The Design of Software (CLOSED)

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Pet Peeves on software design

The web seems to have no place for users to list there pet peeves for software designers to post what they find annoying about programs they use.

Let me start:
  I hate programs that assume internet access is always available and attempt to open a browser window whenever the mood hits them.  This is especially annoying for those of us who work on notebook computers.
R L Auble Send private email
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
 
 
My pet peeve is software that has less functionality than the manual equivalent.

One culprit is Greyhound.  Reading their paper bus schedules, it was easy to determine timing even though some routes only operate on certain days of the week, because the days were noted on the schedule.

The Web-based schedule system requires a trip date be input.  I do not always know the date of the trip.  The date might even depend on the schedule.  To get the full schedule information, I have to enquire once for each day of the week.

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
 
 
+1 to Gene, I can't stand travel-planning on the web.

I hate pretty much any software that assumes it's smarter than I am, and offer as a prime example Microsoft Excel's auto-formatting. Try typing "1/8" in a cell in Excel, and you'll notice that the program assumes you must mean "January 8" and helpfully formats your input. Of course, this can be overridden, but it's an annoyance nevertheless. Why can't it just behave appropriately and pass my input in without any munging? If I want a cell (or range of cells) formatted as a date, I'm smart enough to explicitly say so if that's what I need!
BrotherBeal Send private email
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
 
 
Sites that do not accept MM/DD as valid date input.

I've been using several travel sites this week, and they all do this.

IF I DON'T PUT IN A YEAR JUST DEFAULT IT, YOU IDIOT!
Jason Send private email
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
 
 
Web sites that don't allow spaces in credit card numbers.

Come on, the cards have numbers to reduce errors.

I've encountered this in web sites for really big retailers too - where they've spent millions on the site.

Also phone numbers.  There is a standard North American phone number format, well known to all: (800) 555-1212.

This is clearly all from a U.S. perspective.
What is this Web stuff, anyway
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
 
 
Funny, I thought talking about Pet Peeves (without calling them that) was what people are doing ALL the time anyway.
AllanL5
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
 
 
Non-responsive UI. Currently the worse offender is VS2005, which I am using every day.
Phil
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
 
 
> The web seems to have no place for users to list there pet peeves

????
The web has thousands of places for you to list whatever you want

Thursday, August 28, 2008
 
 
Data-centric user interfaces instead of user-centric user interfaces. By this I mean user interfaces that are simply grid views on top of the underlying table data. Your users do not need or want to have to understand the underlying data layout. And the underlying data layout often doesn't match their understanding of what they are trying to accomplish.

The next time you consider trying to automate user interface creation off of database tables do your users a favor... don't!
dood mcdoogle
Thursday, August 28, 2008
 
 
I've been considering starting a blog just to list stupid UI problems and simple fixes for some of them.

I know I have lots of examples in my daily software that has dumb UI issues... not because the UI can't handle it, but because the programmer's who created the UI were to lazy to do their job right.
Eric D. Burdo Send private email
Thursday, August 28, 2008
 
 
I hate numeric fields such as SSNs or phone numbers that don't allow hyphens or spaces. How  hard is it to write a couple lines of code to strip them out before validating the number?

I scream every time I enter xxx-xx-xxxx only to be told I can't use dashes and have to retype xxxxxxxxx. Same for phone numbers or any long sequences of numbers.

Lame in the extreme.
let me insert data in a human friendly format
Thursday, August 28, 2008
 
 
"Non-responsive UI. Currently the worse offender is VS2005, which I am using every day."

If you have a weak dev. system, then yes VS2005 is a hog. However, you may also be running the virus scan (may be by a company policy setting) or way too many apps or your solution is huge. Once all IntelliSense is loaded and VSS is all checked - I find even my solution of 107 project runs OK. Load Task Manager and check what else is running.
asmguru62 Send private email
Thursday, August 28, 2008
 
 
>> I find even my solution of 107 project runs OK.

