Sam’s 5 UX Pet Peeves

HamburgerIn my 1.5 million years in the Internet solutions industry, I have been everything from a business analyst to a Flash animator to a UXA to a creative director. I have done projects as mundane as a wedding blog (in exchange for a gift card, no less…never work for free, folks) and as grandiose and intimidating as a research initiative for a defense contractor that had a 90+ year timeline.

In that time, I’ve naturally acquired a few pet peeves about websites and the people who pay for them. For a while, there were hundreds of things that companies and people did that would set me off, but when Geocities imploded (youngsters, Google it), I was left with just five. Some are trivial, some are significant. All are common, and all hack me off.

5. The term “Hamburger”

I hate this term for the preferences menu on mobile and responsive sites. There are many terms like this that are an indicator of a global misinterpretation of an icon, but this one is front and center because of the mobile project I’ve been on lately. It’s all the more frustrating because it could easily have been avoided by adding a fourth line or a rectangle around the three lines.

I admire minimalist design, especially for information design, and flat, monochromatic icons recall the Euro, street sign, language-agnostic aesthetic that I love, but it’s easy to go too far. Form over function is neither good form nor good function. If your design has created a universally coined term that is not the one you intended, there’s a fail there, whimsical or not.

4. Nasty Forms

First of all, I have yet to see a really great multipage form. It takes some real hubris to ask a web user to enter their most private information into little boxes on a screen to start with, but then to not explain why is shameful. If some information is optional, you need to explain WHY entering it is to the user’s benefit. The days of blind trust should be over, but data mining is still alive and well because it now victimizes only the most vulnerable: the naïve or unsophisticated user. Whether it’s malicious or just bad UX, free trials that require input of a credit card number just scream SCAM, but I see them all the time, and their sole purpose seems to be to create a barrier to cancellation so your card gets charged at least once.

Just let people know why you need each bit of info.

3. “Click Here”

Many click here buttonsThis one could make me homicidal. The words “Click Here” as linked text or button text are the diet soda of calls to action; they are simply empty calories. Completely devoid of SEO value, these paired words should be banned by ICANN. First, “Click”, in this age of touch devices, is an anachronism akin to manual window cranks in cars (again, youngsters, off to Google with you). And “Here” provides no context whatsoever. Can you imagine how this CTA looks to someone using an accessibility assistance device? Just link the words in the sentence, and link to nouns, not verbs, when you can. Do you want more tips on linking text? CLICK HERE.

2. Flat UI

I love minimalist design (see number 5). I really do. Not getting in the way of content is my number one tenet here at Sears. I want you to see the skirt, not my nifty size picker that looks like a closet rack. And I have yet to hop on the increasingly crowded bandwagon of flat UI haters. I mean, I do find it awful, but not for most of the reasons that people are citing. I think almost all of the interface tweaks that IOS7 introduced to my iPhone are the result of thoughtful decisions.

What bugs me about flat UI, though, is that the same designers who really took skeumorphism to it’s absurd extreme switched to the Church of Flatness overnight.

What changed from Wednesday to Thursday? I’m all for drastic and decisive change, but to have marketing amnesia seems a bit insulting to one’s users. What’s more infuriating is that it works.

Of course, there is something related to flat UX that is simply wonderful…this mind blowing Victorian novel.

1. Incorrect or Misleading Infographics

If I could do anything at all, it would be parkour, but jumping from a four story building to land safely on top of a parking meter is incompatible with my love of Toblerone and lengthy periods of sitting immobile. My second, and possibly slightly more attainable, aspiration is to become a great designer of infographics.

There are so many really great infographics out there, from the trivial to the terribly tragic. But for every infographic that communicates data in a digestible format, there are at least 10 others that are irrelevant, mechanically incorrect, or just stupid. It’s not easy to design an infographic. Their simplicity is maddening, and utilizing this simplicity to parse a complex idea is a talent that has more to do with critical thinking and taxonomy rather than graphic design chops.

But why is this my number one pet peeve today? Because of this supposed Venn diagram:


What are your UX pet peeves?

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7 Responses to “Sam’s 5 UX Pet Peeves”

  1. Karol Czyrka →
    March 19, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    Click here is definitely on my list. I would have to add “mystery meat” – the notion that you have to mouse over or interact with an unrecognizable icon or graphic to discover the real content hidden below.

  2. Sam Rhee
    March 19, 2014 at 11:34 am #

    So as I was publishing this, I got an email from LinkedIn:

    “Sam, you are among a special group of members selected to receive a free month of LinkedIn Premium Professional.”

    So I click on their form and guess what? Credit card is required.

  3. Chris Hunter
    March 19, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    But, Sam, if it doesn’t say “Click Here,” how will a visitor know where to click? I’m joking.

    I’m with you on these, but especially the last point. Diagrams are great if they communicate information quickly, and I loves me some Venn diagrams. But overwrought and gratuitous diagrams introduce cognitive burden instead of quickly communicating information.

    BTW, have you noticed the bizarre use of the “hiding hamburger” on the Facebook privacy shortcuts icon?

  4. Mark Hauge
    March 19, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

    I filled out a nasty form that asked for my credit card once, if you know what I mean.

    Good stuff Sam. I definitely agree on the flat UI comments. The hamburger is only a name though, so I doubt it’s going anywhere. Hamburger is more fun to say than menu icon. Shrug.

    My biggest pet peeve in the interactive world would have to be people referring to copy as “verbiage.” Look is up people, probably not the right word to be using.

  5. j.r.
    March 20, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    I disagree with your “hamburger” sentiments. In the same fashion that users will tend to find shortcuts and workarounds, nicknaming things just sort of happens, and is often unavoidable. To be slightly facetious, I have seen real hamburgers with boxes around them (white castle), so the nickname may still have come about regardless of slight design alterations. Nicknames can’t be controlled – they are given, and if they stick, they stick.

    I think there is value in flat design to an extent, so I partially agree with you. Sometimes you have to witness the extremes on either end of the spectrum to determine what makes up just the right balance. Google (gmail, as one specfic example) has slightly-flat design, but there is enough affordance to distinguish functionality to the user.

    I agree with your other 3 statements, though – I would venture to say that infographics in general are a bit played out. Sometime I love them, sometimes I hate them. Usually I hate them because if there are no sources or citations, I consider it BS information immediately.

    • Chad Cline →
      March 21, 2014 at 8:13 am #

      regardless of naming, there seems to be a bit of a trend to acknowledge that users may not know what that button does. I’ve seen three lines and “Menu”, Time has a big tooltip OnPageLoad that explains its function, and I believe our own research team’s findings indicated challenges around the same.

  6. Bethany Lankin
    March 27, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    Excellent article. I share your opinion about the Liquorice Allsort you folks call a hamburger. I would also like to add that the label, “Miscellaneous,” in almost every instance, has made me cry copious and fluent tears.