Stack OverflowWhat are common UI misconceptions and annoyances?
[+370] [184] Daniel Rikowski
[2009-06-18 06:59:37]
[ language-agnostic user-interface user-experience ]

I often use applications and electronic devices for which I think: "Why on earth did they engineer that thing as it is? They must have known that it is a pain in the neck to work with".

On the other hand I often observed that I created a (G)UI that I was convinced about, that it'd delight my customers and was a breeze to work with. Although my customers thought that too, it became obvious that it wasn't at all easy to work with in day-to-day work.

Because of that I believe that there are many developers and designers out there who are genuinely convinced that their product has the perfect user interface, but it hasn't!

That's why I wrote this question: To collect some of the common misconceptions developers have about user interfaces and to prevent other developers (including me) from making the same mistakes.

EDIT: Please write only one thing per answer so that readers who agree with a certain misconceptions can upvote it separatly from things they don't agree with. As with all soft facts there tend to be controversial opinions. If you put two or more things in a single answer, one might agree with one but not with the others. So please use a separate answer for every separate aspect.

EDIT 2: Please don't write answers about a single application which annoyed you but about concepts and patterns which can be found in many applications and/or devices.

EDIT 3: Thank you for all the feedback. I'll frequently visit this question whenever I think about some new UI feature :)

Duplicate:… - George Stocker
(3) My question is not about the worst web usability error. Admitted, they are some similarities but in my opinion this surely is not an exact duplicate. For example this is not about the WORST UI experience, but about COMMON user interface patterns, which are common and sometimes even believed to be good, but in fact are not. - Daniel Rikowski
(1) Sorry: I meant "about COMMON bad user interface patterns" - Daniel Rikowski
(1) Another reason: Go through the many great (and sometimes eye-opening) answers to this question and check if they would fit under the allegedly duplicated question. Many wouldn't. - Daniel Rikowski
(5) I'm depressed by how UIs in consumer electronics have declined. Menus and pushbuttons have replaced dials and switches, and people put up with it for the extra features and lower cost. TVs, stereos, cameras, etc. I actually see people passing the remotes to other people when they used to be willing to kill to keep it. - Nosredna
All the answers are about problems involving Windows. Hour to switch OS, dudes. - Hai
[+607] [2009-06-18 07:35:27] MaxVT [ACCEPTED]

Splash screens

Every application, and especially a background service such as a backup application or antivirus software, must display a splash screen that can not be turned off in settings.

(93) +1 I wish I could upvote twice - Daniel Rikowski
(22) +1 Especially for the virus app... it's already bad enough we have to have a resident scanner running at all times (which I think is overkill and a serious bottleneck for a developer machine). The thing doesn't have to show itself so prominently each time I restart my machine! - fretje
(21) @MaxVT, in your answer, it is not clear whether you are recommending the splash screen or whether you are annoyed by it. - Geoffrey Van Wyk
@GeoffreyBernardo - l2sarcasm - Charlie Somerville
(21) @GeoffreyBernardo : Recommending of course ! Failure to show a splashscreen might result in the user being able to do something else on his computer instead of stupidly staring at it ... - Brann
(38) Down with splash screens. If you have a splah screen you should be able to hide it. Also no stealing window focus. If I wanted to look atyour damn app I will click on it. - Matthew Whited
(4) @Geoffrey - since the question asks us to provide "misconceptions", this answer is a suitable "anti-advice". I'm annoyed by a splash screen if I see it more than once, ever :) - MaxVT
(4) I hate the websites that have the gratuitous Flash splash animation with the "skip intro" button. If watching the intro is optional, wouldn't it be best to eliminate it entirely? Thank goodness this abomination of the early 2000s is going away. - Barry Brown
Splash screens are mostly a remnant of the olden days, when simple apps would take a while to load up. Though honestly I'd prefer to see a splash screen than have a settings dialog clogged up with minute interface changes. - DisgruntledGoat
(7) I agree with option to turn it off. However, I've generally heard that a splash screen increases the perceived performance of your app. - Greg
(7) And especially down with "always on top" splash screens. - Les
I agree. I don't need a splash screen that takes up 50% of my workspace when that same application also advertises its existence in the Taskbar with endless notifications, Windows Update-style. - Aethex
(2) I love my Lotus Notes 8.5 splash screen.. sits there for almost 2 min every morning to greet me when I come in... cry - Jakub
(1) @fretje - McAfee resident scanner is the bane of my existence. - Phaedrus
(1) A splash screen is good if and only if the application takes forever to load *cough*GIMP for Windows*/cough*, and the splash screen displays an appropriate progress bar. - MiffTheFox
(2) I don't like splash screens either, but I have seen inexperienced users double click an application, wait 0.5 seconds, then (probably thinking the double click didn't work) double clicking it again, and a third time, for good measure. Splash screens may not be the best way, but some kind of indication of what's going on can be a good thing. - nikie
(1) Splash screens are not UI. Splash screens are marketing. - Marcin
(1) @Marcin: you're splitting hairs here. If it appears on my screen, it's UI regardless of what was the motivation to add it. - MaxVT
[+557] [2009-06-18 10:22:32] Jason Kester

Stealing Focus

  • Annoying update messages that pop up in the foreground and ask to be dismissed.

  • Web pages that grab my cursor from halfway across the password box and stick it back into the username field.

  • Web pages that grab my cursor from typing something in the URL field and stick it into the search box

  • Minimized applications that decide they have something important to tell me.

(77) +100 ! This is the most annoying thing ever. We all have a lot of softwares running at once. I start a make in Visual Studio, then I start a long File in Find in Ultra Edit, then I add two things to my todo list... and oops, the last enter I hit is stoolen by an error dialog box that just popped - the Enter closed it of course, and I cannot know what it was, grrrr >>>> Developers should never assume their windows or their errors are the most important thing in the world ! Please, never bring a windows to front ! :) - Sylvain
(24) XWindows got this one right. Leave your window wherever it is in the z-stack, show all the dialogs you want, and not impede what the user is doing in the foreground. I see KDE and Gnome bit undoing some of this magic in order to be more "windows like" for grandma. Grrrr. - Chris Kaminski
(6) I have a lot of built up anger on this issue. You toucha my focus, I toucha your face! - Maltrap
(24) For me the two worst offenders seem to be Windows ("Would you like to reboot? What about now? Now? Maybe now?") and Firefox (mistyped an URL, hit enter, scrambling to fix the URL and as soon as the page loads, I end up entering half the URL into some cybersquatter's searchbox and going somewhere I don't want to be taken). If I actively select the location bar while a page is loading and start typing, shouldn't it be obvious I DON'T want to select the first input field on the page? - Alan
(1) On focus stealing: When you're editing a question on Stack Overflow and you've gotten the tag autocompletion to pop up, clicking in another field (like the question body) gets rid of the autocompletion box, but then the tags field steals the focus back. So then whatever you were trying to write in the question box ends up going in the tags field, which causes the autocompletion to show up again. I don't know how many times I've spent 15 seconds or more trying to get the focus into the question body. - Michael Myers
(4) The worst thing for me is when you get a Yes/No popup and you happen to typing something with a 'y' or 'n' in it. You end up choosing Yes or No without even reading what the option is... - DisgruntledGoat
+100. Total agreement. My pitchfork is ready. - Chris Lively
(2) guess which web page is this piece of code from: onload="document.f.q.focus();... xD - fortran
(1) How many times has that "Would you like to reboot?" dialog popped up while I was typing an email, and hitting the space bar? I can't believe someone wouldNO CARRIER - trenton
I vaguely recall that Mac OS 7-9 were awesome about not stealing your focus except in the case of a dialog box from the very app that had your focus already. I have recently found that Mac OS X is increasingly able to have other apps steal your focus with a dialog or even window, and this is a huge step backwards. - dlamblin
^I've never had any app steal focus. You must be using some poorly made apps. - Sneakyness
It seems that in Mac OS X apps normally do not steal other apps' focus when displaying an alert panel. The app's icon bounces in the dock to announce it, but you can continue using whatever application is in focus. - Yang
+1 I hate when some windows just come to focus when it finishes something. eg msn becomes the focus when it finishes logging in. Sometimes IE8 does the same too. - David
Luckily this does not occur to me that oftern, but when it does, it gets so on my nerves. - chlb
+100 from me too. A big -100 to apps that not only steal focus, but several times in succession, with a few seconds between - so that I end up having to click several times to stay in the program I wanted to be in. - Jeffrey Kemp
(1) How is this not more annoying than splash screens? - Davy8
Pidgin, I'm looking at you... - SimonJ
Part of the problem is actually the HTML in it. A webpage's inline javascripts will be executed in the order they appear, and something else happens with <link>ed ones.. anyhow, if web programmers put their inline JS to focus on a form field right after the form field, the impact would be greatly reduced. - user502515
gTalk makes me sad when it steals my focus :( - Nico
[+399] [2009-06-18 07:16:24] Mark

Currently my biggest gripe is with web applications that don't honour a browser's culture settings. I'm a native English speaker living and working in Germany, my German is OK but far from fluent. I have my browser's culture set to en-GB but sites ( to name but one) check my IP address and start serving me up information in German.

It amazes me that large companies that go to the trouble of creating multilingual sites/applications don't know how to detect a user's culture properly.

(100) Absolutely agree. Could anyone please write a formal bug report for Google (I'd do one, but I'm not experienced with bug reports)? This behavior breaks HTTP protocol, since servers are supposed to look into Accept-Language to determine which content to serve. - ilya n.
(33) Even if I live in my own country and speak my own language, I still prefer reading my internet in English, and having international results. Google is not the only annoying player: there are various setup programs, Mozilla installation downloads to name a few - Berry Tsakala
Same - I'm always trying to figure how to obtain something in English (living in France). Most search engines just assume that I want French content. Well, I often do, but not when I'm looking for software development information or product/software reviews (and I'm doing it any other minute at work). Search engine should never assume our language preferences. Going on or should be enough. - Sylvain
(20) It's even worse in Switzerland where there are 3 languages, but IPs can't be mapped accurately, so by default you get German... And quite a lot of Google pages don't have language choice on them, you just have to know to add &hl=en on the end... - Benjol
This annoys me as well everytime I enter a .com URL but get the german version served by the server 'cause he thinks he knows better what I want than I do. - Michael Barth
(12) Perhaps there needs to be a browser setting that professionals in the IT industry can set saying "We really know what we're doing so don't try to second guess us" ;) - Mark
BS, if you put pure english as first you will get site in english. - IAdapter
(3) FYI I checked again to make sure after I read your rude and missinformed reply. I fired up google chrome (their browser) my language preferences in order: English (United Kingdom), English (United States), English Typed in hit return hello Make sure of your facts before being rude next time. - Mark
Mark, with Google I think all you have to do is set the language on their preferences page (link on homepage). I live in Israel and have Hebrew as first language in IE, but have been working with the English version of Google for years. Just let them save cookies, and it should work. - eran
(5) eran, that may be true for that ONE SITE but the purpose of the language setting that gets passed through HTTP is to inform the server what language the user prefers. The setting and protocol is there for a reason. - T Pops
(1) Since is turning into a sub-debate I’ve posted a question which we can discus it in its own right :… - Mark
Maybe google believes that german people are too lazy to set up right language and thats why it work that way? I dont have chrome, however i can see english google if just set-up first language as english. - IAdapter
(1) Mark is right. Google sucks at being faithful to the user settings. It's even worse provided that I have a Google user in which I set the language to English (it's the only usable option for me since, if I put Catalan, I miss apps which are not yet translated to Catalan, like Google Reader). I am Daniel Daranas and the wep app could give me everything in English (my choice) even if I am using a German language OS in Brazil. What is interesting is that after a lot of effort I get this most of the time (not always) in some browsers (Firefox, Opera), but not as easily in IE. - Daniel Daranas
(2) I wish they would even obey the tld. If I enter and I am somwhwere else I am redirected to google.somewhereelse. It's ok as long as you are in an english speaking country. We really need the global 'I am an IT-guy and really know what I am doing switch' as Scott proposed.… - Stephan
(1) Couldn't agree more. Google once mistakenly recorded my IP address as being German, and for then next month I had to switch back to the English version on every session. IP address is never a reliable way to determine locale. - Sidnicious
I especially hate this when using git-gui. It's non-english translation is USELESS (things like "commit" got translated yuck), and you simply can't change this from the application... - SztupY
For the UK readers, this happens on Virgin Train's wifi - Google thinks you're coming from Germany and serves you with their .de address. - Chris S
Along with Marks statement about the browser setting, it should read: "Stop believing that you know better than I about my browsing experience." - Chris Lively
(3) I have seen enough forceful bug reports from customers that when investigated turn out to be that one of there users had the browser's culture setting wrong, that we now let the customer override the browsers with a config setting. The browser's culture setting is wrong often enough that is it not useful, it is also to hard for most end users to find or change it. - Ian Ringrose
I have no problems with smart defaults, but allow the users to tell the website their locale / currency preferences. Browser culture, and IP to location are just a starting point, and can't cover all the use-cases. - Robert Paulson
For those who may be interested in how this is actually implemented on websites, this has to do with parsing the Accept-Language request header field, such as Accept-Language: en-US, for client browsers. - Filip Dupanović
(1) My sister lives in France and has this problem all the time. Her French is fluent (she's married to a French guy), but she prefers to search and browse in English. But since Google won't let her, she usually uses Yahoo instead. - Kyralessa
You can also use a hidden Google hack called Non Country redirect. Using this link, Google will not detect your location when returning your search. - RHaguiuda
(1) I remember interviewing at Google for a contract gig in an internationalization team. They asked if I knew how their browser language detection worked on the search page and I said "ah, yes, it ignores my very carefully chosen list of accepted languages in my browser configuration and replaces it with the wrong language based on Geolocating my IP address." They were very proud of that feature. - JasonTrue - Otto Allmendinger
@Benjol Switzerland has four languages not three! - Roflcoptr
@Roflcoptr, Engraziel! Jeu carezel tei :) - Benjol
[+382] [2009-06-19 08:33:58] Barry Brown

I cringe whenever I see an error message like this:

If you continue to experience difficulties with this application, please see your system administrator.

At that point I start shaking my fist at the computer and the unseen developer. "I am the system administrator and I have no <bleep>ing clue what's going on!"

(79) I wish I could +100 this! - Martin
This is a way for the software's developers to pass off blame for their crappy software to some poor sap who's probably paid much less than them. - Mike Daniels
(6) I often use this error in my apps that I build for clients so their system admin is calling me and not the end user. - Jared
(25) "...and ask him to install a different application for you instead." - Nathan Long
If I get the SxS files wrong while developing software, I get a thoroughly meaningless error message, followed by being told that reinstalling the app might help. I have no objection to having the error refer users to me, as long as it will give me a clue as to what's going on. - David Thornley
(13) +1, but you've just taken me on a guilt trip for all the message boxes I've written in the past few months. - Gavin
(20) I put this into my exception messages all the time. I'll translate it for the non-developers out there. Basically it means "Sorry, you've encountered an error that I expected might happen but havent had time to deal with yet. This obscure and meaningless error message should buy me some time to write a fix whilst you flounder around helplessly not knowing who to blame. kthx bye." - Alex
it's worse for the end user - can you imagine granny trying to explain to her computer that she doesn't have a sys admin? - DaveDev
Microsoft always seems to be guilty of this one. - Auguste
(2) We need a button saying "I am the System Administrator" which gives more information. Maybe label it shibboleet. - Baju
(1) I wish I could click "send mail to the guy that wrote this" every time this happen to someone in the world. - Giuliano0
(1) This is my number one annoyance. I almost always see it in relation to a networking issue; especially when I am the sys admin. Give me something actionable or get rid of the message. - Chris Lively
[+374] [2009-06-18 07:10:27] Daniel Rikowski

Having to wait for DVD menus

On DVDs I don't like it when I have to wait for the menu to become active.

