It’s the Little Things that Improve a User Experience!

Today was my first day in my new position as Director of Technology for a young Marketing and eCommerce software company here in Indianapolis, called Patronpath. As I reviewed our software today and assisted in a new integration, I was encouraged by the sophistication of the application. Our application integrates online ordering with several POS systems.

I’m looking forward to working with our development teams to bring our User Interface fully customizable utilizing CSS and, perhaps, some AJAX. The great news is that these are largely cosmetic changes that will not require gutting and rebuilding the application. Largely, I believe the application can be improved in two ways, first is the ability to customize the client’s interaction and the second is to implement some basic ‘little things’.

As I was working in Paypal last night, I found just a ‘little thing’. When you mouseover specific links in the Paypal interface, a nice fade-in tooltip appears and fades out when you mouseout off of it. Here’s a screenshot:

Mouseover on Paypal

Often when I notice these techniques, I do a little digging to find out more. In this case, I found out that Paypal is simply utilizing the Yahoo! User Interface Library to build the tooltips. Even better, they are simply displaying the messaging of the actual title within the (a)nchor tag. This means that the page was developed normally, but when the class was added, JavaScript took care of the rest.

It’s little accents like this on software that really make it a better user experience. Perhaps more impressive is that the developers at Paypal didn’t bother to ‘reinvent the wheel’, they found a good library and implemented it.

I’ll be looking for these and other techniques in upcoming months to improve the user experience of our applications.


  1. 1

    Hi Douglas

    WOW, I had no idea Yahoo’s UI library was open source and on Sourceforge … that’s another new toy I have to play with. 🙂

    What I thought was a really cool addition user experience recently was when I switched over the new Yahoo Webmail Beta and was treated to very nice looking visual tutorial with tooltips aligned with each related item.

    I don’t know if this coding is part of the YUI Library, but if it is, it might be a nice thing to add for your ecommerce app.


    Nick 🙂

    • 2

      Yahoo has a tremendous collection of UI components, Nick. Be sure to check out their grid controls. Simply amazing. And in reading their documentation and licensing agreements – it’s all there for the taking as long as you’re not looking for support.

      I’m no attorney, though… you might wish to double-check!

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