I’m not a designer, my website will tell you that much. The only thing I have “designed” here is the logo, and it’s rubbish! But every now and then, I experience things, usually on websites as I practically live a virtual existence, which makes me think “How can they do that and think it’s a good idea?”.
I was on a website today checking through my credit report with a free trial. Once I had got the information I needed I used their “contact us” link to find out how I would cancel before I was billed. They were good and their contact form had an option for account cancellations. Brilliant, I’ll write them a nice note explaining why, and thank them for their service. Cue the design fail.
The form consisted of:
- A name field
- An e-mail field
- A subject select box (drop-down)
- A message box
The last one there is the important one. It was a text area, not an input field. It was also restricted to 50 characters of input, but nowhere on the page did it say that. Think for a moment, 50 characters. That’s not a lot. The message
I would like to cancel my account at the end of my trial
is 57 characters long, so I couldn’t even leave them that message. In the end, you really have to be fairly blunt and seemingly rude. ”Cancel my account at the end of my trial” is 41 characters. There’s no mistaking what you mean, but it comes across as overly impersonal and somewhat rude. You can just fit “, please” on the end of the message to make is a bit nicer, but how can you expect to understand why people are leaving, or even have them make a decent enquiry in 50 characters.
If I was on a website for a credit card asking questions about my minimum payment and wanted to ask “What is the minimum payment I must make each month?” with a 50 character limit, I would be stuffed, it’s 52 characters right there.
I wouldn’t have minded so much if it told me there was a maximum of 50 characters, or better still, told me how many characters I had remaining. At least then I wouldn’t have to do one of the following:
- count the letters to see what the limit appears to be
- copy the text, paste it into a text editor and have that count the letters for me
- read the HTML source to see what the maximum length is
- use Firebug (or similar) to inspect the element for the purposes of the above.
Obviously I chose the latter, it’s faster for me to do that, but there is a massive fail in not providing that information to people using your website or software. Information is key. That’s not just good design, it is good HCI (human-computer interaction) and will prevent people getting frustrated.
Tags: Design, fail, firebug, HCI