Firstly my machine is a top of the line quad xeon, fastest computer I've ever used.

My solution is indeed huge and I'd probably agree it runs OK. It's just the constant pause and UI freeze are really annoying when you use it all day long.

To make things worse, I've written apps for my own use and they are super snappy. The contrast makes vs2005 even more annoying. As I have to use it, it has to be my pet peeve.
Phil
Friday, August 29, 2008
 
 
I hate software that thinks it's important enough to install itself into your Programs -> Startup folder, add a registry entry to run an agent for itself on startup, install a service to check for updates and host an icon in the system tray which pops up a crappy message every now and then.

The most offending ones tend to me media players eg RealPlayer or QuickTime - or even Acrobat, a bloody document viewer.

WTF?
If I could make someone dead with my mind...
Friday, August 29, 2008
 
 
VS2005 needs to be restarted time to time - especially on big solution. We had cases, where devs were just switching monitor and going home, leaving VS running. After a week - it will stop compiling.
asmguru62 Send private email
Friday, August 29, 2008
 
 
"I know I have lots of examples in my daily software that has dumb UI issues... not because the UI can't handle it, but because the programmer's who created the UI were to lazy to do their job right."

Or maybe it's not the programmer's job in the first place. It's a conflict of interest. You can't design a compelling, usable interface if you're constantly thinking about how to implement it. That's how the gap between the user's mental model and the programmer's system model gets closed and the UI just looks like a grid on top of a database table.

You might as well give everyone a copy of Toad and be done with it.
MT Heart
Friday, August 29, 2008
 
 
Here is another of mine.  It is covered somewhat by others above.  If the input can be cleaned, it should be cleaned.

If the case is always one kind, the input should be adjusted.  A Canadian Postal Code is always in upper case.  If someone enters
    v2c 6n7
(likely since the rest of the address will be mainly lower case), software should convert it to the canonical form.

Formatted codes should have punctuation adjusted.  Space can be punctuation; it is with credit cards.  That includes credit card numbers.  That includes personal identity numbers (U.S.A.'s SSN, Canada's SIN, et al).

Some items may be difficult to format because the formatting varies.

At the least, do not mess it up.  This particularly applies to phone numbers.  With the North America Calling Plan,
    123-123-1234
does it, but this does not work for other countries.  This has shown up on call display units trying to display overseas numbers in the NACP form.

If the formatting varies on value, either strip the punctuation or show it correctly.  ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is like this.  There are always three hyphens, but where they are depends on the value.  (This is so companies can be assigned blocks of values appropriate to their size.)

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Friday, August 29, 2008
 
 
A software forum that assumes piggybacking on the local browser history is "good enough" to assume what I already read? Is this the 90's? I use about 5 machines on a regular basis. Am I supposed to RDT over to the "special" machine just to have a decent forum experience?
Vee
Friday, August 29, 2008
 
 
My meta-pet-peeve: There's no good, universally accepted way of making a suggestion, and then seeing what the "real" response to your suggestion was.

My meta-pet-peeve amendment: There's no good way to see what suggestions were made in the past, by other people, and what the "real" response to those were.

For example, I can tolerate the hyphens-in-numbers issue mentioned above if they'd actually admit any of the following:

A) That functionality was never explicitly requested in the requirements stage, and adding it now has rather expensive maintenance costs.

B) We are planning a revamp of the entire interface (or system) in the near future and rather than fix it now, we will incorporate your suggestion into that version.

C) We did extensive user interface testing, and while we regret it inconveniences you, 93% of our users found the interface faster and easier to understand if they didn't have to worry about hyphens.

or...

D) Our programmer is an idiot. We fired him. Now we don't have anyone who knows how to make that change.
TheDavid
Friday, August 29, 2008
 
 
My meta-meta-pet-peeve:  meta-pet-peeves suck.
doofusandgallant Send private email
Friday, August 29, 2008
 
 
My meta-meta-meta-pet-peeve: People who criticize something without offering a solution.
TheDavid
Saturday, August 30, 2008
 
 
Non-standard shortcuts. When it ain't broke, why fix it?

