Archive for the ‘Usability’ Category

While working with an online spreadsheet program, I noticed something interesting. As you might already know, some web-based applications don’t have a “Save” button. Instead, changes are saved automatically, without any action on your part. Well, in the case of this spreadsheet program, the designers realized that people would still be looking for the missing […]

While making a routine purchase over the weekend, I noticed something rather confusing on the credit card terminal. After swiping my card, it asked me to sign for the purchase. But before I could take the attached stylus and sign in the box, I hit a roadblock. The screen said “Do not sign with pen.” […]

My mom asked me to help with the camera on her new cell phone, and I figured it would be fairly straightforward. Well, I was partially right. Taking a picture was simple enough. But viewing the pictures you’ve already taken was baffling, and I couldn’t figure out what the option was called. After some trial-and-error, […]

It’s really irritating when product designers violate the established conventions or design patterns for a particular interaction. Here are a few examples relating to text and hyperlinks on web pages: – Links that aren’t underlined (making it difficult to tell that they’re links at all) – Regular text that’s blue and underlined (so it ends […]

When I use a local business review site like Yelp, I’m looking for reviews. If a particular business doesn’t have any reviews posted, they’ll typically show a basic “stub” listing with the same info you might find in the yellow pages. This can be helpful if you want to look up a phone number or […]

Lots of articles have been written about the importance of “you are here” navigation within websites and applications. Basically, if a process involves more than one step, you should tell the user how many steps there are in total, and which step they are currently on. Similarly, it’s helpful to give them an easy way […]

While at the doctor’s office on Friday, I noticed a small but simple innovation in how they file their patient records. When you pay with a credit card, a standard-looking receipt comes out of the credit card terminal. One copy is for the patient and the other is for the office. Absent any other instructions, […]

It’s nice that Google tries to show you the train lines that provide service to each station on the map. But I noticed a problem with their approach. Apparently, they pull the name of each train line from the organization’s website. These names can be rather long, e.g. “Metra Union Pacific Northwest Line”, so they […]

Alphabet soup


Say you’re designing a list of features that people will access from a menu on the left side of the screen. When you only have a few items to include, ordering them by popularity or frequency of use probably makes the most sense. But as this scales beyond ten or so items, it becomes cumbersome […]

While making some configuration changes in, I ran into a truly puzzling set of buttons. At the bottom of the page I was editing, I saw the usual buttons for “Save” and “Cancel” — plus another button for “Quick Save”. I don’t have a clue how you can save something faster than normal, and […]