Simon Willison’s Weblog

59 items tagged “usability”


He/She/They: Grammar and Facebook. Facebook are going to start requiring gender information because foreign language translations wind up being too confusing when that information is not available. Aside: I wish they’d implement proper title elements on their blog posts. # 27th June 2008, 9:06 am

Clickpass. Peter Nixey’s new OpenID startup has finally launched—does a great job of making OpenID more approachable with a clean, well designed UI and a neat orange button. # 11th March 2008, 4:47 pm

On the design of the first-run assistant. NetNewsWire’s Brent Simmons explains the in-depth thinking behind the new first-run assistant. # 29th January 2008, 12:16 pm

Usability Disaster Story. A strange combination of usability oddities culminated in 95% of visitors to the Mono website downloading a two year old version by mistake. # 25th January 2008, 6:36 am

8 More Design Mistakes with Account Sign-in (via) Second of a two part series by Jared Spool. I agree with all of them with the possible exception of #15 which advocates providing a non-email password recovery solution. Security “questions” are usually dreadfully insecure, and introduce the need to lock users out of their accounts after just a few tries. # 17th January 2008, 4:35 pm

Poorly Macbook, ineffective error message design. Nat’s MacBook died the other day, throwing out some impressively meaningless error symbols. How exactly are you meant to Google for a circle with a line through it? # 13th January 2008, 11:31 pm


OpenID and Google’s Blogger. Blogger gets it wrong by displaying a nickname derived from the OpenID URL (in Malcolm’s case, “blog”) instead of the user entered nickname. # 30th December 2007, 10:35 am

But here’s the thing: Regular people on the web *love* Snap previews. I know you don’t believe it—I didn’t want to believe it. But it’s completely true. In the testing and feedback I’ve seen, it’s some emotional pull about the fact that links “do something” now, instead of just being on the page.

Anil Dash # 2nd November 2007, 6:49 am

If It Looks Like a Cow, Swims Like a Dolphin and Quacks Like a Duck, It Must Be Enterprise Software. Interesting discussion about why enterprise software tends to completely suck from an end-user point of view. # 22nd October 2007, 1:51 pm

Radiohead Album Available for Free, But Fileshared Anyway. “Why are some people getting In Rainbows from P2P rather than the band’s site? Probably because they find P2P easier to use.” # 18th October 2007, 5:39 pm

The arc of TF2 is something that’s probably familiar to a lot of amateur developers or designers. When we got here the first thing we built was overly complex, very hard core, almost impenetrable to anyone who wasn’t familiar with FPSs in general. And as we found as we played it, wasn’t more fun because of it.

Robin Walker # 6th October 2007, 12:04 am

Amazon makes you lie to log off (via) Amazingly, the only way to sign out of Amazon these days is to use the “If you’re not XXX, click here” link—the traditional “sign out” link has quietly vanished. # 2nd October 2007, 1:19 pm

Halo 3 Site Demonstrates Flaws in SilverLight. The Halo 3 “interactive manual” is like a throwback to Flash in the late 90s—“skip intro”, pointless transitions, text you can’t select or enlarge, links that aren’t links—all wrapped up in an ugly blob (only this time it’s XML instead of binary data). # 27th September 2007, 2:38 pm

Jottit. Aaron Swartz’s latest venture: a complete rethink of the Infogami concept. Well worth checking out for the extremely thoughtful way it introduces features, and the way account creation with a password remains optional until you want to add access control. # 16th September 2007, 9:43 pm

I’ve actually been using the latest version of JAWS recently, as part of my work on HTML5. From a usability point of view it is possibly the worst software I have ever used. I’m still horrified at how bad the accessibility situation is. All this time I’ve been hearing people worried about whether or not Web pages have longdesc attributes specified or whatnot, when in fact the biggest problems facing blind users are so much more fundamental as to make image-related issues seem almost trivial in comparison.

Ian Hickson # 4th September 2007, 12:27 pm

Primary & Secondary Actions in Web Forms. Fascinating results from an eye tracking study on the placement of “Submit” and “Cancel” buttons—one layout was a whole six seconds slower than the others. Luke Wroblewski’s “Web Form Design Best Practices” book looks like it will be excellent. # 4th September 2007, 2:52 am

In 1997, I chose to suppress a similar finding: users tend to click on banner ads that look like dialog boxes, complete with fake OK and Cancel buttons.

Jakob Nielsen # 21st August 2007, 6:34 pm

OpenID: Great idea, bewildering consumer experience. Realistic, detailed look at the many usability problems that currently surround OpenID—and a good list of suggested fixes at the end. This is why I’ve been advocating OpenID as a tool for early adopters: they can help smooth out the experience for everyone else. # 17th August 2007, 10:07 am

Dynamic Help in Web Forms. Luke Wroblewski catalogues patterns for providing contextual help. # 7th August 2007, 4:01 pm

E-Trade financial tried using a RSA fob as a second factor of authentication, but as of their 11/07/06 financial report their fraud losses continue to increase. That said, they considered this program a success because users indicated they feel safer and are more likely to provide assets.

Usable Security # 20th July 2007, 10:31 am

Never use a warning when you mean undo. The abundance of “undo” is one of my favourite things about Gmail. I wonder if there’s anything Django could do to make implementing undo functionality easier... # 17th July 2007, 11 am

On any given Web page, users will either click something that appears to take them closer to the fulfillment of their goal, or click the Back button on their Web browser.

Mark Hurst # 7th March 2007, 1:58 pm

You need to lay out the user interface components visually, by hand, with total control over where they go. Automated LayoutManagers don’t cut it. A corollary of this is that you can’t move a UI layout from one platform to another and have the computer make everything fit. Computers don’t lay out interfaces by themselves any better than they can translate French to English by themselves.

Jens Alfke # 22nd January 2007, 9:41 pm

In Which I Think About Java Again, But Only For A Moment. Convincing argument as to why desktop applications written in Java rarely have decent user interfaces. # 22nd January 2007, 9:39 pm

The way you make users understand your program model is with metaphors. When you make things look, feel, and most importantly, behave like things in the real world, users are more likely to figure out how to use the program, and the app will be easier to use. When you try to combine two very dramatically different real-world items (email and appointments) into the same kind of thing in the user interface, usability suffers because there’s no longer a real-world metaphor that applies.

Joel Spolsky # 22nd January 2007, 9:26 pm


Fast and Simple Usability Testing. Nat’s 24ways article on practical usability testing (and hedgehogs). # 16th December 2006, 12:20 am


Back in November of 2004 I posted a rant about how difficult it was to download and install the Eclipse IDE from the official site. I’m delighted to hear that my rant was partially responsible for the creation of the EasyEclipse project, which not only provides easily installable packages for setting up a Java development environment but also covers LAMP development as well.

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Usable Security: Look Beyond the “Fundamental Conflict”. Security and usability are not conflicting goals. # 18th March 2005, 2:27 am


User Education Is Not the Answer to Security Problems. Smart thinking on security from Jakob Nielsen. # 1st November 2004, 1:22 pm