Read my latest article: 8 things I look for in a Ruby on Rails app (posted Thu, 06 Jul 2017 17:59:00 GMT)

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.