Sometimes the viewer has to wait 30 seconds of movie snippets, animations and sometimes even advertising until it is possible to go to the chapter selection menu.

It becomes especially annoying when it is a TV series DVD where you often watch small parts and often start and stop the player.

I guess the designers thought it would be entertaining to watch all that stuff, but after the first time it really annoyes me. After all I just want to watch a movie...

(112) This is why you should always buy the pirated version :) - pipTheGeek
(140) +1. I paid for that DVD, I shouldn't have to suffer through advertising - Charlie Somerville
(9) What's even worse is DVD player UIs that don't correctly recognize the stop button input during such sequences. This is really frustrating for me, as my DVD changer will not change DVDs unless a stop is issued. - David Berger
(4) I don;t like repeating background music on commercial DVDs - Crippledsmurf
I frequently buy TV series on DVD and one of the most frustrating things is a lack of "Play All" button which means that ater each episode ends I must navigate to the next one - Crippledsmurf
Well it does... they use use copy protection schemes against you. - Matthew Whited
(52) @Charlie Somerville What about 'I paid for that DVD, I shouldn't have to suffer through a long and annoying "do not pirate" announcments!" - johnc
I've never had a DVD that I couldn't simply press Stop then Menu and skip all the crap. Although some of DVDs display a copyright warning after I've selected to play from the menu. - DisgruntledGoat
(2) Most of the time when a DVD doesn't allow you to access the top-level menu from a scene you can still skip to the next scene. - Wedge
rip and encode the dvd and show the video with a popcorn hour (or similar), then those annoying menus will disappear... ;) - Johan
(3) That is an excellent display why the current media sitation sucks so much: Paying customers have to endure endless nagging screens while pirated versions are free of them. WHO ASKED FOR THAT? - Jan Jungnickel
(5) DVDs are the absolute worst design of any product in our modern age. They go beyond user-unfriendly to downright user-hostile. * They have screens you can't skip. * They have advertising that shows every time at startup. * They have menus that show scenes from the movie, even if you haven't seen the movie yet. * They're stunningly slow to go between menus, due to the oh-so-clever transition animations that aren't amusing the first time, let alone the tenth. I do my best not to buy any DVDs because they're so bad. (I make an exception for Pixar only because the movies are so good.) - Kyralessa
(2) I've always found having to sit through anything on the DVD to be absolutely out of line. It represents a gross disdain for customer service. I wish I could upvote this one more. - BigBeagle
(1) If I could trade my reputation for upvotes, this would be the highest rated answer on SO. - Nikolai Ruhe
(3) For many products the choice is: free + advertisement or payed + ad-free. For DVDs this basic rule is broken. - Nikolai Ruhe
(1) The latest annoyance I find is the train of disclaimers that you have to sit through, including the one that says the commentary and interviews don't reflect the opinion of the studio. Well, duh? I wonder what lawsuit started that effort. - JYelton
Fortunately, my DVD player supports the ■, ■, ▶ (STOP, STOP, PLAY) sequence to start the movie. - tzot
(1) I love watching movie trailers. But - I hate DVD's that force me to re-watch the same trailers every time I put in the disc. ugh - radven
[+361] [2009-06-18 10:42:25] Jason Kester

Hijacking Windows Startup

Look, Adobe. We all know that Acrobat takes 30 seconds to load before it can show us PDFs. It sucks, but we're fine with it.

What's not OK though, is trying to fool us into thinking your thing is fast by instead loading it every time I turn on my computer. It's still 30 seconds of my time you're taking up, but now you're taking it 4 times a day regardless of whether I use your thing.

Shame on you.

(63) +1 I hate everything that has an unnecessary process running in the background all the time. iTunes, Acrobate, MS Office. Keeping your processes down to the basic essentials plus whatever you're currently running is a real performance benefit, and apps that not only leave processes running after you quit, but re-add them to the startup config must die. - Sean
(7) If it was only Acrobat doing that... - Benjol
(2) It is even worse when they startup and phone home for updates, blocking everything else while they're doing so. Sysinternals Autoruns is one of my favorite programs. - R Ubben
(1) What... you mean that long boot up on my computer isn't Microsofts fault... LMAO - Matthew Whited
(97) Try Foxit Reader! Its super fast. - Alex Beardsley
(1) It'd even be okay if the "loader" would be loaded along with the normal application and wouldn't close so consecutive calls would be faster. But no, Adobe, OpenOffice, jEdit and Steam all think I want to use ALL of them ALL the time. - Alan
Also: with Windows Vista it's a PITA to have Java installed because it'll block everything asking for permission to look for updates. The automatic updater is supposed to take the pain away, not increase it. - Alan
I wish I could upvote this +10. - JohnFx
Theres also a special app which removes all the plugins from adobe so it loads as fast as foxit does, but shouldn't violate your work IT policy. - Spence
(28) Worst of all, they don't use the "Startup" folder that was designed for this. They all use the registry keys. - aib
(3) Why are you booting your computer 4 times per day? My home desktop has been up for 27 days, and my work computer has been up 4 days (from installing updates). - Novelocrat
(2) perhaps he uses it four times for around an hour? I turn mine on/off at least twice a day. - CiscoIPPhone
(there are many reasons to do this and not many to keep it on if it's not actually doing anything) - CiscoIPPhone
(42) While we are moaning about Acrobat Reader, how about "why do I have to reboot my machine to complete an update to a document reader?". - David Spillett
(4) Typical day: Wake up, fire up, check email, close down. Walk to coffee shop, fire up, work on the project for a while, close down. Back home, fire up, bill a few consulting hours until boredom sets in, close down, head out climbing, surfing, biking or whatever. Before crashing out for the night, fire up, check email, make sure nobody's wrong on the internet, close down. That's 4 power cycles in a day. Doesn't seem abnormal to me. - Jason Kester
(1) +1 for "Shame on you." - Agnel Kurian
(2) How is this "UI"? - Aardvark
I found that STDU viewer ( is nice and fast for viewing documents such as PDF or DjVu. - Regent
I believe Adobe do this because Microsoft started doing it first. - Tom Hawtin - tackline
(1) All you people who shut down your computers, have you heard about sleep mode? Esp. @Jason as you seem to be laptop guy ... unless you bring your work desk to the coffee shop. - clacke
(2) get autoruns from - its a gui that lets you remove all the startup lurkers no matter where they hide. - gbjbaanb
You turn on your computer 4 times a day?! - Christoffer
(2) @Christoffer: I'm sure that most persons around here are impressed by the fact that he turns off his computer 4 times a day :) - tzot
Using Autoruns and a few other apps agressively has allowed me to get 4 year old workstations at our office running as fast as mid-level systems a year old or less. The junk running on every computer when I first arrived was insane. And when I see other offices leaving this junk going, it's very, very frustrating. - music2myear
[+333] [2009-06-18 10:26:20] Jason Kester

Telling Me About Updates

  • "DUDE!!! It's Java again! Great news! There's another incremental update for you to install! Wanna download it now??? (if not, I'll be sure to remind you again in a few minutes!)"

  • "I know you probably started Firefox because you wanted to browse the web, but first, here are 6 obscure plugins that require your immediate attention. Oh, and we'll need to restart Firefox again before you can actually browse the web."

(1) Why you have "6 obscure plugins" installed? And you know that there is a skip button, don't you? - Tim Büthe
(16) Oh by the way, Lnubb jnagf gb frr rirel fvgr lbh ivfvg. You're okay with that, right? - MiffTheFox
(112) Add now Java update wants to install the Yahoo! Toolbar. - Sinan Ünür
I hate Java updates! I don't use java! I couldn't care less if there is a small update! - kajyr
(29) Got to agree re: Firefox. Installing updates at startup is simply the worst time to do it. - grahamparks
(17) I don't mind Firefox, actually. Installing and then letting me restart whenever I want doesn't get in my way that much. (Unlike Windows Updates, which, don't even get me started...) - Kev
Agree with Kev on about Firefox. Would you rather that it let your plugins break without any explanation? - PeterAllenWebb
As a power user, I don't mind firefox's plugin updater, but I can see it being annoying to the typical user (who just switched from IE) - hasen j
You can turn updates of in Firefox. Didn't find it in Java. Personally I like FF updates automatically... But not java. A regular user don't even know what Java is, and why it want to be updated. - Kamarey
(34) I think the misconception here is "the user needs to approve each update." I see the security argument, but in practice, maybe .000001% of users have any idea whether the Java update is a good idea. Even Joel Spolsky has said something like "if the Java team isn't sure whether I should update, how the heck am I supposed to know?" I think it's best to have the option to be informed about updates, but the default should be to do it silently in the background. If you care, you'll ask. - Nathan Long
Chrome does a better job here. However, I am not sure how it will work when it will have plug-ins which wants updations - Varun Mahajan
(10) I lolled so hard at "DUDE!!! It's Java again! Great news!". +1 to the max. - unforgiven3
Without notifications, the lambda user would never update anything (and another dude would be whining about updates being not notification in this thread). Regarding Firefox, you're free to skip them. - Pascal Thivent
(6) As best I can tell, Java thinks it needs to tell you about its latest nifty update because every single damn time it updates, it wants to install the Yahoo Toolbar too. Sure, I didn't install it last time, but surely I want to install it this time. - Kyralessa
(1) @ the naysayers: It's not the updating that's the problem, it's the noisy nature of it. As has been said: if the author of the update I'm installing doesn't know whether or not I should install his update, how am I supposed to know? AVG was the worst for it. "GREAT NEWS! I totally published a new virus database!!!1 Want me to go get it??!" What? Do you want a pat because you're doing so well? Buzz off back to the system tray and do your job! - Iain Galloway
This — and Sinan's corollary in particular — is why Java doesn't get installed on the desktops I manage any more. I can't trust it on an inexperienced user's desktop to keep itself up-to-date and secure without causing more problems by installing unwanted crapware. So sorry to the last three websites still using applets, but you bet on the wrong tech. I look forward to the glorious day when there are no web plugins. Every single one of them has been a security disaster. - bobince
This is why you use Chrome. I'm so tired of constantly restarting Firefox. - Lotus Notes
Apparently old versions of Java are now the most exploitable browser element (see So yes, you do need that update and Chrome's approach is spot on. - SimonJ
(1) Firefox actually did that while I was reading this answer. Spooky!! - Michael Dunn
By the way, Win7 shows the "restart now or I'll ask again in x minutes/hours". It could have a "Do your stuff next time I turn my PC on" - Giuliano0
Actually I like Firefox's approach. Updating is always a drag, but they manage to make it as painless as possible. - The WebMacheter
The worst of these is the Windows Update box in XP. If you are playing a game or something the window will take focus and minimize any fullscreen apps without leaving you with the option to pause (even worse in online play)... - o1iver
Disabling Java updates: Revouninstaller and remove Java Autoupdate. Viola. Or, it's in the Java thingy in the Control Panel. Also, this wouldn't be an issue with Java (or Flash, for that matter) if their devs took the time to actually proof-check their code so there wouldn't be a newly discovered security hole in half the computers in the world every few months. - music2myear
@Michael Dunn: It would be spooky if it was rare for Firefox to do this... When it's nearly every single day then it's just a PITA. - Chris Lively
[+322] [2009-06-18 09:46:31] Alex Brown

Utilities that think they should look cool.

I do not need my VPN client to be skinnable and have animations.

It probably doesn't need any UI at all, apart from an on/off switch.

Amen, brother! - Joe White
(123) Motherboard utility apps are very bad for this...yes Abit & Asus I am looking at you two. Stop it already. - Pondidum
(8) I guess for some applications, "our app is skinnable" is an excuse for "we don't want to improve our crappy UI. Let the users do it themselves" - Daniel Rikowski
@DR: Because changing a few bitmaps = usability! - Fowl
(1) I can't think of any app that really needs to be "skinnable". But then, Dell sells a bunch of laptops that are skinnable, and I think that's stupid too. - Kyralessa
there's nothing stupid about good design. if you want it the ugly way, use ms-dos. - community_owned
(4) Who said these skins were good design? Most of them are hideous. - Kyralessa
(17) What about Antivirus software today? They are also utilities. They all have menus like a computer game has. I am afraid one of them will show an intro about a war while it scans for viruses. Then displaying "Sir, our troops have destroyed enemy and traitors (it means infected files)" - JCasso
AKA "polishing a t***" - Christian Hayter
One of my favorite things about Linux (and apparently Windows 7): All of the utilities are built in, and no one felt the need to show off. - Brendan Long
[+306] [2009-06-18 10:45:42] community_owned

Windows that are small and have so much content that you have to scroll in them. While it's impossible to resize the window!

Many of the dialogs in Windows behave this way. Folder options for explorer as example.

(78) environment variables setup window... come on! even on Vista, you can't resize the darn thing. - Peter Perháč
(1) Hah, I feel the same way about the comment box I typing on here here on stack overflow! At least you can resize the box when making a answer or asking a question... - nbv4
(1) MS SQL Enterprise Manager springs to mind - Phil Hannent
(3) Also the character map utility. - PeterAllenWebb
@MasterPeter, try Rapid Environment Editor - hasen j
@nbv4 Aren't there extensions to firefox allowing any text box to be resized. Safari and Chrome does that, at least. Very nifty. - JesperE
Back when I had XP on this, I'd defrag every so often, and the app would give me a list of files that still had multiple fragments. The window was too small to show more than the beginning of the path, could not be resized, and I never did come up with a way to see what was left. I would have loved having a window as described. - David Thornley
(10) Visual studio is actually a bad offender in this area -- the keyboard shortcuts window displays about 4 things at once and cannot be resized... :( - Mark Simpson
(6) There's a name for this kind of window: the EULA window. - Kyralessa
(1) The Advanced tab of "Internet Options" is like this - drives me nuts. - scunliffe
@Mark Simpson: I have migraines. It cost me 2 days of terrible headache to disable F1 in Visual Studio. - JCasso
Scott Meyers wrote a book draft on this, calling it "The Keyhole Problem". - Jon
extend that to two-way scrolling - peterchen
Don't complain if you can at least scroll! Programs that have content larger than 800x600, resize to fit the screen size if they are larger than the screen, and cannot be resized... wow, I think I just blew a fuse. - clacke
Unfortunately, first of such programs have been seen on linux too. If I like to open a file, and navigate to a folder, containing 400 files, why doesn't the damn thing recognize the size of my screen and maximize it's window? If there are only 4 files to choose from, it might resize to 4 lines of filenames, but I have seen UIs, where there are only 2 elements, and the GUI-size was enogh for 1.5 elements, making a scrollbar neccessary (which cuts off horizontal space, and might make a second, horizontal scrollbar neccessary too). Sometimes you can't scroll, but have to move -> with the arrow. - user unknown
[+274] [2009-06-18 10:48:38] Jason Kester

Adding Tray Icons

It's great that you want to "Monitor" my QuickTime usage and all. I mean, you're right, it would be hard for me to determine on my own whether movies were playing or not. But really, couldn't you have asked me first whether this is high enough priority for me to require an icon in my tray 24/7?

If you plan to put useless garbage like this in my system tray, please ask first.

(87) The better question is why does quicktime have to start on boot and run in the background - Matthew Whited
(9) I at least appreciate that they show themselves. It the sneaky start-up apps I didn't ask for that really annoy me. At least the ones in the tray I can see and know to hunt them down and kill them. - kenj0418
(18) The better question is why are you using Quicktime? - tsilb
(8) Windows 7 makes this much better. - Jason Baker
yeah, W7 makes this better by always putting those little tray icons in your taskbar as full-sized ones. That you can't get rid of, or ignore. Progress! - gbjbaanb
[+273] [2009-06-18 07:32:11] Gerrie Schenck

Bad keyboard support

In UI's which are to be used for data input, it's really annoying that the user constantly has to switch between keyboard and mouse for input. A good UI will have all tab indexes set right and common keys (return, escape) mapped to the appropriate actions.