I use Textpad (text editor) every day, and every bloody day I hit Ctrl+F to do a find. Does it open the Find dialog? Of course not, that's what F5 is for!

Drives me up the bloody wall. And the worst part is, you just know that the development team over at Textpad think they have a really good reason for doing this - that their Find is somehow unique and different to everybody else's Find.
Will
Sunday, August 31, 2008
 
 
For some reason here at my work we have some Textpad licenses and a lot of people use it. So when I just started here I figured I'd blend in and switch from Vim to textpad (I was switching from Linux to Windows anyway and hey, how could anyone screw up a text editor?) So, 3 hours later and hitting ctrl-f like 20 times, I dumped that PoS and installed Vim. I don't have ctrl-f there either but hitting / in Textpad didn't work, either :)

And the way Textpad handles open files! Why waste so much screen space with a big wide bar on the lefT? A million other text editor have tabs, why not use that?

Consider this a few of my pet peeves :)
Joske Vermeulen
Monday, September 01, 2008
 
 
I hate:
- The idiotic MM/DD/YYYY date format.
- Websites that require a county and a zip code.
- Websites that don't include my country in their list (they include 100 countries, and mine is not in the list).
- Websites that don't allow multiple sessions in different tabs.
Totally Agreeing
Monday, September 01, 2008
 
 
"The idiotic MM/DD/YYYY format"
I agree - the ordering makes no sense - the value of middle significance first, then the least significant value followed by the most significant one. This causes people to easily input day and month in reverse unless they are born and raised in the US. In general, I use YYYY-MM-DD for my own date formats, this even allows you to use it as a sorting key! If there is any reason someone might be confused I write MMM as three-letter month abbreviation, e.g. Sep (of course, then you can't sort by it anymore).
ILoveFortran
Monday, September 01, 2008
 
 
Vee - create a login and use it.  You'll find that your links will now be consistent across machines.
Mark Ransom Send private email
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
 
 
TheDavid: "For example, I can tolerate the hyphens-in-numbers issue mentioned above if they'd actually admit any of the following:

A) That functionality was never explicitly requested in the requirements stage, and adding it now has rather expensive maintenance costs."

There is a time and place for dealing with implicit points.  An ISBN has hyphens in it.  Check any book in the last umpty-ump years.  It is not as if a new data type is being defined.

"B) We are planning a revamp of the entire interface (or system) in the near future and rather than fix it now, we will incorporate your suggestion into that version."

It is handy to say that.  If all that the end user sees in response is nothing, or a we-got-your-suggestion, that is not sufficient communication.

"C) We did extensive user interface testing, and while we regret it inconveniences you, 93% of our users found the interface faster and easier to understand if they didn't have to worry about hyphens."

Input: Ignoring the hyphens for input is probably the easiest.  If the end user enters an ISBN with the hyphens incorrectly placed but with the ISBN otherwise valid, who would reject it?  Quietly reformatting it would make more sense.

Output: Either way is likely fine, but do check this.

"or...

D) Our programmer is an idiot. We fired him. Now we don't have anyone who knows how to make that change."

Which of your competitors did he go to work for?  We may be needing to switch suppliers in the near future.

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
 
 
I hate automatic phone systems, which require me to speak my question, rather than providing me a list of choices to key in.

Several years ago, for a few days, the LIRR provided no alternative, but to speak the name the train stations.  It was horrible.  Call length increased ten-fold as most had the menu options memorized.  Within a few days the system was updated with an option to use the keypad.
Michael
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
 
 
1) Everything to do with MS Word, the autocorrection features being one major offender.

2) Using multiple PC's and constantly manually synchronizing crap like MS Word preferences between them.

