Posts Tagged ‘users’

The abusive relationship with digital interfaces

Posted on: April 3rd, 2012 by Fransgaard 1 Comment

The Internet is still new compared with the length of existence of the human race, let alone the existence of the planet. Traditionally the Internet was built with technology (and technology constraints) in mind and users and usability much further down the line.

Don’t get me wrong usability and user-friendly interfaces online are much better now than they’ve ever been but we as users have become so used to bad interfaces being the norm that we often blame ourselves if we can’t figure out how to use a website.

The obvious culprit is the individuality and inconsistency between websites. One website might teach us that a star icon means we are favouriting an item while another website wants us to accept that the star icon is a function to express appreciation of an item.

Industry accepted abuse

But less obvious is how industry accepted standards are abusing us, the users. On purpose? No, ofcourse not. These standards were agreed for a good reason… or for the lack of a better solution.

An example of such a standard is the masked passwords. Originally masked out from a paranoid delusion that crooks would be able to stand unnoticed behind you looking as you type in your password.

Masked passwords is a minor nuisance on a computer screen, but it becomes a real pain on a mobile phone, even a potential show-stopper. After you’ve enter your password wrong you are then faced with an illegible captca. Can your patience really cope with that?

A very simple solution is to give the users the option to turn password masking on and off.

Captcha hell

Captcha’s is another one of those standards testing our patience. Some are close to illegible and some uses words so obscure that various auto-correct tools insists on “fixing” them to something recognisable, but unfortunately wrong.

Why can’t a captcha be human-friendly like “Choose the colour of the giraffe illustration” or “Write the answer to this: What is 2+2?”. Why do they have to be like reading a subliminal message in a stereogram?

The answer is: They don’t

What to do

I hope I have made your blood boil a bit, but cool down for a second and ask yourself as a user; “Have I ever actually complained to the owners of a website that abuses me?”

And as a digital professional it is your responsibility to challenge innovative ideas as well as established conventions on behalf of the users.

Often the users feel nobody are actually listening if they submit a complaint leaving them, in theory, only with the option to leave the site in favour of a competitor.

But so many other factors come in play determining whether jumping ship is feasible.

  • Is the site’s price the cheapest?
  • Are users staying simply because they discouraged by the prospect of having to learn yet another complex site?
  • And is there a direct competitor to the site at all?

But what if an alternative suddenly appeared? Could it trigger a mass migration? Dangerous prospects for a company.

It is up to you, me and the rest of the digital industry to be the champions of the users. Both to help them as well as to prevent a rebellion against your client’s website.