(1) hell yeah buddy. - Ash Kim
(11) Consistent accelerator keys for every function (buttons, texts and menu options) are a must. Power users don't use the mouse! - Berry Tsakala
(19) +1. Web application developers who still don't add access keys to their controls (it is web, man, let's click !) should read it :) - Sylvain
that is cool idea for jQuery plugin. i think no1 likes to do accelerator keys and if you dont have to then you wont do it. - IAdapter
The default cursor position should also be in whichever field will probably be filled first. - Novelocrat
It realy annoys me that my IT Service Desk Web Page does not even allow me to tab to a drop down list to set a call to closed. So much time wasted using the mouse in the middle of typing. - Mark3308
(2) StackOverflow has one of these problems: On German keyboards AltGr+Q creates an @, but on StackOverflow, it's bind to insert a blockquote. I always have to enter Alt + 064 (ASCII code). That's annoying.… - furtelwart
[+233] [2009-06-18 08:42:46] Brann

Using generic dialog box buttons (ie Yes / No ) instead of rephrasing what the buttons do (ie Save / Don't Save)

Even worse are applications which ask you a question requiring a Yes/No answer, and present you with OK/Cancel buttons.

Edit (from the comments below) :

Are you sure you want to cancel this process? [CANCEL] [OK]

(11) +1 - What I hate more is applications which ask you a question requiring a Yes/No answer, and present you with OK/Cancel buttons. I know which one you want me to click, and I know it shouldn't bug me, but aaaarrrrggghhhh! - Dominic Rodger
@Brann - nice edit :) - Dominic Rodger
@Dominic : well, nice comment (I upvoted it). - Brann
(35) Apple got this often right, Microsoft wrong. That was one litte thing I realized after switching to Mac OS X - Tim Büthe
(18) Are you sure you want to add another answer? You could use the edit link to refine and improve your existing answer, instead. [OK] [CANCEL] - Alex Brown
(6) As bad as it may be, it's how most Windows applications work and personally I'd think that changing this might violate the old design rule "Always do the least surprising thing". - Daniel Rikowski
(3) Worse: similar dialogs with inconsistent Yes/No answers. "Your information is being sent insecurely. Abort?" and later "The web page tried to open a new window. Allow it?" - Barry Brown
(17) Worst of all are the error buttons which give you one 'choice' - OK. No; it isn't OK that the program is broken. - Jonathan Leffler
(6) I love .NET's "Assertion Failed" dialog, which has "Abort", "Retry", and "Ignore" buttons. For the answer key, it has to occur to you to look at the dialog's title bar, which says: "Abort=Quit, Retry=Debug, Ignore=Continue". Retry=Debug?! Is it really that hard to put text on buttons? - Joe White
(1) On that note, there isn't a way to alter the button text in JS alerts that I've been missing is there? - Shadow
(1) Sadly no. JS alert buttons can't be modified. - Andrew Dunkman
Windows has a easy-to-use API for calling the Yes/No-type dialogs, while creating any other dialog requires creating custom dialogs. - MiffTheFox
(11) Are you sure you want to cancel this process? [CANCEL] [OK] - Breton
@Shadow you shouldn't be using Alert for anything other than debugging anyway. In production apps, I always alert=function(){}; - Breton
(1) Downvote. I HATE the verbose buttons, especially "Save/Don't save". 99% of the time I already know what the program is going to ask me and I don't think twice about a Yes/No answer. When an app blindsides me with non-standard buttons for something as simple as asking whether you want to save when you close it, I have to switch from autopilot to manual and actually read the damn thing which is distracting and annoying! - Sam
(1) @Sam : Some programs will ask you "Do you want to save before exiting?" while others will ask "Are you sure you want to exit without saving?". Closing dialogs without reading them (which is what you do in your autopilot mode) is common among users, and often result in catastrophes. Are you going to tell me you never witnessed this ?? - Brann
(1) @Brann I would suggest that the "Are you sure you want to exit without saving?" type is wrong. I expect to be greeted with a save dialog box and want to respond to that with a positive (save) / negative (do what you want, I don't care) / cancel-that (I clicked the wrong button) answer. Most of the time I am aware of what dialog is coming up, granted this doesn't apply to all users - Sam
(3) When I was 6 six I was often unable to leave paint.exe because of this. The message was "do you want to save before quitting?" [yes][no][cancel]. And since I only started being able to read, I had no idea what it meant. One of the button just close the popup but not the app, the other opened a big scary window I had no idea how to use and the last one was the good one. But I was never able to remember which one it was. So I often had to ask my father to help me close paint... That's why I understand why novice have trouble with computer. - Laurent Bourgault-Roy
[+233] [2009-06-18 09:49:20] glebd

Progress bar that restarts from the beginning several times during a single operation, which immediately makes it useless. Microsoft Installer, I'm looking at you.

(4) Progress bars in general... - FogleBird
(91) Progress bars where, upon reaching 100%, you still have wait some period of time before you're able to do anything. - f100
Adobe Updater is really the best example of this. - Paul Lammertsma
(12) Progress bars that don't show any progress but just zoom a small block backwards and forwards. Hello Mozilla? - richsage
(11) Richsage: that type of bar represents an asynchronous can't show hoe long it will take. - Pierreten
[+226] [2009-06-18 15:01:14] Nikolai Ruhe

bulk rename utility

(1) scrapes jaw off floor - rmeador
(7) This is akin to what Joel writes about in How to Be a Program Manager : "a completely baffling user interface that makes perfect sense IF YOU’RE A VULCAN (cf. git)". - Sarah Vessels
Consider submitting that here: - David Berger
(2) OMG wtf is that? - ya23
(10) That belongs on TDWTF - Crippledsmurf
Recommend Lupas rename: - Sinan Ünür
Despite the interface, I am quite sure this is quite powerful software :) - Charlie Somerville
Oh my. That is...horrible... - thecoop
(4) @Charlie: For people that make a living from renaming files... - Nikolai Ruhe
(29) I don't know if I agree. Yes, this looks like a mass of controls, but honestly, if you're using a FILE RENAME UTILITY, every single operation you want to do falls into the 20% of the 80/20 rule. - Stefan Mai
(1) @Stefan couldn't agree (with you) more. Maybe if I had to use something like that, I would cry in the corner for a while. Then I'd use it. And I'd probably learn it faster than if the controls were tabbed. - David Berger
There's another thread for "Worst UI". This thread is different. - hasen j
The UI is horrific BUT it actually does work fantastic. - patricksweeney
(19) @Stefan: Sure all the functionality is probably useful, but I don't see why it all has to be visible at the same time! After a 10 second glance it's obvious to me they should just have a system where you can add "rules" with a drop down for the type, similar to Outlook's mail filter thing. - DisgruntledGoat
(1) Haha, reminds me of this: - Craz
That is absolutely fantastic! ;) - Christopher
(2) Eric Burke destilled this into a cartoon in 2008: - mkoeller
This is FUBAR... - frbry
I'm sure all the functionality is useful...but...hasn't the developer of this utility ever heard of the TabControl? - Kyralessa
"preview" button pls. - SimonJ
+1 Holy cow! O_o - DoctaJonez
[+219] [2009-06-18 10:28:00] Galwegian

I really dislike "cool" Flash websites that don't give you the slightest idea how to navigate their site until you hover over some image/dot.

Yes, thanks guys - that's the phrase I was looking for: Mystery Meat Navigation - ugh!

Sorry, but Flash designers seem particularly shy of usability knowhow!

(25) Vincent Flanders of calls this "mystery meat navigation." I don't really mind on things like band and art websites, since there is more creative license, but it SUCKS when you're looking for actual info. And yes, I agree, some of the worst websites ever have been the result of someone attempting to be "Edgy", "artistic", and "innovative." - nerdabilly
(1) I've seen at least one site that not only uses MMN, but at the same time varies which link is which between pages. - Stewart
(2) "I really dislike "cool" Flash websites... which could have been done just as well with static HTML" - FTFY :) - Jeffrey Kemp
And even worse: windows desktop GUI apps (and even installers: Garmin: I'm pointing at you here) seem to be getting into the Mystery Meat business. GUI guidelines are here for a reason! - peSHIr
(5) Something like the Windows icon that brings up the File menu in Office 2007? - David Thornley
I am working in a web dev agency and building the backend stuff for websites like these. I apoligize for my designer co-workers. - Max
I am working in web dev too and my clients always demand such "cool" things, even for serious business :( - Baju
[+175] [2009-06-18 11:38:21] abababa22

Unresponsive GUI thread

I hate it when the GUI thread freezes. "This application is not responding..."

Please, do your intensive calculation or I/O in another thread, and keep the UI responsive!

Some people scream at concurrent programming ("multithreading" in these strange days) and prefer unresponsive applications, fearing thread bugs.

But this is a false dichotomy - threading bugs are introduced by cretin threading models. Quoting Joe Armstrong, from The Role of Language Paradigms in Teaching Programming [1] (.pdf):

... Unfortunately, concurrent programming has acquired a reputation of being "difficult" and something to be avoided if possible. I believe this is a side-effect of the problems of thread programming in conventional operating systems using languages like Java, C, or C++. In a concurrent language like Erlang [2], concurrent programming becomes "easy" and becomes the natural way of solving a large class of problems. ...


(10) Yes, you Safari! - Nikolai Ruhe
(3) Windows explorer (I mean the filemanager, not IE) and many more Windows, Mac and Linux apps... - abababa22
(4) You'd think MS could get this right. Half their applications, including the dev tools, all exhibit this behavior. - Chris Lively
(1) Yes Lotus notes, what useful task did you use those 150 Billion CPU cycles for? - Alex Brown
(11) I'd rather have an intermittently-unresponsive app than have threading bugs introduced. - finnw
@finnw: ..or even use only command line apps and avoid 100% of GUI bugs? :D - abababa22
Oh, the days of BeOS... - Kev
JavaScript in Firefox on Linux. Hello Google Maps. - Alan
Windows XP even brings non-responsive windows into the foreground. So whenever I alt+tab away from an app from which I know it'll take a while, a few seconds later Windows rubs it right unter my nose again :) - Daniel Rikowski
(46) I'd rather have threading bug than unresponsive applications. - aib
I'd rather have responsive error dialogs than unresponsive applications! - aib
Hello, iTunes. ESPECIALLY if you store your music on a network drive. - Macha
I want both. Is that so much to ask? - Joey Robert
Also, no Firefox users better click on this link, or else your whole browser and everything you're doing will crash! - MiffTheFox
@finnw: yours is a false dichotomy - threading bugs are introduced by cretin threading models. Quoting Joe Armstrong: ' Unfortunately, concurrent programming has acquired a reputation of being "difficult" and something to be avoided if possible. I believe this is a side-effect of the problems of thread programming in conventional operating systems using languages like Java, C, or C++. In a concurrent language like Erlang, concurrent programming becomes "easy" and becomes the natural way of solving a large class of problems. ' - MaD70
[+174] [2009-06-18 09:21:44] Brann

Not allowing white spaces into passwords, or limiting their length !

A custom English sentence is so much easier to remember and harder to guess than a single word password.

Regarding limiting the length of a password, I can't think of a good reason to do that since only hashed passwords (which are constant length) are physically stored ... or are they ?

(65) Worse, accept spaces when you set your password but reject them in the login form (a popular online bank in the UK does this.) - finnw
(78) Along this same line: disallowed characters. Why on earth would anyone care what characters make up my password? Stupid Stupid Stupid. - Chris Lively
(1) It's silly enough when usernames on websites that WILL NOT EVER use the usernames in URLs force you to use alphanumeric characters and then merely allow a handful of "special characters" (the usual shift+numrow ones) in addition for the password. Why? If something could get messed up in the form submission, it shouldn't matter because I'll send the same garbled mess upon login, no? Even worse: some forums entitise usernames before storing them in 16-char DB columns, cutting of the string and breaking entities. - Alan
Limiting to alphanumerals also prevents me from using chars from other languages (in my case, arabic, and maybe japanese). - hasen j
(32) I'd put money on the fact that, if a site is restricting you to alphanumerics for your password, or is restricting the password to a bafflingly small length, then they are storing that password in plaintext. - Jeremy Frey
(1) alternatively, use the 1st letter of each word in the sentence/phrase - Greg Ogle
(10) @Chris. If you ever had worked on a helpdesk maybe you would understand. Reason we disallowed special chars in a password fields was cos not so computer minded users where unintentionally inputting '&é§' in their passwords, obviously they want to have a numeric char but kept forgetting to press the shift key simultaneously when working on a laptop. - Mez
(1) When I registered at Newgrounds, they let me enter a 16-character password. When I tried to login for the first time, it turns out they cut my password down to the first 10 characters without telling mt at all. - MiffTheFox
(17) I got a "you must change your password" notification yesterday, so I went to change it. First try: "you cannot use a previous password" (this was a password I used 15 months ago). Second try: "you cannot use special characters" (what the hell?). Third try: "password is too long" (13 characters is too long?). Seriously, who is responsible for these rules? - Juliet
(1) I got really pissed the other day when a site told me: "You can not have consecutive characters like 123 og abc in your password." Basically invalidating passwords like defender and abstraction. - Nailer
The limiting of password length is ok. Otherwise you could do a DoS with a 4 GB password. That's a damn good reason to limit characters up to 100 characters or so. - furtelwart
(2) Disallowing certain characters is a naive way of preventing SQL injection attacks, that's why it's done. - Ian Hickman
@guerda : right. but password fields are often limited to 8 or 10 characters, while a limit to 10k characters would tackle the DOS issue you mentioned. - Brann
No, disallowing non-alphanumeric characters is mainly intended to reduce potential for problems that take costly helpdesk time and annoy users. - Michael Borgwardt
(2) furtelart: Why would sending 4 GB be a more effective DoS than randomly sending 4 GB of any other data? Only a fixed-length hash is going to be stored. - Tom Hawtin - tackline
(1) @Tom, hashes - you're joking ! The password is going straight in a varchar255 field or a varchar8 if they have an advanced sysadmin that knows how to change the default field length. - Martin Beckett
(2) Many sites with specific requirements don't actually inform you of them correctly. For example, it might say "your password must contain at least one number" when they actually mean "at least one number and at least one letter" (invalidating purely numeric passwords). - pimlottc
(1) I guess the reason why many websites don't allow whitespace or special characters, and the reason they limit the length is because they do NOT store hashes, instead they store the password as it is. I say this comment having done this before (I was a noob then). - Leo Jweda
Passwords must be 7 OR 8 characters... WTF? - tsilb
[+163] [2009-06-18 09:18:10] Sergio

It really annoys me websites that don't allow a link to be opened in a new tab

You mean with Javascript links for everything? My old webmail did this. I'd middle-click all the interesting mails, and the new tabs were just at the inbox! - Lucas Jones
(6) Yes. it is really annoying for someone that is used to goggle. I do a search, middle click on the pages i find it may contain what I am looking for and then tab through them all. It makes me crazy when I have a list and I cant do that - Sergio
(14) gmail does this... It's extremely annoying. - voyager
loopnet does this: VERY ANNOYING - mgroves
(7) It's reinventing the wheel when the web designer uses JavaScript to open links. - Cecil Has a Name
(1) Messages in Facebook's inbox. They used to be normal links, and so could be command-clicked to throw off a new tab for each one when dealing with a large number of messsges. Now they're divs with onclick handlers or some other daftness. - Tom Anderson
In Firefox you can solve this problem this way: Go to about:config, and set these settings: = 3; = 0. This makes all popups open in a new tab. You have to set both settings for it to work. - Kyralessa
(Of course, it doesn't necessarily work for JavaScript popups. But at least it'll stop those annoying tiny windows some web sites like to use.) - Kyralessa
I find the opposite also true: websites that open links in new windows, breaking the back button and adding additional window clutter. - Tim Sullivan
Its fantastically ANNOING... Google Android developers site does not allow 'Open in New Tab' - community_owned
[+144] [2009-06-18 10:32:19] Stewart

My favourite class of dialog:

"Are you sure you want to cancel this operation?"

