Rude User Interfaces

It seems like I’ve been running into rude user interfaces left and right these days.  Because of this, I am going to enumerate some of the characteristics of rude user interfaces (which are also characteristics of rude people) in the hopes that at least I will remember not to commit these crimes against users.  I have been a victim of all these crimes.

making the user repeat themselves needlessly

  • We have some homebrew project tracking software at work.  Any time another field fails validation, it clears your notes field.  Rude.  Sure, things like Lazarus can help with that, but how many times have users without such a plugin had their time wasted by such rude user interfaces?
  • The auto mechanic I currently use has an online appointment system that lets you enter what services you want.  However, every time I show up, they ask me “So, what are we doing for you today?”  They are too lazy to read their screen, so they inconvenience me with restating what I already told them.
  • Every address form that asks for the city and state before the zip code.  Wrong!  You could automatically fill in the city and state for the user from the zip code they provide.

overzealous validation

  • Suppose your web form has a number field.  You decide that you are going to validate each character entered so it can only be a number.  Wrong!  Your user interface is rude.  Some people use text expansion software so they don’t have to remember long numbers.  You should only validate input in its final form.
  • Suppose you have a field that accepts a phone number.  The user enters just numbers, and you inform them that they need to enter (s or -s or other formatting characters.  Wrong!  Your user interface is rude.  You are making the user jump through hoops that you already know how to jump through for them.

making the user switch between mouse and keyboard for a single task

  • You have a password field.  You’ve been nice enough to provide a little eyeball to click to see the password (some UIs are even so rude as to not provide that).  But, you failed to provide a keyboard shortcut to show the password.  Now the user has to switch from keyboard to mouse and back.  Rude!
  • In general, not making your UI keyboard navigable is rude.

assuming everyone uses the same keyboard layout

  • You have some form that accepts numbers only as typed (again, bad idea).  You add insult to injury by validating on the keyboard scan codes rather than the actual character events.  Thus, you force the user to switch keyboard layouts just to fill out your extremely rude number field.

making user select from a zillion unlikely options

  • You know the user is from the US using US English.  But, to be rudely internationalized you present an alphabetical list of all the countries instead of putting USA at the top.  This is the equivalent of answering the question “Can you get me a drink?” with a yes, doing nothing, and then making the person restate the request as “Will you get me a drink now?”  Rude.

calling a field something it is not

  • 7 Days to Die has a field called “IP address” that you can put a hostname into.  This is misleading and therefore rude.

nested scrollbars

  • No.

self-managed windows

  • Toad, you are so very rude in this regard.  Why don’t you use normal windows that behave like other windows.

removing options placed at the top from the main list

  • Okay, you’ve been nice enough to put United States at the top of your country list.  However, your intrepid user is so used to being mistreated that they don’t even notice it and resign themselves to scrolling through the massive country list–only to find it is not there.  They double check, then curse your name.  You’ve done them wrong!  Do not remove the option from the main list just because you provided it at the top for convenience.

overzealous time outs

  • "Welcome to the real world", she said to me
    Condescendingly
    Take a seat
    Take your life
    Plot it out in black and white

    A couple minutes later, “your session has timed out–please log in again.”  And of course, the one minute of your life history you managed to jot down has been erased.  How rude!

making the user remember something you already know

  • In the early days of Google Play, it could not do automatic video playback bookmarks even though Amazon and Netflix had managed to do them since the dawn of time.

overwriting UI configuration on update

  • Windows, you are so rude.  Every time you update, I have to reinstall the Programmer Dvorak keyboard layout and fiddle with settings.  Somehow Linux has managed to incorporate this layout in its built-in options and not override my settings each time it updates.  You make me type my password with the onscreen keyboard and don’t even set focus to the only text field on the screen when I pop it up.  You get a rudeness gold medal for this one.

not learning how to do your job

  • I sometimes ask Cortana for specific options within Windows by exact name, and she can’t find them.  Learn how to do your job, Cortana.  Also, if she was good at her job, I would not feel the need to install Launchy.

giving the user useless crap that was not requested

  • Kindle, I do not want your extra citation crap when I copy something.  I do not want your funky nonprintable characters.  Nor do I want you to wreck the indentation of copied code snippets.  Also, you can’t seem to sync my categories across multiple instances to save your life.  Nor do you sync PDFs I import.  You truly are a bastion or rudeness.
  • Spam and ads fall into this category of rudeness.

TMI

  • I had Box send me a notification that it successfully copied something to the clipboard.  Thank you so much, Box, for that valuable status report.  Perhaps you can elaborate on how much memory was used in that operation, what other processes were running, the time in milliseconds when this occurred and other fascinating, important details of such an amazing accomplishment.

vague and/or cryptic error messages

  • A popup appears saying “An error has occurred.”  Great.  That explains everything.  I know exactly what to do now.
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