Jun 012013

For everything we’ve learned about how to make good software, there’s still some pretty glaring failures out in the world that aren’t so much technical failures as they are somebody either choosing to make a bad feature that they should know better than to do, or just not fixing something that people should have realized was a bad idea and fixed long ago. Regardless, here’s a list of things that should be left to die out in the name of making the planet a better place to live. 

First and most offensive, your links to your content that plays a video should make it painfully obvious that when I open that page, a video is going to start playing. Having people pull up a page, often in a new tab in their browser, thinking they’re getting some type of article, only to end up with noise coming from 1 of the many tabs they opened, none of which were labeled “Things will start auto-playing if you click this link” drives people crazy. While it’ll make people want to find the page in their sea of tabs, it won’t be to spend time on your site or click the ads there, it’ll be to close the tab as fast as possible. Quit surprising your users with things they weren’t expecting, tell them when media will play.  This applies triply if the noise-making media isn’t even the main content of the page in the first place. Remember the Principle of Least Astonishment – if I do a double-take because noise I wasn’t expecting came from your page, I probably hate you a little bit, and will also be avoiding your site and thus (any ad views/clicks you need for revenue).

These next two grips are from the Exchange web client, which bug me the most because I also use other email clients that don’t do this to me. First and foremost, this thing has access to a large address book. I know this because I use it to find people’s email addresses. However, when I start typing addresses in the “To:” field, it only tries to suggests the names of people I’ve already emailed. However, when I sit down at my Mac laptop and pull up the default Mail.app, I can start typing any name from the address book and my mail client can find them. This is pathetic. Mail’s not even remotely close to a major selling point for OS X, nor is Apple really an application company, and it’s rinky-dink little built-in mail client is much more useful than an email client that Microsoft is charging money for. Outlook is very busy not helping me find people I’m trying to email – in fact, it’s so busy, that it can’t be bothered to stop things like letting me reply to myself. My trash folder is littered with messages to other people that I’ve instead emailed to myself because on clicking “Reply”, Microsoft can’t be bothered to find the most person who isn’t me that contributed to the email conversation. Again, the Mail.app client on my laptop doesn’t do this. Gmail doesn’t do this. The problem has clearly been solved – unless you’re a company being run by Steve Ballmer. There are all kinds of things that make my job legitimately hard, like getting the code I’m writing to work, the last thing I need is tools designed to make more productive making my life harder.

My last 2 gripes are basically ad gripes. Not so much with the principle of sites I don’t pay for showing me ads. And while I understand the importance of making sure ads are seen by people, but putting a huge ad over my page is a little irritating. It jumps to wildly irritating when the thing I need to click to make the ad go away is anything other that out in front and easy to find. If you’re going to actively block what I want to see with something I didn’t open the page for, at least make it easy to get back to what I was trying to do. Anything else just makes your site less useable and easy for me to replace the second more easily-accessible content is found. And while I’m kvetching about ads, rollover ads should be a capital offense. I shouldn’t have to lose what I’m doing on a webpage to an ad because I moved my mouse wrong. Just come up with a display ad, or have your page stop on the ad before moving on to the content I want, but for the love of all that is holy don’t put me on a page I want to be on and then take it away so you can show me a ****ing ad. And if you ever buy things from those 2 styles of ads, you are a terrible human being who is making the Internet worse. Click on (non-rollover) banner ads, news stream ads, ads in the sidebar, go nuts. But stop making people think you’re interested in things that hijack your page.

You’d think, in 2013, we’d have progressed beyond crap like this, but apparently we haven’t. While it’s probably too late for the sites doing the kinds of things listed here already, it’s probably best for the web if moving forward we made a point to not make avoidable mistakes like these. In the meantime, I’m probably going to start looking for ways around sites that treat users like crap in favor of more useful parts of the web. After all, these are the kinds of things that shouldn’t still be happening.

 Posted by at 10:54 PM