Deploy the Sentinels!

Agent Smith: Never send a human to do a machine’s job.
Agent Brown: If, indeed, the insider has failed, they’ll sever the connection as soon as possible. Unless…
Agent Jones: …they’re dead. In either case…
Agent Smith: …we have no choice but to continue as planned. Deploy the sentinels. Immediately.

King county library system error message: someone is looking for you.

Thanks for sending someone to look for me, KCLS.

Required Fields Galore!

Oh Gobble Green, I love your mission, and your food is delicious, but your form, not so much.

If all the fields on the form are required, you can simply say, “All fields are required.” No need to add the red asterisk. Also, why is Mr. or Ms. required?

Mister Anderson, Download is One at a Time

I bought a couple of audio lectures on Sounds True, a company that publishes awesome woo-woo stuff I’m into.

Sounds True no download all

I’m super excited to listen, but what a buzz kill it was to find out I could not just hit, “Download all”, leave my computer, come back, and, tada! Nope. I had to sit there, click “Go to Files”, download, wait, and repeat.

Sounds Cumbersome? It is. Not an enlightening experience, guys.

GMT, GTL, what?

I’m setting up my  timezone for a webcast in Webex:

Webex time zones

The time zones are listed in order in time difference from Greenwich Mean Time, like GMT -1, GMT +1, etc. Except, I don’t necessarily know right off the top of my head what that is for my city or time zone. I try to find Seattle, but the cities aren’t in alphabetical order. I try to look up my own GMT, but that’s not what this list is organized by. The only option, really, is to scroll up and down. Awesome.

Form Instruction, What’s Your Function?

Despite some effort to resist, I fell for a Living Social deal for 7 days of gluten-free vegan meals, delivered to my doorstep! (It was out of morbid curiosity, alright? Oh… ok, who am I kidding. I do dig the gluten-free vegan stuff. Hold your hippie jokes until the end.)

I went on the website to redeem. Holy mother of all instructions. I had to memorize all of this or open a new window and refer back to this for instruction on each step of the way. Like Mr. Anderson would say, “Whoa”.

Got it?

Never Ask Me Again

Once a week I have to use Internet Explorer for something that pays my bill, so it’s pretty important, but I don’t look forward to it. Every single time, I get this lovely Welcome Screen. There are two options: 1) “Next”, to explore new features in Internet Explorer 8, and 2) “Ask me later”. I choose “Ask me later” because that’s the lesser of two evil. God knows how long “Next” would take, and I just want to get in and get out and be done. Unfortunately, “Ask me later” would inevitably come up again the next week.

Why isn’t there a “Never Ask Me Again” option? Sometimes, that can be the most polite option.

Where's the "Go Away and Never Come Back" option?

Just Kidding about No Thanks

So I’m voting for Seattle’s hottest geek (which, by the way, apparently are all men). Before I can do that, I have to tell Seattle Weekly to please not text or email me. But it ain’t so easy. As you can see in the screen shot, clicking on “No Thanks” doesn’t uncheck any options. It’s a redundant button. If I uncheck everything, by definition, it’s No Thanks. If I check No Thanks, all the other options should uncheck themselves. Grr.

No thanks. No, really. No thanks.

Search for: Better Form Design at Seattle CitySearch

I occasionally use CitySearch, and less occasionally need to log in. Thank God for that. Here’s what happened when I tried using it tonight. I’ve included two Usability Heuristics that apply here. Please click on the screen shots for bigger views if you fancy that.

First, the log in.

Since I don’t remember my username, or if I’m even registered, I signed up for a new account. The system let me put in all the info, waited until I clicked on “Sign Up”, *then* it told me my username already exists. Couldn’t it have done that as soon as I typed it in? That would surely save me some time and effort inputting the other fields. And, the sooner that I found out I was a member, the sooner I can move on to other tasks, such as retrieving my forgotten password.

I'm in the system! Yay?

After all the usual password sent/reset dance, I’m in. Now I’m doing what I came here to do, vote for a business I like and write a comment. It tells me that there’s a 255 character limit. Okay, great. How long is 255 characters? I have no idea. As I typed, there’s no indication of how many characters are left. I’m typing, typing, typing. I click “Post”.

Error! My comment is too long. Okay, but how *much* more too long? How many words should I cut out? I have no idea. All the web site does is tell me emphatically, in red, that my comment must be of a certain length. I know there is a 255 characters max, thank you. But could you help me out by telling me how much I went over the max limit?

I quickly googled for a Character Count tool online and fixed the problem, but what if I didn’t know I could do that? I’d probably throw my towels in and say, to hell with this.

Quick! How many characters are in this box?

Nielsen’s Usability Heuristic #5: Error prevention

Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.

Nielsen’s Usability Heuristic #9: Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors

Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.