                 "OK" "Cancel"

(57) says: Are you sure you want to add another answer? You could use the edit link to refine and improve your existing answer, instead. [OK] [Cancel] - Alex Brown
(11) We're all bearing in mind that the interwebs only supports Javascript's prompt(), which only has OK and Cancel, right? - Matchu
(5) @Matchu — A poor excuse, in this case. With libraries like jQuery UI readily available, there's no reason to use plain old prompt() when the buttons are clearly inappropriate. - Ben Blank
Do you need to use prompt() when using unload() though? - alex
(13) And you always have the option to phrase the question in a way that the available answers make sense. - Jens Schauder
@Matchu": ...which is probably a sign that the application should probably not be web application at all? ;-) - peSHIr
"Are you sure you want to cancel this dialog?" - Reshure
The stack overflow WTF could be made much less confusing just by changing the order of the sentences. Consider "If you want to refine and improve your existing answer, you should use the edit link. Are you sure you want to add another answer instead?" - TokenMacGuy
This answer is duplicated with the following one (in this question)… (ATM with 189 votes) - Pedro Loureiro
I think at some point in 1998ish all JavaScript devs simultaneously came to the conclusion that prompt() is for week 1 of JavaScript class. - Erik Reppen
Cancel will cancel WHAT? Sick!! - community_owned
[+133] [2009-06-18 23:52:38] Barry Brown

Text input fields that force the user to input the data the way the computer stores it, not allowing for the way humans conceptualize or see the data.

Enter your credit card number. NO SPACES OR DASHES!

It takes, what, one line of PHP/Python/ASP code to strip out all the non-digits?

Related: The English-centric view that every person has exactly one first name and one last name.

(24) The English-centric view that dates have to be written like this: 06/19/2009. What's even worse, a lot of sites and applications give you no clues as to the correct date format. - alex
(44) More specifically, it's an America-centric view. The English write that date as 19/6/2009. - Barry Brown
(11) So does the rest of Europe (most of them, at least). - ldigas
(36) I never understood the american point of view in putting the month, then the day (most often changing) and then the year (not changing that often). - ldigas
(10) American dates have some silly "middle endian" thing going on rather than going from most-significant to least-significant or vice-versa. - DisgruntledGoat
(2) Also application that do not indicate wether you should be using a decimal point or a decimal comma. I know that americans and some other country's (not excactly sure which) like to use the deciaml point. But a lot of country's in europe (and elsewhere) use the decimal comma and a point to seperate thousand, millions etc. - Pim Jager
(1) Another one. europe = comma as decimal seperator. Ireland uses the . and I think the UK does too. - Macha
(4) @Idigas: An american explained it to me as related to how they say days, "June 30th, 2009". Still, it's not a great reason. - Jeff Yates
When somebody asked you what your birthday is, you answer them June 19, not 19 June. - Michael Buen
(3) @Michael - actually, in Russian, it is "19 june". Not sure about other languages (nor where european date convention originated) - DVK
(2) Even in the US, we sometimes say "4th of July" instead of "July 4th." - Barry Brown
(3) Barry: "4th of July" is an American holiday (Independence Day) "July 4th" is a date. Dates are rarely stated in "day of month" format. Oh, and I find most date conventions are stupid except y/m/d format. y/m/d is unambiguous and it sorts. I use it everywhere except on my checks. - jmucchiello
(2) Dates: IMHO the whole world should change to year-month-day. Names: the very concepts "First/Last name" is backwards in Asia, it should be "Surname"/"Given name" (maybe?) - Mike Dunlavey
(3) Numbers: Americans don't get too much right, but at least they got the digits 1 and 7 right, I think. - Mike Dunlavey
Your example shows that many UI designers have an ignorance about chunking. In any good HCI course, they would have learned about that. Social security numbers, phone numbers, and some gift card numbers are some other everyday examples that show it's easier for people to memorize a sequence of 3-5 digit numbers than to memorize a 9 or 10 or 16 digit number at once. And this does not depend on how computers store this. - David
As a rule, users != developers. And even if you are writing a tool that developers use, it is good to use the most appropriate human-readable formats on the interface. As others have said, also consider differences in cultures. - David
@jmucchiello. Seriously, 4th July != July 4th ??? You must be a program manager :) (+1 for yyyy/mm/dd though, it does sort really well, all software would do well to use it) - gbjbaanb
Yes, you do say 26th of October, at least in the English-speaking world. Americans are weird. YYYY-mm-dd is the best way to write it, though. - TRiG
(2) And interestingly enough, the Japanese (and perhaps other folks from Central and East Asia) do thankfully use MSB just like ISO-8601. 2010年11月25日 - user502515
As for names, yes, they too should probably in MSB. In fact, anything concerning administration (you as a citzen, or as a worker in your company) is ordered by family (last) name already. - user502515
(1) The term "surname" seems to be unknown to about 5% of the population. I run a website where the "last name" field is labeled "surname." 95% of the users get it right; the remaining users answer either "sir" or repeat their first name. - Barry Brown
[+131] [2009-06-18 07:06:51] Stefan Gehrig

I think that speed or responsiveness is one of the most important UI concepts. I personally hate interfaces that are somehow notchy or rough (I don't know if these are the terms used in English, in German you'd say 'hakelig', which means 'not being smooth') - with Windows Mobile sometimes being a supreme example, or a satellite receiver's on-screen menu that takes half a second after each press of a button.

(3) In general you are right, but I would prefer an action that takes a second instead of a 10-action sequence where each action returns instantly. - MaxVT
(19) Actually I'm not talking about the speed of the application itself. What I'm talking about are e.g. menues that take some time to open, dialog boxes that stay open some time after a click on OK, animations that aren't smooth and such things. It's no problem if some operation takes some time to complete - but that should be indicated to the user. - Stefan Gehrig
(23) User interaction should be considered to be a real-time problem. - JesperE
(2) You can't even believe how underrated this is... I agree 1000%. Agree Overflow. - Mark Canlas
I agree with this. For work I used to have to use this old Garmin GPS unit that had a really old processor or something because whenever a button gets presses, it takes like 1 second to "register" with the device. It sucks and is a pain to have to work with. The core value behind the concept of "user interface" is for the software (or device in this case) to stay out of the way of the user's workpath as much as possible. When you have to wait 1 second between each keypress, it doesn't matter how well designed everything else is, the whole effort is negated. - nbv4
I agree. With graphical processing power available to most modern computing devices, all menus should open instantly and all user input should be reflected instantly. If something is going to cause a pause, a "Working..." box should appear. - PeterAllenWebb
(2) better adjectives for hakelig -> clunky, jittery, jolty - Shawn
+1 Alpha 5 is another example of this. - Hach-Que
Hi iTunes under Windows! - clinisbut
The Help menu in MacOS X. That thing consistently takes 1-2 seconds to open (if I haven't opened it in a while), with no indication that I've even clicked on it. - Brian
[+125] [2009-06-18 09:08:16] Paddy

Websites that provide a 'Search' ability for within their own site that doesn't work properly. When Google can search and provide better/more relevant results within your site than you can, there's something wrong (thinking of MSDN here).

(1) Also relevant to Simple Machines Forum (SMF) sites, certainly up to RC 1.1). I know most here would rather code their own forum, but's irritating. - David Thomas
(50) I thought you were talking about SO for a second there... - Peter Perháč
Not if your company has its own search engine that competes with Google (even if Google is better, they are right to use their own product instead.) - finnw
(7) +1 Worst example of this I have seen is B&Q. ( Go on, try it, I am at a loss as to how it finds the results. My search for a 13 amp RCD returned a rug as the top result! I don't use B&Q anymore becuase of this. - pipTheGeek
Digg has this problem. I don't even bother searching on Digg itself anymore, I just Google for 'digg my_subject'. - Sarah Vessels
(5) +1. If you can't search your own stuff correctly, then don't bother and let google do it for you. - Chris Lively
Outsource your search to google. Period - Varun Mahajan
Way back I recommended that SO search simply link to Google results of their own site. I got told off. :( - Spencer Ruport
(6) visual studio help, I'm editing a 'c' file in a c compiler and I ask for help on printf() - so of course I want the help page for foxpro or printf. - Martin Beckett
(1) Firefox Add-ons search is a pain - clinisbut
Worse - web sites that provide a search bxo... that's searching the entire internet. - peterchen
[+122] [2009-06-25 07:05:02] Hemant

Adding menu items under system menu of application. For example, right clicking on the task bar button on command prompt shows:

alt text

I have a habit of closing apps by right clicking on taskbar button and clicking close specially when I am closing many items. I always end up opening properties, when I try to close running command windows. Another example is the chm help files.

(24) This is so f***ing annoying! I wish there was a +100 option for this one! - Eyvind
(1) Just double-click the window icon. - porneL
(2) @porneL: Except that the window icon location isn't as constant as the taskbar's. The icon can reasonably be anywhere in the screen making the first step of you solution "finding the icon". When right-clicking on the taskbar then choosing the bottom-most item (Then swearing at cmd, very important step), the position is much more limited and the whole process can be done in brainless mode. - Alex Brault
(10) The Windows compiled help files are great for this. I have seen this About dialog about 1000 times... -.- - furtelwart
(3) Suggestion: when does somebody come with the feature that we've known for years as the middle-click==close on tabs in browsers? Middle-click on an icon in the taskbar would make this rightclick>close annoyance go away. Should be standard feature in WinNext. - Abel
If you install the Google Web Toolkit plugin for Eclipse, it adds a menu item to the context menu for items in the Project Explorer - AT THE VERY TOP! Where 'New' should be. Incredibly irritating! - Tom Anderson
@Abel: Your wish has come true. Try Windows 7 + Taskbar Tweaker ( - Hemant
[+121] [2009-06-18 10:50:26] bgever

When the scroll wheel on your mouse is not supported and you have to rely back on old school scroll bars.

does this still happen? btw, it's just SAD that there are sooo many users out there that haven't yet discovered the mouse wheel. I don't have a clue how they manage not to discover it but... - Peter Perháč
What really bugs me is that in VMware Server 2 (the remote console, which is used even locally to access your VMs) does not pass scroll messages to the VM. It consumes them and does nothing. - Lucas Jones
(5) Heck I get used to my 5+ button mice at home so much that I try to click them even at work or else where (I want my back button right under my thumb) - Matthew Whited
(14) This is a problem with a lot of flash web sites! - Nippysaurus
(9) cough VB 6.0 - Charlie Somerville
Totally agree. I have been working on a Silverlight app and the first complaint in related to Silverlight's lack of built-in mouse wheel support. - Jeff Yates
It's not necessarily just flash - I've seen sites that used javascript/ajaxy scrolling where you had to click up/down on a little button to scroll content. - GalacticCowboy
Actually, I'm so used to a nice little utility called MouseImp, that I find scrolling with mousewheel very cumbersome and inconvenient. But then some fancy applications are not compatible with MouseImp... - vit
(2) There is also the mirror problem : when you stupid Laptop OEM decide to provide a very clever scroll driver for the touch pad that kind of click the scroll bar and move it instead of sending the standard Win32 message. My two last laptop did that and it was really annoying because Firefox, iTune, and almost all WPF app stopped supporting scrolling. I hate when OEM want to be clever. - Laurent Bourgault-Roy
[+114] [2009-06-18 07:38:15] MaxVT
  1. If an update is available for an app, display a modal notification proposing to upgrade.
  2. When a user declines, show it again next time the app is run.
  3. There should be no way to turn this behavior off.

(Acrobat Reader 5 and later and many other apps).

(21) I'd go so far as to say the WTF here is having update notifications... every piece of software on my system shouldn't need its own updater. Package managers FTW! - rmeador
(4) I wish the update notifications would also correctly distinguish between "download" and "install". iTunes/QuickTime gets me with this every time. Sure, knock yourself out, download away...wait, I have to stop what I'm doing and close the application? - David Berger
(16) 4. Instead of actually updating anything, just make the user's web browser go to your download page. - abababa22
(3) On OS X I wish the system updater were accessible to 3rd parties so that applications wouldn't bug me with their upgrade requests when I'm opening the app. If I'm opening the app, it's because I WANT TO DO SOMETHING NOW PLS KTHNX. I do NOT want to spend 10 minutes upgrading the software, lose my train of thought, or worse, get interrupted halfway through my task so the upgrade can install. At the very least, put the upgrade requests when I QUIT The app, and I'm not interested in using it anymore. - Breton
@Breton: Mozilla is a prime example of this idiocy, especially on older machines and slower internet connections. - MaxVT
@abababa22: it won't be "automatic updates" then. Manually downloading and reinstalling an app for every trivial bug fix is an overkill IMO - automatic updates should take care of that with minimal involvement of the user. - MaxVT
@rmeador This is one of the things Linux really got right. But Windows developers (usually corporations, not open-source communities) giving up control of when and how their apps are updated? Can't see that happening anytime soon. - MaxVT
(4) Why don't we make this simpler and just have an answer "Whatever Adobe does, do the opposite." - JohnFx
@JohnFx unfortunately, Adobe does some things right. The super-flexible window docking system in Premiere CS3 is nothing short of amazing, for example. - MaxVT
@rmeador - The problem with those is that when the package manager's provider decides to stop pushing out updates, the whole update system goes belly-up. (I'm looking at you Canonical.) - MiffTheFox
Any app designer can get set up to receive crash reports from Microsoft. Can they also register to have their app's updates show up in Microsoft Update? Does anybody know? - Kyralessa
[+102] [2009-06-18 07:34:02] MaxVT

A progress bar or a time estimate that changes in a seemingly random fashion (Windows Installer, IE file downloads, Windows' stock file copying box, etc.)

