Read my latest article: Ezra Zygmuntowicz -- Farewell, Friend. (posted Mon, 01 Dec 2014 17:53:00 GMT)

Google Chrome: discuss

Posted by Tue, 02 Sep 2008 02:40:00 GMT

I’m sure that most of you heard the news that Google is releasing a new web browser named Chrome. Their comic for the announcement was very refreshing and entertaining read. Granted… nobody that I know has seen it (as of today)...

For me, I’m really interested in seeing what they’ve done to hopefully improve some of the short-comings of the user experience through their interaction design process. For example, tabs containing their own url/search fields sounds refreshing (I really dislike the hierarchy currently). Also, I’m really looking forward to their dashboard-like default page.

Google Chrome - Google Book Search

From a web development standpoint, it definitely raises questions about what we’ll be able to do in the coming year(s).

What are your initial thoughts on this? Discuss…

Update: Gary came across this amusing quote from a response by a representative at Microsoft.

“The browser landscape is highly competitive, but people will choose Internet Explorer 8 for the way it puts the services they want right at their fingertips … and, more than any other browsing technology, puts them in control of their personal data on-line,” Hachamovitch said. (read article on CNN)

I’m really not sure what that even means. Don’t we already have our online services at our fingertips? I suspect CNN interviewed the wrong person.. because this person said nothing.

Update #2: Only a PC version available… OSX / Linux are in development. Oh well…

Tip: Save your users 15+ seconds of their day

Posted by Thu, 31 Jan 2008 18:42:00 GMT

Since understanding the context is so important when designing interfaces, I wanted to point out one of those things that caused me to shake my head at.

When logging into our Basecamp account this afternoon (via openid)... I was presented the following helpful notice.

know your user
Uploaded with plasq’s Skitch!

What’s amusing in this scenario… is that I’m sure that Basecamp knows that I’m logged in via openid and it is, in fact, displaying the OpenBar across the top of the page. Yet, it’s making this helpful recommendation that I’m obviously already aware of.

What harm is there? Well, in this scenario, I caught it and thought, “wow, this isn’t helpful or informative.” Over time, it’s these short-lived experiences that affect our overall perceptions of the product.

When we’re designing and developing applications, we must be very consistent with how we communicate with our audience. We don’t need to provide them information that isn’t relevant to them.

I’m not picking on Basecamp here, I’m sure that they have great intentions with this, but as a developer, I know that it doesn’t take a whole lot of extra work to avoid small problems like this, which could lead your people to feel like you’re not being respectful of their time.

Saving customers 15-30 seconds is something that we can quantify.

  • 100 customers = 25-50 minutes
  • 1,000 customers = ~4-8 hours
  • 10,000 customers = 40-80 hours
  • etc…

Just a little reminder that it’s easy for us to overlook things like that can make a difference.

Review: FogBugz, part 1

Posted by Tue, 01 Jan 2008 21:43:00 GMT

Today, I thought that I’d give FogBugz a quick trial. A few of our Rails consulting clients use it and I’m hearing that others are as well.

Along the way, I’m bringing one of my favorite tools so that I can share some things thoughts (visually) along the way.

Signing up for a free trial

My first impression of FogBugz was, “nice homepage design… but what is that screenshot of?”

I’m not a designer, but the interface in the screenshot isn’t jumping out to me as something that you’d expect to see in a modern web application. While I appreciate the default browser colors for links (this is really important)... I think they could have found a better way to distinguish which bug links you’ve previously viewed. It’s very likely that you’ll most bugs many times, so having the color be different might not make sense in the same way it would when reading content on a web site. Again, I’m not a designer and I’d be curious to hear from a designer on this. Just something that I initially thought.

Okay, this sign up form seems really easy to start with. I’m used to free trials being really simple to get going. So, I enter in my sub-domain selection and provide my email address on the following page so that they can confirm that I’m legit.

(several minutes later…)

Okay, this process required me to jump from my browser to my email to my browser back to my email and then back again to my browser. It’s really frustrating for an application to force me to go back and forth between my browser and email client. I think the initial email is something I can cope with, but I found it a bit silly to have to wait for another email to receive a link to login to my new account, especially considering I already knew the URL as that was the first thing that I provided. The application could have provided the link (or redirected me) to the following form, which I had a few things to comment on.

At first glance, this might not seem like much… but I’m becoming more and more disappointed by the choice of language that we’re using in applications. First of all, this is the first time that I’ve seen this page. I’m not changing my password… what you’re really asking me to do is, “Create (or set) a password.” There are other verbs that you could use here, but change really isn’t appropriate. Also, choose doesn’t work here either.


  chose; choos·ing.
  –verb (used with object)
  1.    to select from a number of possibilities; pick by preference:  

What am I choosing from? Again, you’re asking me to create a new password.. not change one and definitely not choose one, unless you’re implying that I should choose one from a collection of ones that I already use.

