Destructive design features

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Andy Lester

Andy Lester
Jul. 26, 2003 07:28 PM

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I'm moving in a few weeks, so I had to ask DirecTV to mount a dish at our new place. I went to, clicked "Customer Care", and then "Moving?". Only two clicks to find what I wanted. Not bad.

Then, I had to dial the phone number: 1-877-616-MOVE. Argh! Why did they have to make it spell something, and only half of something at that? Now it takes two steps for me to dial on my desk phone: 1-877-616, without having to look, and then I have to look at the keypad to find the M, look to find the O, oh crap, wrong key, now start over....

I'm not knocking phone numbers that spell things. They're useful when you have a phone number that you need to recall at a moment's notice without looking it up. 1-800-CALL-ATT is a good example. There was a carpet chain in Chicago that was 312-CARPETS. Those make sense. In this case, it doesn't. I don't need to call the "move my dish" line more than once. Even if I did, how am I going to remember both the 616 part and the MOVE part?

Here's a feature that I've never seen used in a valid way: That damned "Reset Form" web form button. It's like the <BLINK> tag: Web designers put it out on forms, but without really thinking why.

How many times have you seen a form like this?

Type in your search term:

Who is going to intentionally avail himself of that Reset Form button? How long a string does it have to be to make it worth the user's time to just click the Reset Form and start over? "Whew, saved myself 37 backspaces characters! Good thing that button was there!" (Any time discussions of a GUI turn into sounding like Jerry Seinfeld channeling Jakob Neilsen, something's wrong with the GUI...)

An even worse place for the Reset button is the very long form. Ever sign up for one of those free computer rags magazines where you truly are just a couple dozen points of demographics?

1. What is your organization's primary business activity at this location?


47. Are you now or have you ever been involved with purchasing something computer-related?

By the time you get to the bottom of this monstrosity, you've filled out 50 multi-part questions, some with two dozen options of things you might purchase. Now, with Murphy's Law in full force, why in the world would a web designer put such a dangerous button right there? It might as well be labeled

Please think about it next time you put together a web page or form. "Does this design element add to what I'm doing, or is it just mental inertia?"

Andy Lester is a QA & Release Manager for Socialtext. He is also in charge of PR for The Perl Foundation and maintains over 25 modules on CPAN.