04 July, 2008

Bad UI and good etiquette

Location: Facebook
Mood: overwhelmed

I work as a usability researcher, and I can tell you about a thousand cases where bad user interface, UI, can get you into trouble.

Facebook has these all over the place. Privacy settings that are cryptic and hard to navigate, resulting in you accidentally showing your 12 year old niece your blog about removing in-grown hairs from your private parts (I am exaggerating about the age, but not the story). Bosses seeing your status updates when you are at work, and saying "Mick Feeble is bored out of his fucking skull" or "Mick Feeble has not accomplished anything for days". Of course, I jest about the unproductivity. But it is completely possible that such things could occur.

The other day, my cousin got me into playing Scrabulous on Facebook. I would not say that I have never played it before, because I have. But I have not played it recently. So we played a game, and it was fun. Then last night, I got home and thought it would be fun to play a game again.

So I look up random people to play, since you can search for people who want to play a game, and each time I chose a person, I got a bizarre error message ("Sorry this person has already been picked for another game"). This was frustrating because I am thinking "How can I possibly click fast enough so that someone else doesn't get it?!" and it amazed me that there is such a rich community on Facebook, playing Scrabulous at all hours.

Um... I was wrong.

Those clicks did not fail. The UI failed. Every time I clicked on someone, it started a game. And what's worse, there was another error that was happening, where it would say "Try Again" and you have to click again.

Um... wrong. Those clicks worked too.

Long story made short. I had 23 games going at the same time with 7 different people. And it is considered somewhat bad etiquette to bail or to not complete the game. So I ended up playing 23 simultaneous Scrabble games, going into 3am, by which time I was virtually blind, and spelling words like: "DO, IT, HA, CAT", as compared to earlier, when I got words like "EPIDERM".

So... rule of thumb. Only click once.

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