One might argue that we can make an assumption about what they mean, but it’s simple problems like this that can seriously confuse people that use the software we design and develop. As people interact with minor problems like this, their perception of the software as being helpful and friendly… can quickly deteriorate.

Okay, so that was my first several minutes of getting into my new FogBugz account.

Coming soon… Robby will share his thoughts on managing bugs with FogBugz.

That Checkbox Needs a Label

Posted by Sun, 02 Dec 2007 06:43:00 GMT

As a user of many web applications, I often find myself noticing little things that slow me down. One such thing is the use of checkboxes in web forms. It’s not the problem of checkboxes itself, it’s the face that checkboxes require the user to really focus their attention to a fairly small box on the page and perform a click inside. If you’re filling out a form really quickly, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll take advantage of you your tab key to get through each field quickly. Sometimes there are select boxes, which require the user to make selections with their mouse. Checkboxes drive me crazy because it requires more time to position the cursor and move on.

So, when I see a form like this, I don’t see it being very quick to interact with.

While I’m not in love with the date selection interface here, my bigger pain has been the checkbox in the form. Why? Because they forgot to use the <label for=""> HTML tag.

What’s the problem? Well, I don’t have the convenience of clicking on the label text, which would toggle the corresponding checkbox.

I know, many of you know all about this… but I run into this problem everywhere. This is an accessibility issue for people and really just increases the chances for a frustrating user experience. When you use the label tag properly… it will provide a larger amount of the screen for people to click, which reduces the chance of not clicking in the right spot. The label tag was designed with this in mind so that people could click close enough to trigger the desired action.

Here is an example of where it becomes really useful.

So, the lesson? Please remember to use the label for tag. :-)


<input type="checkbox" id="remember_me" name="remember_me" value="true" />
<label for="remember_me">Remember info?</label>  

This is an easy thing to forget when building web applications. We’ve forgot and I’m sure you have too. I just wanted to point it out though because I see this happen so much… even in new sites.

Perhaps you run into similar problems with web applications that can be fixed with just a little more HTML. Care to share your experiences?

For more information, read Labeling form elements from the Dive Into Accessibility site.

Saying Goodbye Was Never This Hard

Posted by Sun, 02 Dec 2007 06:07:00 GMT

There was a post the other day on Signal vs Noise about the pain of opting out of mailing lists titled, Redonkulous unsubscribe delays, which I was reminded of after the following experience.

Earlier today, I got an email notification from my old Friendster account, which ended up being spam. I hadn’t logged into the account in ages and looked around at my profile and others. No meaningful interaction between my friends in a few years. It’s felt like a ghost town. So, I thought… “should I just delete my account?” I was thinking about doing the same thing with my Facebook account as well, because I’m getting tired of being invited to applications a few times a day due to a friend leaving my name checked when they sign up for a game. (this is getting old…)

So, I decided to kill the Friendster account, which I’ve had since February 2003. Oh… the good ole days of social-networking sites.

Upon filling out a form I got the following error with the notification, “Please list the other social networking site you switched to.”

The tone of this error message is very rude and helped support my decision to leave the site.

While I appreciate that they’re looking for feedback, they shouldn’t demand it out of me. As a result, my response was…

Wait a minute. You’re demanding that I list the sites that I’m switching to… in 20 characters or less? Thanks for giving me the opportunity to LOLBUG you. Sigh. Who makes these interaction decisions there?

If they really wanted to get some useful feedback, perhaps they could have asked me nicer.

So, I decided to head over to Facebook and compare their process.

At first glance, this looks very much like the form that I was presented with on Friendster. Except that I can only select one reason why I am leaving and I can think of a few. However, when I made a selection… something surprised me.

Okay, so maybe I’ll leave my Facebook account around for the time being. Perhaps there is a Facebook application out there that will be get my attention.. but to date, this has yet to happen.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Robby Russell’s Friendster Profile. Feb. 2003 – Dec. 2007. R.I.P.

AT&T Online Support could use some QA

Posted by Wed, 06 Jun 2007 06:15:00 GMT

So, I was trying to send AT&T wireless a support email through their online system and got stuck at the following screen.

Umm... how?

Come on guys… you can design a better form than this… and I’m now going to have to try and sneak in a question under a sub-topic that doesn’t apply to my question… just so I can send you an email?

Getting help shouldn’t be so hard1.

1 At least I can Print this page and show all my friends…

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