I probably seem like a crank, given the way I take things apart. Yet, I maintain there’s a reason beyond “get off my lawn!” I point out flaws not to complain, but instead to point to how to do it better. (At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. ;) Here’s another example, providing more lessons from bad design.
In this case, I’ll be attending a conference and the providers have developed an application to support attendees. In general, I look forward to these applications. They provide ways to see who’s attending, and peruse sessions to set your calendar. There are also ways to connect to people. However, two major flaws undermine this particular instance.
The first issue is speed. This application is slow! I timed it; 4 seconds to open the list of speakers or attendees. Similarly, I clicked on a letter to jump through the list of attendees. The amount of time it takes varied from 4 to 8 seconds. Jumping to the program took 6 seconds.
While that may seem short, compare that to most response times in apps. You essentially can’t time them, they’re so fast. More than a second is an era in mobile responsiveness. I suspect that this app is written as a ‘wrapped’ website, not a dedicated app. Which works sometimes, but not when the database is too big to be responsive. Or it could just be bad coding. Regardless, this is basically unusable. So test the responsiveness before it’s distributed to make sure it’s acceptable. (And then reengineer it when it isn’t.)
That alone would be sufficient to discount this app, but there’s a second problem. Presumably for revenue reasons, there are ads that scroll across the top. Which might make sense to keep the costs of the app down, but there’s a fundamental problem with our visual architecture.
Motion in the periphery of our vision is distracting. That was evolutionarily adaptive, allowing us to detect threats from places that we weren’t focusing on. Yet, when it’s not a threat, and we are trying to focus on something, it interferes. We learned about this in the days of web pages with animated gifs: you couldn’t process what you were there to consume!
In this app, the scrolling of the ads makes it more difficult to read the schedule, attendee lists, and other information. Thus, the whole purpose of the application is undermined. You could have static ads that are randomly attached to the pages you click on. The audience is likely to go to several pages, so all the ads will get seen. Having them move, however, to ensure that you see them all undermines the whole purpose of the app.
Oddly enough, there are other usability problems here. On the schedule, there’s a quick jump to times on a particular day. Though it stops at 2PM!?!? (The conference extends beyond that; my session’s at 4PM.) You’d think you could swipe to see later times on that ‘jump’ menu, but that doesn’t work. I can’t go farther, because the usability makes it too painful; we may miss more lessons from bad design.
Our cognitive architecture is powerful, but has limitations. Designing to work in alignment with our brains is a clear win; and this holds true for designing for learning as well as performance support. Heck, I’ve written a whole book about how our minds work, just to support our ability to design better learning! Conflicting with our mental mechanisms is just bad design. My goal is that with more lessons in bad design, we can learn to do better. Here’s to good design!