are a huge cause of user frustration and are basically like someone going “bwaaahahahahahaha! no”. Just ask Diablo III players about Error 37.
With that in mind let’s explore what’s wrong with this error message:
1. It’s actually saying “I had 1 of 2 errors”. WHICH IS IT?! Obviously the software is checking for BOTH errors so it KNOWS which is the problematic one. So why not just tell me exactly what the problem is so I can just fix that?!
2. There is no guidance about what limitations I’ve exceeded. If the name is too long - tell me the maximum number of characters I’m allowed. If there are invalid characters - tell me which characters I used that I shouldn’t and add a hint of what’s not allowed.
3. There is no live feedback. If I exceed the number of allowed characters I don’t get notified until I hit the “Ok” button - which is like putting a brick wall at me when I want to continue. Simply counting down characters like Twitter tweets or SMS would solve this simply.
4. Why even let me make a mistake? Stop accepting characters after I reach the limit, don’t add the illegal characters I type - and either way of course give a polite text saying what I can’t do. Strangely - this DOES happen for illegal characters but NOT for name length. Where’s the consistency??
5. Don’t make work - instead of sending me back to the text and having to think of another name - why not throw a couple of suggestions at me? Do some simple shortening of the name or remove/replace the characters and just let me click on one of those to proceed.
This error message just feels like one written by the developer who knows by heart which fields accept what and where - not a typical user…
I’ve been refreshing my websites lately and putting in fresh analytics. There are great analytics tools out there for the fully functional website, but for the basic data I’m looking for Google Analytics gets the job done nicely and for a price you can’t beat.
But apparently Google Analytics has gone into advanced stages of Alzheimers…
Every time I go to www.google.com/analytics Google greats me like the guy from the movie Memento who can’t create new memories - explaining to me all the things its product has to offer as if I hadn’t just been here every day in the last week. This could be forgiven if this was a security/privacy thing demanding you to login each time like Gmail does. But Google doesn’t get any points for this because if you’re already logged into your Google account then clicking the “Sign-In” button takes you directly to your analytics dashboard without signing in.
What the hell Google?! You can’t check that I’m already logged in and take me there?
I know my context - I’m here to see how my sites are doing and if/how I can make them better. YOU know my context because you already know it’s ME and what I’m tracking. So why are you just dumping your self-promotion on me again? Especially if I’ve ALREADY BOUGHT INTO IT!
If you know who your user is, if you know what he came to your site to see and if you already have that information available - just show it to him! Don’t just stand there going “oooo look how shiny!” on something I already have.
And if - for whatever reason - you need to have this separate step - then why not make the information you show useful to me? Don’t show me random features, show me specific features that I’m not using and could benefit from. Give me a peak of data I haven’t seen and what it could do for me. Make me buy into something new, don’t re-sell me what I already have.
Tel-Aviv setup a pretty awesome bike rental service. You pick up a bike from any of the 100+ stations spread across the city and you can drop it off at any other station. It’s a great way to get around. If only you knew where there were stations at your destination…
See the guys at Tel-O-Fun (that run this operation) put up a website with all the stations so you can find one close to you. Only they did it all using Flash So you can’t run it on any of the top 10 most sold phones in Israel. At all.
*Side note: “Enjoy” and “Flash required” rarely go together….
I mean this is just another dumbfounding case of not understanding the usage of your products/service. One of the first things you do when starting a project like this is setting personas - those representations of your target audience that you can use to understand their context and mindset when using your product.
The first persona to think of for inner-city biking is the 20-something-year-old in the street looking to get somewhere not-to-far-away that hops on a bike, gets to his destination and needs to know where to park his damn bike. That’s your main target audience! And you make a product without a way for him to find a destination?!
DUMP THE FUCKING FLASH! Just a list with a link to map photos would be infinitely more useful… Or use Google Maps for mobile. Or God forbid write a freakin’ app!
Update: Yahoo! has completely redesigned their web interface for mail and not only is this problem fixed - they’ve actually made a lot of usability improvements!
I’m checking my Yahoo! WebMail ( yes I still have on of those for the stuff I don’t want in my regular mail box shut up!)
I see a mail I’m interested in. I click on it and it opens up in the majority of the screen clear enough to read. Then I’m done and I want to go back to the inbox. No problem I was just there let me just click this button that says bac…. WTF HAPPENED?!
That’s right. Yahoo Webmail, when clicking back from a mail, redirects out of the account altogether to whatever you were doing before you went to mail.yahoo.com.
EVERY. FUCKING. TIME.
Back means one step back. The world is filled with people who know that “Back” means one step back to where I was before I clicked what brought me here. It does not mean put the car in reverse and floor it till you drive through the goddamn Starbucks possibly while screaming “Yahooooooo!”. Oh - that might explain this and everything else going on in Yahoo these days come to think of it.
Anyway - Yahoo - Familiarity and Predictability are pretty important concept in UX of… well… everything. This is neither.
One of the biggest usability pains that always pushes me over the edge is the City-State-Zip Form Crapzilla that’s invaded the internet. If you ever register or buy anything online in the US you can’t avoid it. Even all the big boy websites like Amazon and PayPal are guilty.
Every zip code is associated with a single city and a single state. So instead of just getting a zip code database and doing a simple lookup for the user, every user has to do the work. WHY?!
Hell why not ask us for our birthdate and age too?
And it’s just laziness… Stupid laziness…
And to prove how ANNOYINGLY LAZY and user experience disrespectful it is - I’m going to build a web service that gets you city and state for US zip codes writing this post.
Start time: 11:15pm
1. Google ”Zip Code Database”
2. Find complete databases for free or under $50
3. Download, load into database and write a web service that takes a zip code and outputs city and state
4. That’s it. We’re done.
Finish time: 11:47pm.
On average a city name has about 9 letters, and selecting a state from a list is another step. So 9 + 1 = 10 clicks for every user. Multiply that by the number of users who have Amazon, PayPal, Etsy, ETrade and every other site online and you have more than A BILLION WASTED CLICKS!
That could have been replaced with $50, 10 lines of code, And 30 minutes of work…
There’s only ONE website I’ve seen that make the huge effort - Apple’s online store.
Update: looks like Square does this too now. Cheers for UX oriented companies.