3) Companies changing stuff that I was perfectly happy with before they changed it, MS Word being but one major offender. I don't consider some stupid ribbon thingie to be an innovation worthy of relearning everything. Of course, as a developer, I am constantly guilty of inflicting this on others.
Greg Send private email
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
 
 
Greg: "1) Everything to do with MS Word, the autocorrection features being one major offender."

Nailed it!  Big points for Greg.

Word once "corrected" my E-mail address on my resume.  It is good that I caught the flash as the screen updated.

I used to type articles in Word and import them into Publisher.  Word would mess with the margins to set the tab.  When the text was imported, those pargraphs with modified margins would have no tab.  Getting this to work right required changing a setting in Auto -- ha, ha! -- Correct.

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
 
 
Following up on something Gene and Greg implied, I suspect one of the problems is just simply that users know when something is wrong but cannot articulate exactly what is wrong or what the correct behavior should be. This is not to imply Gene and Greg are at fault but rather that the developer often hears "this is bad," and simply tries a new solution which may or may not be correct.

As a result, I stand by my original assertion that one of the biggest flaws in software design today is simply the lack of a feedback mechanism where the end-user and the developer can discuss the issue until one party or both are illuminated.

There are practical reasons for not wanting to spend all day talking to customers, but I assert, somebody somewhere somehow should be able to find a technical middle ground that works, even if it's just a software agent interrupting the conversation to say "excuse me, this has been talked about before and the answer is X."

To illustrate, I'm taking Gene's nitpicking of my responses as rhetorical but I did see at a glance that further discussion was warranted. I just wish that when I complain to Microsoft about Office 2007 and the way Word screws up my work-flow, somebody, something there will "sit down and chat" with me until I'm satisfied.
TheDavid
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
 
 
"As a result, I stand by my original assertion that one of the biggest flaws in software design today is simply the lack of a feedback mechanism where the end-user and the developer can discuss the issue until one party or both are illuminated."

The feedback loop has existed for quite some time. It's called the User Experience Group. I still don't get why many companies haven't figured this out yet.

What are they afraid of?
MT Heart
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
 
 
"I stand by my original assertion that one of the biggest flaws in software design today is simply the lack of a feedback mechanism where the end-user and the developer can discuss the issue until one party or both are illuminated."

It's hard to comment on this given the wide variety of industries and types of development shops. But in general I agree. I think OUR developers are FAR too insulated from customers. Most of them are TERRIFIED to take a meeting and prefer to buffer everything through analysts. As a result there is a great culture of cynicism towards users here.

There is a saying along the lines of, "it's a lot easier to hate someone you have not met", I think this is very true!

I also think it's funny how the same developers who think users are pansies when we shove a Ribbon down their throats, or change a font on something, scream bloody murder when something gets arbitrarily changed in their IDE.
Greg Send private email
Friday, September 05, 2008
 
 
37 Signals linked to this piece recently by David Pogue; "It's the software, not you".

http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/31/its-the-software-not-you/?scp=9&sq=software&st=cse

Honestly, I think _nothing_ is going to improve in UI design (and I don't mean the software that implements the design) until companies start taking it more seriously. And that won't happen until high profile injuries or deaths occur because of it and CEOs are hauled off to jail.
MT Heart
Friday, September 05, 2008
 
 
I hate ystems that do not handle or allow an apostrophe in a surname.  When I'm feeling charitable I send a note to offenders who have SQL injection problems.  When a system refuses to accept my name, I just stew and, if possible, take my business elsewhere.

Take-away: always have names like "O'Brien" in your test data.
We used to be Irish Send private email
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
 
 
An instructor in the computing science department at my uni has a family name of O'Neil.  He says that he runs into a lot of problems.

Too many people do not think of the unusual cases.  Another instructor, after telling us about COBOL's IS ALPHABETIC, said you could use it to test names.  (I assume this was a throwaway suggestion.)  My IMMEDIATE response was, "Kevin [the instructor above] isn't going to like this."  I am not sure that anyone else in the class understood my remark although Kevin was the department chair at the time.

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Thursday, September 11, 2008
 
 

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