(42) If you've ever tried to build something like that you'll know it's impossible to get right so the estimated time has any real meaning. So we (as developers) should no longer try. And even if we do, just give a vague indication, never an estimated time in (milli)seconds. - peSHIr
(1) The primary purpose of progress bars is to give feedback on what the computer is doing, so the user knows that the requested operation is in progress. Estimating remaining time is just futile, but information on how much job is left is very useful. - JesperE
(10) And finally, if you do estimate always overestimate! - Sebastian Krog
I feel the same, for quite a while now I've created ones that just spin but apparently that is /more/ annoying - L2Type
(9) My favorite was an installer (I think it's the zenoss installer) with a very smooth and progress percentage bar...except that the last step (occurring at progress 100%) was something like "Configuring the database...this may take a few minutes". - David Berger
(4) @DotNetWill: especially if the graphic is just a gif file or something that has nothing to do with the status of the task being processed. - nbv4
It wouldn't actually be that hard to come up with a reasonable estimate. Take a sample of install times at various checkpoints from your beta testers, and compare with how things are going for the user. After the first few checkpoints, assuming the user's other tasks aren't varying too wildly in their resource usage, it should be fairly accurate. - Kev
(25) Wose yet. Progress bars that get to 100% and then drop back down to zero and start over on the next task. I feel cheated when this happens. - JohnFx
I want to expend on peSHIr's comment and use ubuntu's way of time indication: "Approximately less than N minutes remain" - LiraNuna
(1) Best article on the psychology of progress bars: - Michael La Voie
(2) Reminds me of a MONTHLY backup I was doing (Vista). I did a select all and drag. Eventually the dialog came up saying it would take about 20 minutes. When I returned from the water cooler, there was a dialog asking if I wanted to do something or other. After clicking OK, Time remaining was 38 days. So much for being able to start my next monthly backup on time. - Les
Or apps that use a progress bar instead of a spin-wait... - GalacticCowboy
Someone has to link to it... - Gavin
Do not overestimate! I get tired of seeing things that say "about a minute" and then having it complete seemingly instantly (about 1 second). BTW BeOS always had pretty solidly estimated progress bars for the installation, copying and moving of files. I don't know how they did it. - dlamblin
The VS build system is one of the worst for this. If you have a solution with scores of projects in it, the only way to see how far it really is on is to look at the build output. The little progress bar just goes up and down all the time every time a project is built. It's terrible. They should have a build window that aggegrates all project building information with an additional overall indicator. - Mark Simpson
The best one I've seen is some installer that shows both per-task and overall scroll bars. The per-task scroll bar goes quickly, so you feel like something is happening; and the overall one goes from 0 to 100% only once, so you know how far you are with the whole thing. - Kyralessa
@Kev: You don't get it, do you? ;-) - peSHIr
…stopping a service on Windows… - tzot
[+102] [2009-06-18 19:37:05] Chris Lively

Cancelling a browser load should NOT cause the page I'm currently on to blank. This is especially troublesome on the iPhone.

When I try to scroll down a page, sometimes it thinks I clicked on something. So, I immediately hit the Cancel button; which causes safari to clear the page. Lovely.

(5) I would vote this up 100 times if I could. - e.James
(2) I hate when you're loading a page in a web browser and it seems stuck so you hit Refresh. But if nothing has been received, the browser just stops instead of trying to load the page again. - DisgruntledGoat
I think I've had this problem since the early Netscape days. - StuffMaster
This drives me to distraction! +1 because there isn't a +100 - Steve Greatrex
[+101] [2009-06-18 18:13:33] Sarah Vessels

Useless descriptions, or begging the question

I hate it when the name of some element in an application has the same value as its description, or something quite similar, e.g., a checkbox is called 'Special Whizbang' and its tooltip says only 'Toggle Special Whizbang'. This tells me nothing about what Special Whizbang is, why I might want it turned on, or why it is perhaps off by default.

(4) The Delphi 2007 help file was exactly like that. It read like auto-generated boilerplates. (It probably was) - Daniel Rikowski
(4) Lotus Notes disclosure buttons pop up a tooltip saying "Twistie Icon", like it was important or informative, somehow. - Alex Brown
Notes' popups for icons are my favourites by far, such as the informative "red x icon" for the red x icon and "red x on document icon" for...well, you can figure it out. No mention at all of why the icon is actually displayed. - paulbeesley
Did you say BIOS options? Well, let's RTFM... oh the option is for toggling Special Whizbang, thank you very much. - LumpN
[+93] [2009-06-18 08:07:33] Daan

One of the biggest misconceptions is that people think a user interface can be designed by a single person. No matter how much you try to accommodate your users, you simply cannot foresee all situations, so it's important to test the usability of your product. Simply observing users interacting with your (prototype) product can reveal UI problems that you would have never thought of.

Couldn't agree more. Wish I could upvote this more than once. - Colin
"people think a user interface can be designed by a single person". I'm not 100% sure what you mean by that. UI designers are a lot like programmers (well, not really) in the sense that every UI designer has their own style. With a single UI designer, your product is designed around the same set of core, unifying principles. Too many different designers (or even worse, when programmers are allowed to design), and you get a weird mix of inconsistent UIs which may not reduce the quality of your application, but definitely lowers the user experience. - Juliet
(1) @Juliet - I am not advocating that the eventual design is created by a group of people, resulting in a mix of styles. Rather, I suggest that the process of designing a user interface cannot be done in isolation, separate from the developers, users, graphics artists, product managers, sales department, etc. It requires input from all these angles to create a decent, functional user experience. In the end, it might well be a single person that integrates all this and creates the final design, but his person doesn't develop the interface in isolation. - Daan
@Juliet: I'd rephrase that as "UI design is iterative, and the test steps must involve more than one person". - peterchen
"Simply observing users interacting with your (prototype) product can reveal UI problems that you would have never thought of." Yes Yes Yes!!! - George Bailey
[+88] [2009-06-18 07:32:41] MaxVT

Disabled menu items without any indication of why they are disabled. To some degree, all operating systems and applications suffer from this.

(20) Remember those old text-based adventures? They had byzantine puzzles: eg you can't open the dam gates until you go into the dam control room and press the yellow (not green) button and turn the bolt using the elven wrench from the temple..... I think of those games when I'm trying to get some &$*&^% disabled menu item enabled - Andrew Shepherd
(5) MaxVT: Oh, but there's always an exception! :-) On some versions of GS/OS (on the Apple IIgs), dimmed menuitems would highlight with a gray border if you moused over them, and if you selected them, the app could perform an action (like show a dialog box telling you why you can't do that). I think they removed this in System 6 (or maybe 5?), and it never made it back to the Mac, which is a crying shame. - Ken
The Eclipse window often has project options disabled in the menu but not in the project's context menu, even if there is only one project opened. - LumpN
+1: If it's there and disabled then a hover should absolutely tell WHY it's disabled; OR, better yet, allow the user to click it and guide them through how to enable it. - Chris Lively
[+63] [2009-06-21 08:00:16] Barry Brown

Checkboxes that, when checked, do the negative thing. Examples of the wrong way to do checkboxes:

[ ] Hide details
[ ] Disable plug-ins
[ ] Don't check for updates

I especially hate dialogs that have mixed positive/negative checkbox selections. Checkboxes should indicate the affirmative when checked.

It depends, sometimes 1 "negated" checkbox is better than 100 "normal" checkbox - kentaromiura
(2) Block Popup Windows? - rpetrich
(4) "Block Popup Windows" is fine; it's an action. The wrong way to word it would be: "Don't Show Popup Windows" - Kyralessa
IE has a message something like 'you are running intranets settings which are less secure - continue to disable this settings [OK/Cancel]?" - WTF - Martin Beckett
[+59] [2009-06-18 09:08:44] Ami

Having sites where you have to register ( Amazon [1], social networks, email providers, Stack Overflow...) that requires you to fill in way more information that is really required, and worst of all, they have a password policy that makes you go @#$@%@#!@#!@#!@@#!@. what on earth is wrong with a simple lenient password for my account? It's not the bank!!!! I just want to register to post in some forum....


(43) The Problem is, you have to register and choose a password. Using OpenID, like StackOverflow does, is IMHO a much better choice. - Tim Büthe
Well, obviously - I think the point Ami is trying to make is that some sites are too strict on what they'll accept as a valid password. - Stewart
@Tim: it's easier, but if your provider is compromised you may lost a lot at once. Also, not that many sites support OpenID. - ya23
(2) The strict password policy probably is there to prevent spammers from taking over accounts. - J W
(3) strict password policy is useful where it's needed, for example for my online bank account. when a strict policy is applied to an account I open just to post something in a forum, it's too much... - Ami
Maybe it's overkill for some sites, but I think given the potential harm one could do to you if they get in your Amazon account, it seems prudent. Amazon could take the stance its your own fault for having a weak password, but it's better to be proactive than have to argue with an angry customer. - BigBeagle
I wish Amazon wouldn't store my card details. Then there would not be a problem. - Tom Hawtin - tackline
(3) Sure, with Open ID all you have to do is: * remember your OpenID provider; * click to go there; * put in the same user ID and password you would've put in at the site; * answer some questions about how much you trust the site or how much information you want to give it; * finally go back to the site you were on in the first place. Yeah, that's a huge improvement. - Kyralessa
-1, enforcing strong passwords is not a bad idea - BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft
@BlueRaja - enforcing a strong password is not a bad idea when it's needed. but there can also be a TOO strict policy. how would you like a 12 character, mixed alpha-numeric-symbol, change every two weeks, never repeat same policy when you just want to ask some small question on an interesting blog post you read somewhere? - Ami
@Ami: Fortunately, I've never seen a policy that strict. Also, for the record, I hope OP realizes that his email password is more important than his bank password, since through his email he can get access to (resetting his passwords for) all his banks, websites etc. - BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft
And what about websites which don't allow you to have a secure password?, which supplies credit card services, allows only alphanumeric passwords. - TRiG
[+54] [2009-06-18 10:00:54] bgever

Applications with expressive 'skins'. Consumes memory and rarely provides better functionality. Requires getting familiar with the UI.

At least try to follow the OS' standard UI controls, including short cuts, keyboard use, copy/paste, Ctrl/Shift selection, hover/selection feedback, etc.

Good example: latest Windows Media Player. Bad example: previous Windows Media Players.

(9) Wait, I can longer play songs out of a human head? - Chetan Sastry
God I hate Windows Media Player's UI. I think they should just fire all of its designers and assemble a new team since they do not seem to learn their lesson. - AgeKay
(1) I'm looking at you iTunnes! For the sake of balance I should also state that Idon't like WMP 11 either, excessive glass looks bad even when you're Microsoft - Crippledsmurf
(7) Most antivirus programs have skinned interfaces that are awful, unresponsive, with options all over the place. - alex
(2) Or any driver software. - Pim Jager
I don't mind skins as long as the default one is good. After that, it's just extra customization for users that want it. - BigBeagle
[+53] [2009-06-19 08:57:48] Maltrap

Web sites that don't allow you to hit the back button.

Even worse, pop up a message with "Don't go!" as I'm about to leave your site.

(1) +1 was just about to suggest this. This combined with not allowing you to open links in a new tab make for the MOST annoying sites on the web. My university has some sites like this, they frustrate me to no end. - Joey Robert
(15) "Don't go" ensures I won't come back. - BigBeagle
(2) Not to mention web sites that do goofy stuff with right-click. Usually it's paranoid web sites that are afraid you're going to steal an image, as though you can't do that (with only slightly more difficulty) with PrintScreen anyway. - Kyralessa
[+53] [2009-06-20 04:35:27] Jeffrey Kemp

Opening a browser window after I uninstall a program.

"No, it was nothing personal, really - I just don't need this program anymore. If I don't want your program installed, I certainly don't want a browser window opened to load your web page asking me to fill in a survey."

(2) Installers do so much after installing programs (hijacking Quick Launch, Windows startup, adding browser bookmarks, toolbars, ...) that what they do after an uninstallation doesn't bother me any more. - aib
They seem to have the idea that just because you're uninstalling the program, you must be throwing it away or returning it to the store or something. You couldn't just be, say, moving it to a new PC or something. - Kyralessa
Sometimes you install a program and say "hey it almost works for me" and later you think that "almost" is not enaugh. You may want to send feedback. I sometimes do this. But of course it must be an option (disabled by default) in an uninstaller. - JCasso
@JCasso: People who want to send feedback that much, go to the website, and find the e-mailaddress. Not adding this feature will annoy a very small number of people compared to having it. And "disabled by default"? I have severe doubts that anyone browsing through the options (let alone searching for that particular option) would enable "send feedback when I deinstall". - Jonta
(3) I understand that the software authors want to get some idea of why their customers are uninstalling their product. It doesn't help them if they annoy me when I'm just uninstalling for system maintenance purposes. I'd be happy for the uninstaller to have three buttons: "Cancel", "Uninstall" and "Uninstall and give Feedback". Either way it's just one button click, and if I'm inclined to give feedback it's just a click away. - Jeffrey Kemp
(1) Mainly my beef with this post-installation nonsense was greater when I was using a slow browser (cough*MS*cough). Now that I'm using a faster browser it's not so annoying when an extra tab gets opened on occasion. - Jeffrey Kemp
@Jonta: It is not about being eager to send feedback. If you don't mind to write some opinions about software, i don't think you will bother to google it and find the feedback form. Instead you may provide some feedback if only an easy option is provided you by the uninstaller. It is not a favour to the client but a favour to the developer. Also the client would just click a checkbox and would provide why he/she uninstalls. Not confusing, not disturbing... As it is supposed to be. - JCasso
@JCasso: Ah, now I see. So you're suggesting something along the lines of what Jeffrey Kemp suggested in his comment below mine? That would be fine I suppose. I misunderstood you, and had the impression that you were going to go AOL on your users. ( under "Account cancellation") - Jonta
@Jonta, yep. Also forcing user for feedback is rude :) - JCasso
[+50] [2009-06-18 08:55:40] Ami

Having a web site so crowded with banners and ads that you can hardly understand where the real content is. I like a clean design where visitors are respected and ads/banners are served in a way that minimally interferes with your browsing. Good examples are Google and Facebook (IMHO). Bad examples are everywhere...

(1) iPhone is nice for that, usually: one quick double tap on the content box and all the rest slides off the screen. Want that in real safari now! - Alex Brown
(6) This is not a design flaw at all. Those sites are working exactly as intended. They need users to look at the banners first, because that's how the content is paid for. - finnw
(2) Expert Exchange!! No idea where the content is ... - hasen j
(12) Adblock Plus all the way. - blntechie
@finnw I think it's a matter of balance. Ads are okay, and necessary, but if they do things like make noise, steal focus, enlarge, or just crowd out the content, they've gone too far. - BigBeagle
[+48] [2009-06-18 10:54:05] bgever

When you are typing a message in a text input and therefore you use your space bar. But suddenly a modal dialog pops up and takes your space bar keystroke as the default action for its dialog button. Causing unintended actions to perform.

Especially annoying if it's the restart dialog for Windows Update and automatically reboots your system and therefore you lose all your work, because the OS thought you intended so!

(7) This is just a special case of focus stealing - finnw
This kind of "focus stealing" is good for some kinds of things, such as netsend and notifications from calendar apps. The problem is when they neglect to allow for human reaction time. - Stewart
(1) This one bit especially hard in IE. You're downloading a file, but you want to use your PC for something else while it's downloading. So you're typing away on a letter to grandma, and suddenly IE decides to pop a dialog while it transfers the file from cache to the destination you specified, with "Cancel" as the default button. And naturally, you hit space just then, and your entire download is just gone. - GalacticCowboy
That bit me in MSN Messenger the other day as well. Even worse - on the sender's side it appears as if it's been successfully sent. - Stewart
(11) Yes, Windows Update is the worst! Popping up a dialog box, out of nowhere, where the default action is "LOSE UNSAVED WORK AND WONDER WTF JUST HAPPPENED" has to be one of the worst UI design crimes in history. - EMP
[+41] [2009-06-18 09:03:48] Paddy

User interfaces that consist of a list of 'things', each with a checkbox (e.g. to mark something for deletion) that don't provide a 'Select all' or 'Toggle button' at the top...

Roll on carpal tunnel syndrome.

Lol @ "Roll on carpel tunnel syndrome". I find toggle options more useful than select all, because then I can easily unselect all or switch the few I have selected. - Sarah Vessels
@Sarah: Added it to the answer - Daniel Rikowski
[+36] [2009-06-18 07:10:45] sharptooth

Popups with "This can't be done" on half of possible actions. Those actions are to just be disabled instead.

