Even the Big Boys forget Usability!

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I wanted to write a short note on some frustrating usability issues I’ve noticed with a couple of applications.

According to Wikipedia, in human-computer interaction and computer science, usability usually refers to the elegance and clarity with which the interaction with a computer program or a web site is designed.

The first one that I’ll provide is actually a Usability issue with the Google home page. If you add the Google Reader component to the Google home page, it works quite nicely. There is; however, one glaring issue: the ‘mark all is read’ link is located directly below the link to open Google Reader.

Google Home Page Reader

A handful of times now, I’ve clicked the wrong link and all of my feeds automatically went to a status that they’ve been read. This is terrible usability. I’d encourage Google to move this link FAR away from any other links.

The second example is Microsoft Entourage, where the Delete button for an email is directly next to the Junk Email button. Microsoft Entourage is like Outlook for OSX, but it does not have any options to move the buttons around. As a result, I’ve accidentally added valid emails to my Junk Email folder. To undo that, I have to undo any Junk Email rule, find the email in my Junk Email folder, and then move it back to my Inbox. Arrgh!

Microsoft Entourage

I’m one of those guys that loves to organize and compartmentalize everything within an application. I believe both of these are examples where organizing components made sense logically – but not procedurally. It’s important to understand how users are actually using your application so that you can stop inadvertent mistakes through poor component layout.

Contrast this to WordPress, who does a fantastic job of separating components that don’t belong together. Notice the Save and Continue Editing and Save buttons at the top (which is the base of the post form) and the Delete this Post button at the very bottom on the left side… far, far away from each other.

WordPress Usability

Great job, WordPress!

Do you have examples of terrible Usability issues with applications you use?


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    Actually, if you use WordPress’ free hosting service with IE7 and you try to expand the “Optional Excerpt” section, it does not fully expand. This might be a glitch more than a useability problem, but never the less, it can be annoying.

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