I had two prime examples of good software and bad software this week, and it wasn’t even in products I was supposed to test! I’ve been interested in software design for some time now but I cannot stand coding. The interaction of people and software is something I really enjoy and would like to do more of at some point. I loved Allan Coopers book ( About Face ) and how it got deep into that interaction.
One of the things that has really gotten on my nerves of late is that I sense a lack of caring about this interaction design, not only by managers, but by individual developers as well. They aren’t bothered that their error messages don’t help the user, the don’t care that their feature is hard to use, or hey don’t have time to “do it right”. There are some people who still put forth the extra effort to increase the experience and it’s helpful. I think the majority of the problem is that they are designing something that they don’t use. They don’t run the software from the UI or think that a user would do a certain action because they didn’t stop them from selecting that option.
Here are the two examples that I wanted to illustrate.
The first is our time tracking software, which I hate ( I understand that accountants need to see information to bill customers but using a systems that is hard to use for the over 2,000 people that use it for the benefit of the 6 people that need it seems a bit extreme to me). I entered an invalid code here and this is the error message. I would love a message telling me which item is incorrect and what I needed to do to correct it but the message I get is not helpful at all. Not only that but it changed the column width different from the others which I don’t understand.
The Good message comes from a add-on for a game. A lot of the game and social network UI work is very interesting to me, I think a large part of it’s success is the fact that the developers here do actually use what they are creating. Most of them create it for themselves first and then release it to a wider audience. This tool uploads a log file that contains some game data to review later. I can’t get it to work right now because of a firewall issues. There is an apparent shortcoming of the app, in that I can’t load something but so often, I’m guessing that it’s because the resolution in the log doesn’t go down to seconds. However, it tells me what the problem is, and what I need to do to fix it. A few things would be better here, it could show me the countdown of how much time is left in that minute so I can submit again, or it could have an option to send it automatically when that minute is up. However the message it gives now is great and I know what to do. Now if I could only get the firewall to let it through.
I do like to visit Ben Simo’s site ( Is there a problem here? ) that has collections of error messages from time to time to laugh, cry, and generally wonder why some app developers just don’t seem to care anymore.