(11) That is a controversial one: Some developers think that it is not a good idea to disable actions, because the user never knowns why it is disabled. Instead they say it's better to keep them enabled and show an explanation why the user cannot execute the action. - Daniel Rikowski
(52) Best heuristic I've seen for this - the one I promptly adopted as my own - is to disable/enable controls for UI purposes (say, Delete is disabled unless there's a selection in the grid), but not for business purposes (Delete is enabled even if the selected item is not-deletable). IMHO strikes a good balance of discoverability and usefulness. - Bevan
(2) DR - That's one of the reasons menu item help was invented. What we really need is more apps that implement this well. - Stewart
(11) @DR: Personally, I find this very misleading. Also, there's a third choice: disabled but with a hover explanation. When the user hovers over it describe why it's not available. - Chris Lively
(6) Hover explanations seem like a really neat and useful solution, but when I've tried them on real people, they go completely unnoticed. Use hover text to hide things you don't expect anyone to ever read. The best way to deal with this, I think, is to have the pop up, but make it like a growl notification: does not require explicit dismissal, just pops up for a second and fades away. - Breton
@Breton I tried the same thing in a prototype I made and the hovers are nearly never noticed. - Ben S
Instead of disabling unused/unimplemented/impossible actions, I suggest showing only the possible ones. i.e you can't delete the last entry of a list? don't show a 'remove' button at all. - LiraNuna
(1) @Breton That reminds me of another UI snag I've seen: tooltips that don't stay on the screen long enough for you to read them. Explanations in the status bar, OTOH, can stay there as long as you keep the menu open and not get in the way. - Stewart
Here's a very simple solution: When your Delete button is disabled, you change the text to "Delete (nothing is selected)". You do need to leave room for the full text to display (plus more room if you're internationalizing), but you can't get more straightforward than explaining why a control is deleted on the control itself. - Kyralessa
[+34] [2009-08-05 10:07:45] jamolkhon

It's annoying when I can't check(/uncheck) checkboxes and radio-buttons by clicking on the corresponding text labels.

[+33] [2009-06-19 09:06:46] Zarkonnen

Inconsistency. Seriously, in the long run it doesn't matter if any meaningful operation takes eight mouse clicks or keystrokes. As long as these mouse clicks and key strokes follow a consistent pattern, a user will automatically memorise them.

One "feature" that egregiously violated this was Microsoft's idea of menus that would reorder themselves to show the most often-used ones at the top. It made it impossible to select "third menu from the left, first option" and know it was eg "Transflutinate Founts". You had to visually inspect the menu each time to make sure you selected the right option, breaking your concentration.

If you are serious about user interface design, I highly recommend Jef Raskin's The Humane Interface [1].


The more meaningful operations should always take less keystrokes than the less meaningful ones :) I hate that I have to click 12 buttons to merge 2 cells in Excel - BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft
(3) Ugh, I hated those Office menus that would hide half the features until you insisted that you used the feature all the time. It could have made sense if they'd initially shown all the features, and then gradually hid the ones you never used. Even then, though, you have to wonder if the benefit of simplification is enough to justify having the user wonder why Word apparently can't do a mail merge anymore. - Kyralessa
(2) This includes tabbed dialogs where clicking on a tab shuffles all the tabs around so you have to read every label to find the tab you want, or when you're searching for an elusive option, you can't work out which tabs you've already visited. - Jason Williams
[+33] [2009-06-20 22:17:45] Jeremy Frey

Password recovery / login services that ask you to supply answers to mutable questions, such as:

  • "What is your favorite color?"
  • "In what year was your car manufactured?"
  • "What is your pet's name?"

As opposed to immutable questions, such as:

  • "In what year did you graduate high school?"
  • "In what city were you born?"
  • "What was the name of your (graduating) high school mascot?"

(8) I don't have a favourite color, don't drive a car, and my dog died more than a decade ago ... yeah, I hate those as well. - ldigas
(23) Shouldn't that be "What was the city you were born in called when you were born?" ;-) Consider Санкт-Петербург From "Saint Petersburg" to "Petrograd" to "Leningrad" to "Saint Petersburg" in less than a century. - bendin
(4) I store the answers to those stupid questions along with the password in my KeePass database. My favorite is when Windows 7 tells me I have to enter a password reminder, which promptly becomes "no". - Jared Harley
(9) Restricting to a hard-coded list of questions instead of letting you supply your own is bad enough regardless of what this hard-coded list consists of. - Stewart
(2) My UK bank blocked my phone banking because the customer service man didn't understood my mothers maiden name - she has a Spanish surname. Don't ask questions you can't understand the answers. - Victor P
(1) Just let the user specify their own question if they want. - Brian
@Stewart, you can always supply your own answer to any question; "What is your favorite color?" "1992" (the year you graduated high school). The password recovery service isn't an AI. - Dour High Arch
@Dour But how am I supposed to remember that my favourite colour is 1992? It defeats the point of a password recovery question if the answer is as hard to remember as your password. - Stewart
@Stewart: you don't need to remember the question; just the answer. As you said, you already know the question. Ignore whatever question the site asks. - Dour High Arch
@Dour I don't get you. How am I supposed to call an answer to mind if I've no recollection of the question to which it's the answer? - Stewart
@Stewart, you ignore the question on the site and use your own. The point of your own question is that it is something you choose that is memorable to you already and does not need to be "brought to mind". This comment is not large enough to describe the practice, read and - Dour High Arch
(4) @Dour Those techniques might be of help, but people just want to sign up to a website (or whatever) rather than spend the time learning one of these techniques. The whole point of password recovery facilities is that you don't have to commit something new to memory (such as the identification of which of many memorable words/numbers you've picked) in order to use them. If you did, then the something new you commit to memory might just as well be your password. Then you won't need to use the recovery service at all. - Stewart
(1) Password recovery is itself stupid. Its not that hard to guess somebody's favorite color. This isn't so bad when the website sends an email, but sometimes they just tell you the password. - Peter
[+32] [2009-06-18 08:20:49] nailitdown

That dialog boxes are the best way to prompt a user for confirmation or input.

Special shout out to 99.999% of modal dialogs.

(8) e.g. Mozilla Thunderbird notifies and STOPS you on any Wifi glitch. And if you have 5 or more mailboxes, you MUST dismiss ALL modal messageBoxes if you want just to browse offline emails. - Berry Tsakala
my favourite is FileZilla's prompt for update, modal dialog. and if you agree to update it starts downloading within the modal dialog. so filezilla is rendered useless until the download finishes. - nailitdown
(12) Ah, the Kanye West school of programming GUIs? ;-) - peSHIr
[+30] [2009-06-19 20:59:42] JohnFx

Forcing the user to answer questions that they have no possible way of answering with any authority.

Saving Your Document...
Do you want to use Big-Endian byte ordering (Y/N)?
What Unicode variant do you want (UTF-8,UTF-16)

Adding Circle to drawing...
Use euclidean geometry to render the radical co-efficient?

(11) Reminds me of Raymond Chen's post, "In order to demonstrate our superior intellect, we will now ask you a question you cannot answer." - Joe White
(4) Got a call from my sister the other day about a funny error message she got from her word processor: "This document has inconsistent line endings. Please select the line endings you'd like to render: {dropdown box containing [CR-LF], [LF], [CR] }" - Juliet
(4) On the other hand, I sometimes need to make these choices. Provide meaningful defaults, but don’t remove my privilege of interfering. - Konrad Rudolph
(1) Sure, if it is related to the task the user is trying to perform. But more often than not, I think programmers just can't make a decision and foist it on the user unnecessarily. If absolutely necessary, hide it on an advanced options screen or something. - JohnFx
[+26] [2009-06-18 07:15:16] Aaron Fi

That users want "slick animations".

Most of the time, what they really want is a reliable indication of system responsiveness, if not system progress. "Visual flair" just becomes a distraction after its initial "wow" factor wears off.

One example comes to mind: the thin pulsing orange bar in Outlook 2007 that runs across your email pane, whenever you click on a hyperlink. Most of the time, the URL loads in your browser within 2 seconds, and thus the animation is short-lived. But sometimes, there's a delay in the background interprocess messaging, and it takes ~30 seconds for the browser (already open) to begin loading the URL. During this time, you're still looking at the same pulsating orange bar, with no idea when your "request" will be completed. These are moments when I get most enraged at snazzy animations. All they communicate is that my computer hasn't completely frozen on me.

Also note that "slick animation" for indicating system progress should adhere to not abusing the notion of a progress bar: i.e. having the progress bar steadily advance from 0 to 99%, only to hang on the 99% for a good minute.

Reminds me of that thin animated strip at the bottom of the Windows 9x boot splash screens - Crippledsmurf
(1) +1 I'd vote you up twice if I could. Wanting a "reliable indication of system responsiveness" is spot on - Jeremy Frey
(1) I feel like this is a bigger problem on Macs than on PCs because Apple does it themselves. - Selene
[+26] [2009-06-19 00:35:59] eschneider

Non-sizable dialog boxes. I can't stand trying to find a file in a dialog that is a few inches square and can not be re-sized. VSS [1] has a lot of these.

Web pages that require me to re-enter data because some other entry validation failed (password, captcha).


Can't agree more. I hate those page where everytime I forget to input a caracter in my zip code I have to reenter my password. Look guys, I know sending it over the wire is not safe, but cant you juste store it in session or something? - Laurent Bourgault-Roy
@Laurent Bourgault-Roy: Storing it in session would make the app more sensitive to DDOS attacks. A not-logged in user should consume the least possible server resources. - Konerak
@Konerak Well, since what i'm talking about is an account creation process, the password and everything else will be stored later anyway. You can put the captcha on a previous page, and the problem is solved. But the real problem is that inscription forms are just way too big for no reason. - Laurent Bourgault-Roy
[+25] [2009-06-18 11:36:24] Lennaert

The thing I find most annoying at the moment would be the add-on update feature in Firefox.

Of course, it doesn't start Firefox before starting the update process (thisI can understand), but I can't understand why, after updating:

  1. it has to notify you that updating succeeded,
  2. it keeps blocking Firefox until you click OK.

I just want to browse the web, I don't care about update processes, so please notify me only when unexpected things happen!

P.S. Unless I didn't search well enough and this behaviour is changeable, of course :)

(5) Due to the almost daily updates of various firefox components and the attendent little notifications, I think twice before clicking on that icon. Seriously, just load the damned browser and allow me to allow updates to download and install in the background. I really don't care when they are done or even that it updated. If you absolutely MUST give me a notification, do it like the regular download box does with a little sliding window at the bottom of my screen that I can IGNORE like all the other crap. Thank you for reading. - Chris Lively
firefox' update policy can be changed in options. lazy people! - knittl
(2) @knitt: I see options there to enable/disable updating, but that's not the point. I do want to update, and I want to be notified that there are pending updates, but I do not want FF to tell me that the updates succeeded, that's expected behaviour. Imagine if the same thing would happen when loading webpages: "Loading the webpage succeeded. Press OK to continue". :) - Lennaert
(2) @knittl: As Lennaert stated, I want the updates. I just don't care when they happen or need to be alerted that they succeeded. In all actuality, if it failed all I would do is close the dialog and move on anyway. - Chris Lively
[+24] [2009-06-18 07:08:42] peSHIr

"Color gradients and lots of animations are cool and lead to a great user experience automatically."

Ehhh... no. Not really. And by no means automatically. A crappy interface without gradients/animations generally gets even crappier when these things are added!

(4) Such as Norton 360? - Cecil Has a Name
[+23] [2009-06-20 20:51:27] TomA

Every little application thinks it should be in the Quick launch bar and offers to infest it by default during installation. Same for the Desktop shortcuts.

(1) Even worse are the ones that don't ask. - GalacticCowboy
(1) Worse yet are the ones that check each time you launch them, and reinstall themselves if you took them out. I'm looking at you, Cisco VPN Client! - Dour High Arch
(1) Pidgin does the same thing; if I move its start-menu shortcut, it will recreate it. - BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft
[+23] [2009-07-01 17:54:38] GalacticCowboy

Inconsistent "metaphor" usage.

Common examples are:

  • Checkboxes that behave like radio buttons, where one and only one can be selected
  • Scroll buttons rather than scroll bar
  • Tabs that behave like command buttons, or command buttons that behave like tabs

Making checkboxes behave like radio buttons is useful in cases where only one can be checked or NONE. Checkboxes can be unchecked, but radio buttons cant. - jamolkhon
(5) @presario - In that case there should just be a radio option of 'none'; it doesn't make sense to break the standard conception of how checkboxes work just for that point - John
[+21] [2009-06-22 06:31:36] Daniel Rikowski

Uncancellable movies before game menus

In games sometimes when you have to watch short clips and screens of the developer, the publisher and each vendor who supplied some technology to the game until you get to the game menu.

That alone doesn't matter but it get's real annoying when long cancellable and short uncancellable views and/or separate loading screens alternate where you have to cancel each view separately.

That way you can't use the time to get a coffee, because the longer movies would still be playing when you come back and you can't just press escape several times because you have to sit throught the short ones and the loading screens.

Noteworthy exceptions are Doom 3 where you can already press the quickload key during the openings which immediately loads your game and Fallout 3 where the opening animations are actually a cover for some game initializations, which you can cancel as soon as the game is ready.

And Psychonauts, where the intro movie is so good it just doesn't matter. - Jonathan Prior
(1) When I played games, I had a collection of 0-length videos in various formats that I would copy over the non-skippable trailers. - pimlottc
[+20] [2009-06-18 11:38:01] l0b0

Pixel-based designs. Screen resolution has changed drastically the last decade, and there's a wider range of resolutions in use now than ever before, from mobile phones to the latest gaming rig. Double scroll bars and tiny interface components are both annoying.

Actually the problem here is font size, because if you allow text to flow for as long as it will to horizontally, lines become unreadably long. Look at Wikipedia, I find it unreadable on my widescreen monitor because the font size is constant. If it were twice the size on bigger screens it would be much easier to read. - DisgruntledGoat
Yeah, the problem is with the text : if you do a liquid layout then you're text will be almost unreadable. - Laurent Bourgault-Roy
There's no reason why flowing text can't be constrained horizontally (max-width). This has nothing to do with pixel vs. fluid layout. - l0b0
[+19] [2009-06-20 19:40:29] TomA

ATI Catalyst Control Center

  1. It has basic/advanced mode for the UI.
  2. It asks me before actually switching to the advanced mode, as if I was about to format a harddrive or something. And it forgets the choice after each update.
  3. It offers me to keep my CPU or GPU 100% saturated at all times by installing a Folding@Home client on each update. Or a WoW trial on good days.
  4. It uses .NET so it takes ages to load.
  5. The basic elements of the main dialog don't fit so it has scrollbars. In a small window.
  6. The 3D settings are divided into groups. The last two groups are called All settings (contains settings from all previous groups combined, with a scrollbar) and More settings (contains settings not listed elsewhere).
  7. It has Skinning support.

ATI Catalyst Control Center Yes please. Yes! Yes!

This annoys me so much. - glasnt
[+18] [2009-06-18 23:25:39] JosephStyons

That people read the text on modal dialog boxes.

[+18] [2009-06-18 13:01:41] Stellaire

I really hate websites that are not cross-browser friendly or require you to use a specific browser for it to work. As a web developer I understand how painfully difficult this is but that's part of the challenge of being a web developer.

Though these days it's much less an issue than it used to be. - GalacticCowboy
We see you're not using Firefox. Join the circle and pass the toke, yo. - tsilb
Actually, I am a Firefox user. =) It's seeing sites that tell you that you need to use a specific browser because of a certain technology limited that browser that irk me. - Stellaire
I am using Opera, and I hate this too. Some web sites works on only IE, some works on only Firefox. Guys who design the web site for IE sucks but those who design it for Firefox are awesome? No they are not... - JCasso
[+18] [2010-01-25 18:21:55] David

Websites that automatically play music or video

I've occasionally been listening to music and opened several dozen tabs in Firefox, and then a song starts playing in one of them. Which one? I don't know. I have to go through my open tabs one at a time until I can find which one is open so I can turn off the sound.

If you are going to have your website automatically play sound or a video:

  1. There should be a way to disable auto-play for all videos, globally across the website. Thank you,, for a good example of this.

  2. There needs to be a mute button.

  3. There needs to be a volume slider, because sometimes the sounds are too loud. Some people use headphones, and they should not have to have our machine's volume control window open at the same time as your website.

Better yet, don't even play the sound or videos unless the uses asks for it. And make sure the audio-visual effects on the website serve a purpose before putting them there.

Acknowledgements: MySpace page designs that allow several songs or videos to start playing in the same page at the same time.

(1) And yes, this includes videos and games (though having sound on by default is reasonable, here). I demand the right to open 20 flash games/videos in separate tabs at once without being forced to close some of them because I don't want to play them yet! - Brian
(2) Wish I could upvote this a hundred times. - Sven Weidauer
[+17] [2009-06-18 23:56:03] Alex Brown

Running a maintenance task during system start-up.

I never re-start my computer unless I am already pissed off (it's a mac, it sleeps well). I certainly don't have time for disk scans, dialogue boxes, update dialogues etc.

If I re-start it twice in 5 minutes, that means I'm really really pissed off - do you think I welcome your application taking 30 seconds to do something I don't care about, and do it even if I remember to press shift (don't do normal startup maintenance)? What gives you the frakkin right?

Why don't you run them when you know I don't care, like just before automatic sleep, or at 4am in the morning?

But the most stupid choice must be to run upgrade during shutdown: I really just want the computer to shut down. My kids have killed two windows installations by doing a manual power-off when windows is doing a shut-down upgrade... - KarlP
[+17] [2009-06-19 20:52:09] JohnFx

Using the standard dialog buttons from the MessageBox class instead of meaningful ones out of laziness.

What is your Gender?

Click Yes for Male, No for Female, Cancel for Unknown.

[Yes] [No] [Cancel]

I'm very amused at the "Cancel". At least they thought it out for aliens. - waiwai933
(2) Cancel (or look below for answer :-) - ldigas
I ask my students how we should represent gender in a database table. A few of them invariably suggest a boolean value which, from a programming perspective, is perfectly legitimate. But then I ask them which should be the "true" gender and which should be "false" and they see that maybe there's less offensive way of doing it. - Barry Brown
(5) If you think of it as a Bit value instead of a Boolean it gets much easier. The digits 0 and 1 just happen to be quite yonic and phallic respectively. =) - JohnFx
(2) That's a good one, never seen THAT before! At least they could have reworded that question as "Are you male? (Click Cancel if you don't wish to answer)" [Yes] [No] [Cancel] - EMP
@Barry, you might also point out to them that male and female aren't always the only two answers. I work for a pig-breeding company, where the pig's sex can be male, female, or barrow [castrated male]. For humans we still don't seem to have more than two options, but given the number of news stories I see these days about transgendered or intersexed individuals, we may one day have more options for humans as well. - Kyralessa
[+17] [2009-06-23 10:10:58] dagw

That looks and aesthetics don't matter.

Too many programmers think that as long as all the features are easily accessable and that all the controls make sense then everything is done. They don't care if things don't really line up, that the spacing between elements, sizes and fonts are inconsistent or that the colours are ugly and hard to look at.

These are the same people who see no added value in Apple's products. - pimlottc
(2) I don't see any added value in Apple's products BECAUSE of their user interface. It's so horribly unintuitive and ugly. - Lotus Notes
@Lotus Notes: Are we talking about the same Apple? Because last I heard they were kinda the golden standard that everybody copies. I mean, they came back from the brink of bankruptcy just by making their products look cool. How many companies have tried that and failed? If you really think they're ugly then that's fine, but I think most people disagree with you. - Peter
(2) @Peter Knowing how to use Apple interfaces is never immediately obvious. How is one supposed to have any idea that using two fingers to double swipe left would go back one page in your browser? And I'm sure you also know how annoyingly difficult it is to copy and paste text on your iPhone Safari browser. It's not immediately obvious either that one would have to trigger and drag the magnifying glass tool before being able to select text. I would be fine with un-obvious mechanics if they led to efficiency later, but barbaric movements with your fingers are not quick even once ingrained. - Lotus Notes
@Lotus Notes: So what you mean is that you don't like apple's touch interface. It sounds like you actually haven't tried using OSX. The copy/paste and back buttons all work just like in windows. I still don't see any justification for calling their interfaces ugly. - Peter
[+16] [2009-06-18 12:34:22] Jem

alt text

This is the most annoying oven ever. Symbols on buttons are totally obscure, and you can't get it cook anything unless you know by heart the manual. There is a impressive voodoo combination of buttons to hit in a particular order to setup time, pre-heating and temperature correctly. And I swear I read the manual.

Plus, the number of button hits is proportional to the cook time you need. I.e: O(n). There is no exponential increase of the time when you keep the good button pressed. So to set "30 minutes", you have to keep the same button pressed almost 30 seconds (or press it 60 times).

  • "What were these hundred beeps !?"
  • "Oh, nothing, I just wanted hot water for my pastas, nevermind."

So, rule #1 for an user interface: let at least a few humans (not engineers ;)) to test and accept it before releasing it in the wild.

I don't know any engineer that would ever create such a monster. I'd imagine this kind of user interface was imposed by a suit who thought buttons with exponential time or an actual keypad was too hard for a hypothetical brain-dead user to figure out. - rmeador
Haha also sprinkler systems! I'm sure mine was developed by some electrical engineer :) - Scott
(1) +1 My microwave is exactly the same. What were they thinking... - Daniel Rikowski
By far the best microwave UI is the combined "start | add 30 seconds" button--you get to enter the rest of the timing data after it's already started cooking for you. I would love a microwave that had this button and no others. (Save maybe a dial for 'power'.) My current microwave has buttons that are extremely sensitive to accidental double-presses, so that you constantly have to clear and start again. - Kev
(1) +1 for the hundred beeps dialog. - Ben S
(1) I prefer buttons that can be turned clockwise or counter-clockwise, so it's easy and fast to setup and adjust the time (and heat) correctly, at any stage of the cooking. - Jem
[+16] [2009-06-18 09:26:49] Alex Brown

Applications that attempt to cram so much UI into the main screen that you can't see what it's supposed to be presenting as it's main purpose.

Hello Lotus notes!

this is solved nicely in Eclipse settings, though - you can search by writing part of the setting's name, if you wish. and it works great. VLC VideoLan-Client media player has 2 different UIs: for advanced and for novice users - Berry Tsakala
I would have just said: Lotus Notes. - Muhammad Alkarouri
[+15] [2009-06-20 03:46:35] aib

Windows that don't close when you click the close button.

Yes, this even goes for you main windows out there. I don't care how tray-bound or utility-like your application is, close means close.

Agree on this one. Close means Close. It's acceptable for Minimize to minimize to tray (as long as the user is notified so they don't think "where's it gone?!"). - DisgruntledGoat
(1) Exactly. Having a "minimize to tray" option (disabled by default) is the best way to do this, IMO. Also added "close means close" to answer to change the tone a bit :) - aib
[+15] [2010-01-25 18:38:13] David Thornley

Dialog boxes that block progress during long procedures.

Ever started something long, walked away, came back an hour later, and found it was stuck one minute from startup asking you something?

A dialog box at the very end works well. One immediately at the start can work, but I do mean immediately. If I'm in a hurry and click on starting something, I can't necessarily wait five seconds to see if any dialog boxes start up.

So, anything that will take a while should ideally check potential problems before the go button is hit, or at worst bring up dialogs immediately. Whatever it does should not include popping up a dialog requiring a response to continue during the process.

One example is syncing my iPhone on my Mac Mini. It likes to put up little dialog boxes like "Are you sure you want to modify more than 5% of your contacts/calendar items?" midway during the sync. (Note that, until you have over 20 contacts and calendar items, you will hit this with any single change. Note also that I've got two and a half years of calendar items in my phone now, so 5% of them is a much larger change that I'd expect to do, but this isn't related to my main point.)

[+15] [2010-10-22 21:57:17] Jason Williams

Applications that keep asking stupid questions (to allow users to choose an alternative workflow that probably nobody has ever actually needed, wanted, or used).

Me: Copy these files over here
Windows: How about this one?
Me: Yes, copy them ALL
Windows: How about this one?
Me: Yes, copy them ALL
Windows: How about this one?
Me: Yes, copy them ALL
Windows: How about this one?
Me: Yes, copy them ALL
Windows: Sorry, I can't copy the 5th file, so you'll have to work out what you wanted to copy, work out which one I failed on, remove it from the selection, and then start the process all over again.


I've clicked "ALL". All means everything, which incidentally was heavily implied by my original request to copy the files I selected. JUST DO IT! Now I have to wait an hour for the copy to complete when I had hoped it would finish while I was away at lunch.

(1) Lol, had to face this problem 5 min ago. - Oliver Weiler
(2) 100+ if I could - tombom
[+14] [2009-08-05 08:33:13] Scott Langham

The 'Open, Save and Save As' model is the only way of accessing files

I'm frequently asked by not so computer literate friends: "How can I get all my work back, it seems to have gone?"

What's happened is that they've opened up a document, say "2008 financial accounts.spreadsheet", spent a few hours editing it to contain 2009 accounts, and then though, great, that's good. I'll save it. So, they press save. Then, later on they need some important information from their 2008 or 2009 accounts. Well, they can't find their 2009 accounts, because it's saved in a file called "2008 financial accounts.spreadsheet", and their 2008 accounts are lost because they've been overwritten.

There are a number of solutions:

  • Computers have loads of hard disk space nowadays, so couldn't the OS keep old copies of the document?
  • Get rid of save and save as. Files icons in the OS should be used more like real world files. This would get people into the correct mind-set. If they want to start editing a new version, they'd go to explorer and copy the file, and then open it to work on it. There would be no concept of save, because all changes would be automatically saved... just like when you start writing on a piece of paper (although, with computers we could still allow some undo). Also, there would be no open command, you'd open the file from explorer rather than from in the program that edits/views it.

I think the reason we ended up with the Open, Save and and Save As model for working is just for historical reasons. In older OS's that didn't have graphical user interfaces for manipulating files that were always available, they were seen as an OK solution to a technical problem.

that concept is called source control. - AZ.
Well, yes. But.. my parents and other people have trouble dealing with 'Save As', so they are not going to be able to deal with any source control system as they exist today. Some kind of document control is required, but this stuff needs to be baked into the OS to avoid these kind of headaches. - Scott Langham
Maybe the File menu for some applications should have a "Clone" or "Copy" option for this purpose. I'm thinking of the "Edit as new" that you see in email clients sometimes... - MatrixFrog
I think that it is silly that users have to keep telling the computer not to lose their data. You can see a good idea for how to deal with files in a user-friendly way without the user having to deal with saving in the book About Face 3. (…) Look at Chapter 17 - Rethinking Files and Save. There are some really smart ideas in there. Too bad I rarely see them implemented. - mikez302
@AZ: Certainly. Now, I've got a version control system on this computer, and I also have a file system. They both do similar things. Why the distinction? - David Thornley
I don't think the average user would want to learn how to use source control. All they need is to manually save backups which is pretty obvious even to the most tech-inept people. - Lotus Notes
VMS file system, anyone? - EricSchaefer
Apple does this already with files using a built in feature called time machine. Most likely windows will do something similar eventually. You could also use if you want to have source control that works exactly like the existing file system. - Peter
@Peter: DropBox appears to be a very useful service (I haven't had problems with it yet), but it doesn't appear to be source control. Can you easily recover from overwriting a DropBox file? - David Thornley
@David: They keep file history. I haven't had to use it yet, but they claim you can easily revert back to older versions of files. I'm not sure how many version they keep, but for non-technical people it could be a life saver and it would certainly avoid the situation described here. - Peter
Dude, look at your OS... Windows has System Restore, which keeps past versions of all your files. I am not sure if Mac and Linux have it, but it's highly likely they do. - Vercas
My point is not whether it's possible or not, it's whether the UI is designed to make it a first-class way of working. - Scott Langham
[+13] [2009-06-20 19:57:46] m1k4

Horizontal scrollbar

Although, isn't there always some data that you really do have to scroll left to see in its entirety? Example: large images, spreadsheets, code that is longer than 80 characters, or if you are using a small view window (netbook, mobile device). - Brian
[+13] [2009-06-21 02:27:37] Clinton Blackmore

Providing a way to do something with the mouse but not the keyboard.

This irks me about the Mac, too. You want to access your menubar from the keyboard? You have to press something like Command-Shift-F3 to turn keyboard access on, and then another keyboard chord to actually use the menu. Likewise, there are some things that can only be done via drag-and-drop with the mouse.

[+12] [2009-06-19 20:29:46] Adam Luter

My biggest gripe that hasn't been mentioned is the tiny-window infatuation many operating systems suffer from -- but Microsoft is definitely the worst.

For example, consider for instance most configuration screens under XP -- such as IE's internet settings / advanced tab. This window is small, contains a very long list, and is not resizable.

It is by no means the worst example, often people make the window unresizable and thinner than the table of data they present inside of it.

Don't make your windows unresizable if they contain a list. Don't make your windows small when they are important. (Sorry if that's two things).

(3) There's a caveat to this that I've run into with Ubuntu: Don't make your options box taller then the screen resolution will handle. I have it running in a VM with a screen height of a bit over 700, and I'll run into dialog/options boxes where the 'OK/Cancel/Go_Away' buttons can't be gotten at. At all. - CoderTao
CoderTao: Same thing with Ubuntu on my netbook. Eejits. - Tom Hawtin - tackline
[+12] [2009-08-05 12:16:18] furtelwart

Uncancellable actions pretending to be cancelable

What an annoying "feature" of Eclipse and some other programs:
A long process is running in a separated thread. You see a Cancel button and a (senseless) progressbar. It takes long, too long.
You would like to cancel it.
You really would like to cancel it.
You WANT to cancel it.

But no, there's no response that would be a hint the program is stopping.

I really hate it. Eclipse is veeery good in this.

(2) To be fair, implementing cancellable operations is very, very hard. - Konrad Rudolph
Yes, that's right. But then Eclipse resp. the application should not offer to cancel this :) Expected behaviour != current behaviour => annoyance - furtelwart
Agree. I have the same experience with eclipse - Deepak Singh Rawat
Progress dialog boxes with one cancel button which is disabled is also very annoying. It's like they're dangling the cancel feature in front of you but won't let you use it. I'm sure there's a programmer somewhere laughing at me... - Peter
I get this all the time with copying in Vista's explorer. - Jonathan Morgan
[+12] [2009-06-18 21:55:53] David Plumpton

Meaningless help texts

Tooltip/help text like "Customer id: this is the id of the customer".

Oh, in lotus notes you get the tooltip "twistie icon". Idiots. - Alex Brown
(2) Actual tooltip text for the First Name text box in a CRM app: "Name of the First". (Facepalm) - Dour High Arch
[+11] [2009-10-31 08:10:40] Mark Redman

When installing or updating software (especially having been prompted in the middle of the day with loads of apps open) You get the message that a reboot is required, however there is no option to delay this.

|     You must reboot your computer.   |
|                                      |
|              [   ok   ]              |

But such windows can be safely moved offscreen and forgotten. Which makes such reboot request even more stupid. - ymv
I was once told that Mac OS X relies on QuickTime in ways I can't remember. So if you don't reboot after installing a QuickTime update, the system exhibits strange behaviour. - Stewart
Hopefully the message tells you this in that case. If it gave an explanation why, it would be more pacifying I guess. - Mark Redman
[+11] [2009-06-21 00:38:03] DisgruntledGoat

Applications that allow too much configuration.

Options are great, they let you use the software the way you like. Problem is, a lot of software goes overboard with how much the user can customize it. This results in dozens of options that make minor interface changes in order to mimic every competing app, or just for show (e.g. colours or skins). Or allow you to choose 20 different orderings for a list, when alphabetical is more than adequate.

Or to get around bad design in the first place ("we shouldn't have done it this way; the new way is far better, but we'll add an option to use the old method in case users don't like it.")

I think this is mostly true of FOSS [1], where the path is something like:

  • User 1: I love your application, but it would be even better with [minute feature A].
  • User 2: No, horrible idea!
  • Developer: OK, I'll make it an option.
  • Everyone seems happy.
  • Repeat ad nauseum until there are fifty million settings.

(2) And when someone says they hate bloat, every single preference is turned into a plugin. Miranda IM is guilty of that. - porneL
I disagree - the number of options is not the problem, the interface is. Just create a config file with a decent syntax (e.g. Vim scripting, SSH configuration, AwesomeWM) and I'm happy. - new123456
[+11] [2009-12-21 17:17:54] pimlottc

Strongly session-based websites

HTTP is an inherently stateless protocol. Session is useful for some things (e.g. user credentials) but some sites store nearly everything in the session state which makes for a poor experience:

  • User's browsing path is highly controlled
  • Often forces user into starting page 'gateway' to establish session
  • Difficult or impossible to bookmark pages
  • Usually breaks forward/backwards buttons
  • Doesn't allow working in multiple windows, as they interfere with each other through session state
  • "Your session has expired" (user must start over from the beginning)

[+10] [2009-06-20 22:04:14] Jeremy Frey

Not allowing users to use an email addresses as a username.

In a more general case, not allowing @s in usernames.

This leads to the unfortunate scenario of not only having to remember a suite of passwords, but to manage an equally large suite of usernames. Did I use jfrey or freyj or jeremyf to log into this site?

I don't have all that much difficulty remembering passwords, but remembering which username I had to use is a real pain. - David Thornley
[+10] [2009-06-29 16:04:32] Daniel Rikowski

Cargo cult [1]

Sometimes applications immitate UIs of other applications without adding real value, just to make them look like the "big ones".

Typical examples:

  • Ribbons where a simple menu or toolbar would suffice
  • Quickstart buttons for long running execute-once-a-day applications
  • Balloon messages with useless information
  • Splash screens which obviously are there to show off an image and not to cover a long startup.

Especially for German programs:

  • Adding a "Copyright (c)" statement. It was never necessary in Germany to do this, nor does a "copyright" exist in Germany. But every big US product has that notice, so...

[+10] [2009-06-18 12:44:19] Kris

I think that the biggest misconception of many designers is the belief they are capable of creating an optimal UI without input from users.

Unless you are creating a UI that is minor variation on something that already exists (and is good) you'll need to involve users in some fashion, such as doing usability testing etc.

[+10] [2009-06-18 07:11:14] mikek

The first two nitpicks I thought of:

  1. When UI designers think they know better than to follow the OS standard (and I'm bloody well looking at you, Microsoft Office 2007-developers!). Microsoft did a dandy job of forcing developers to follow the general windows API when constructing GUI...which actually is a stroke of genius. It's not that I love Microsoft's interface so much, but there is no ultimate interface. What I do expect is to be able to find common menu options (like save, or new) without having to context switch.

  2. Login screens that attempt to log you in instead of pass the cursor to the password field when you press Enter. There is no reason why I'd want to attempt logging in without entering a password first, so why not just assume that I pressed Enter instead of Tab?

(22) [OT] The Office 2007 developers were largely driven by UI concerns. Over 80% of the feature requests Microsoft received for Office 2003 were for features that already existed, but that users couldn't find. Jensen Harris has a great presentation on this that's well worth watching:… - Bevan
(13) To 2 - because Tab (Win) and Down-arrow (Mac) are customary actions for switching between text fields, not Enter. - MaxVT
@Bevan: Thanks, I'll take a look at it. In the case of Office 2007, I don't think they improved anything, while a lot of users (such as my layman father) can't make his way around the new UI. Couldn't they have fixed usability issues without alienating parts of their old user base? - mikek
MaxVT: It's been a while, but I think I got the habit from working on Sparcs. Still...why force me to follow their standard, when they lose nothing (other than another if/else-clause) by accommodating me? - mikek
@Bevan: The irony is that the redesign made it so that previously easy to find features became very hard to find. Who's bright idea was it to hide the File menu behind an apparently unclickable icon? - Laurence Gonsalves
(9) [OT,Troll?,Flamebait] @Bevan: Those 80% of feature requests? Yeah, still can't find 'em. And this Ribbon thing, is making it harder for me to find the stuff I do know exists. Take Outlook for example. Why isn't the "Plain Text"/"RTF"/"HTML" mail format option actually under the "Format" menu? The ribbon is Pretty, and Mac-Like. THAT alone is why they did it. Microsoft is grasping at straws to stop the wholesale defection - with more tech companies going to Macs (my company is exploding with Mac usage) they're in for real risk here. - Chris Kaminski
(4) I am still un-decided on the concept of the Office ribbon. What is miss is being able to customize it. If only ever use "save as","Bold" and "numbered list" then I should be able to create a toolbar with only those options. Anything else can be got from a menu which only uses a few extra pixels of screen height. - pipTheGeek
(14) Dear Microsoft, I find your ribbon to be neat. I the next version of office, can you include the ability to save my documents? It seems wasteful to have to keep my computer running all the time, and it seems to get slower and slower the more documents I create. - Breton
(2) I just loved the default buttons in the toolbar in emails in Outlook 2007 - Save and Next and Back, but no Reply or Foward? What's the most common thing to do with an email? And I have to customise the toobar to add it. How did that pass useability testing? - Martin
The ribbon isn't all that bad. If you use it daily, you learn where things are rather easily. But I would like an option to search through the ribbon; type print and show me all print related tasks. - alex
@Martin - the first three buttons in my Outlook 2007 emails are Reply, Reply All and Forward... - Mark Pattison
@Breton - +1 for that, I LOL'ed! - Eyvind
1. I've used Macs for about two decades now. Don't think that Apple necessarily follows its UI rules either. - David Thornley
The microsoft office team is basically the Windows UI team. Whatever they pick becomes "Standard". Look at how ribbon is moving into more apps. - vanja.
[+10] [2009-06-18 07:45:12] Alex Jenter

I hate it when windows flicker heavily when resized. And this is something that about 90% of Windows apps out there can't get right. It's especially visible when you resize using the left border - usually all the controls are jumping around. This was maybe acceptable in the last century, but now in the world of quad cores this is just ridiculous.

Take a look at the documentation for WM_NCCALCSIZE and you'll understand why most developers try to avoid implementing it. - finnw
I agree, the API is horrible, but it can be done, and is not especially difficult - my app CintaNotes is the proof. - Alex Jenter
[+9] [2009-06-18 11:14:36] l0b0

Assuming a linear workflow - A lot of web sites will remove any text from input fields when using the back button, especially forums. At that point, there's no way to recover the text.

(2) IMO It's up to the browser to handle this, and Firefox does so adequately. - aib
No, I've seen several sites (in Firefox) which manage to clear input fields when going back. It's easy to do in JavaScript, and as long as that's enabled, the browser will generally execute it. - l0b0
Yep, I retract my comment. Firefox started randomly clearing my input boxes (probably site scripts, didn't bother checking) - aib
[+9] [2009-06-19 08:12:49] Epaga

Restricting passwords to a MAXIMUM (not minimum!) length and to alphanumeric characters.

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

My 'favorite' is my insurance company's site. It required a password with 'at least six, but less than 9'. So I use my normal, longer than 8 char, password, but stopped when it filled up at 8. There login page then got me every time when I typed the whole thing. Grrr, make your password boxes consistent - and what harm is a longer password! - kenj0418
[+9] [2009-06-27 21:14:01] JustJeff

Install wizards that don't tell you what they are going to install. OK, admittedly if I downloaded it on Monday and didn't bother to run it until Saturday, I should accept some of the blame, but honestly, if you run xyz_v3.exe, the installer should say something more informative than just "this will install xyz version 3 on your computer". I mean come on, tell me what XYZ is! Put a URL on that dialog! Something!

[+9] [2009-06-20 18:32:39] Nicolas Dorier

One URL : Interface Hall of shame [1]


That site hasn't been updated in 10 years. - Dour High Arch
[+9] [2009-06-19 13:18:31] Ian Boyd

Most users do not understand what the Apply button does. When users want to close a form that contains:

[  OK  ]  [Cancel]  [ Apply]

They always hit Apply, and then OK. Nobody seems to appreciate that:

  • Apply: saves the stuff on the form
  • OK: saves and closes the form

So, as a form designer: get rid of the Apply button. It only serves to confuse your users.

Unless: your software can actually react to Apply button, the user can see the effects, and hit Cancel if they don't like them. In which case Apply doesn't permananetly save changes, but is more of a preview. Since nobody writes code to handle this (not even me): take out the Apply button.

(7) Don't you think it's sometimes useful to save without closing ? I happen to use it quite often. - Brann
Should OK also apply the setting? Or merely save and close? - Barry Brown
@Barry Brown: "apply" means to save - Ian Boyd
@Brann: i use Apply quite often also. Doesn't mean that it doesn't confuse almost everyone else. i want colleagues here who will hit "Apply" and then "OK" to save changes and close a dialog. We're in the minority. - Ian Boyd
@Brann @Ian Yep, use it all the time. If there's any recommendation at all, it's to rename apply or okay in a less ambiguous way. But why not just swallow your irritation the next time you see someone hit apply then okay? Is that really worse than forcing a window close every time settings changes are made or auto-saving unless an explicit cancel is hit? - David Berger
Why don't just swallow it? Because i also see my mother trying to close a dialog - and the twinge of panic and confusion as she moves the mouse towards OK, then towards Apply, then clicks Apply, and waits a beat to ensure that nothing bad happened (that she didn't screw it up), and then clicks OK to close the screen. The point is, users don't understand OK vs Apply. They all use [OK,Cancel,Apply] as [Close,Cancel,Save] - Ian Boyd
Apply doesn't work in modal dialogs--makes very little sense there. If you expect to see the results in the window beneath you, make the dialog modeless so you can interact with the window you're changing. - Bill K
I've made a habit of clicking Apply before OK. It might have been that there once was an application that wired OK to "Apply, then Close" - even if the Apply part failed! Or it might be those applications that fail to Apply on OK. - aib
Can't agree with the very last line. I like to see what happens before I close the window when I am fiddling with a ton of settings that somehow change the UI. If the changes don't have any immediate VISIBLE effect then there is really no sense for the Apply button. But I like the Apply buttons and don't care that sooo many people think they need to hit Apply before pressing OK. - Peter Perháč
(3) If "Apply" means save, what does the app do if you hit Apply then Cancel? To me, Apply means "try these settings before I save them so I can decide if they are going to work." (Hopefully, the app is written so that I can see the effects of the setting before getting out of the dialog box.) - Barry Brown
Consider: you want to see the outcome of changes before you dismiss the dialog. This means that you make changes, and by hitting apply: areas outside the dialog will change in response to the options you've set. (perhaps a toolbar appears, and you can decide if that's what you wanted). But consider another way: have the changes happen right away. You fiddle with options, and things change right away. You can then hit "OK" to commit them, or "Cancel" to undo them. - Ian Boyd
@MasterPeter: You don't care about people who have to use your software. You don't care that they experience a twinge of fear and panic. You don't care that they don't know what's going on. You don't care to make the software experience better for them. i don't disagree with you, i like, and create Apply buttons myself. But the more you see users interacting with it, you realize it's the wrong paradigm. - Ian Boyd
(2) How about getting rid of all three, and just go with a single "Close" button (e.g. Chrome), or getting rid of the buttons all together (e.g. Apple UIs) - Jeremy Frey
I like Apple's way: (for non-destructive preferences) there's neither of these buttons. Preferences are applied immediately as you change them. - porneL
@Jeremy Frey and porneL: Is there a way to "undo what i just did"? - Ian Boyd
@Barry Brown: i like that idea too. But it doesn't work in all situations. Take the File or Folder properties dialog box in Windows Explorer. Not all the options in it can be easily reversed i.e. do you want to un-encrypt the file? Unencrypt? What if you denied yourself access - you can't get it back. - Ian Boyd
"the user can see the effects, and hit Cancel if they don't like them." "Apply... is more of a preview. " That's never how the standard worked, at least in Windows. OK = Apply+Cancel. Applying and cancelling does not undo changes. - RJFalconer
(1) The Windows user interface guidelines states that if you after hitting Apply cannot cancel the modifications the text of the Cancel button should change to Close. This preserves the meaning of Cancel. Unfortunately many applications do not follow this rule. - Martin Liversage
[+9] [2009-06-19 15:00:02] Kev

That there should be only one way to do a given task.

It may take more design and testing effort, but having multiple UI paths for a single task:

  1. Allows less-savvy users to operate without reading the manual while allowing power users to get work done efficiently

  2. Provides alternatives when users can't figure out how to use a feature, or a feature breaks

(1) +1 A conceptual separation between task and ui path is good design anyway. Multiple ui paths have many pluses, but easing the learning curve without requiring jumping through hoops every time for an experienced user is priceless. - David Berger
+1. Users are individuals. To be "intuitive" to everyone an application often has to support 3 or 4 workflows for the same task so that if the user tries to do something in the way they feel is "obvious", it just works. - Jason Williams
[+9] [2010-10-22 10:39:14] John Catterfeld

Giving no indication of what rules are enforced for your password.

If you remind me it had to be at least eight characters with two numbers I'll know which one I used. If not, I'll have to use all the possible ones it could be until I finally get it right.

[+9] [2010-10-22 13:52:53] Mike Vysocka

Providing a 'Reset' or 'Clear Form' button on your web form. These button's cause significantly more harm than good and their effect can be devastating to the user. When's the last time you filled out a 25 question form and decided to start over?

To make matters worse, web developers usually design these reset buttons to look strikingly similar to their submit button counterpart and will even position the two dangerously close.

[+9] [2010-11-05 17:50:07] Brian

Applications that use the program directory as the default "save to" directory.

I have never, ever needed to save a project file in program files and with Windows Vista/7 you have to have opened the program as an administrator. Even using the current user's documents area as a default location or just loading the last directory a project was saved to would be better than that.

(1) ^ This. You nailed it! - thenonhacker
[+8] [2010-01-25 17:59:18] Ken

Re-using progress bars

I know that getting progress bars to be accurate is hard, and for one-shot operations on an unknown PC it's basically impossible -- this isn't about that.

The problem is when some program needs to do 17 different things (or some unknown-to-the-user number of things), and it shows each one with the same progress bar. So the bar is going across, gets done, resets to 0, and goes across again, gets done, resets to 0 again ... what possible use is this to anybody? The very best examples of this use about 50 progress bars, each of which takes 0.3 seconds to fill. Windows installers are prime examples of this, but I've seen it elsewhere.

If you can estimate progress, great, use one progress bar. If you have no idea how many operations something is going to take, then OK, just show a spinner or "indeterminate progress bar" instead. It's not that hard.

I've seen two separate progress bars work quite effectively, one for the overall process and one that works for each intermediate task. - David Thornley
(2) I suppose as long as it has a progress bar for the whole thing, it's OK, but I can't imagine a scenario in which it would be at all useful to see a second one for each sub-task. It's just visual noise. - Ken
@Ken Until a sub-task takes a long time and you start wondering it it's stuck. - Brian Ortiz
[+8] [2009-06-20 23:34:36] Juliano

Useless spinners, turned into simple animations

Applications that use spinners to entertain users while doing some time-demanding operation... but instead of updating the spinner only after each cycle of processing, so that the user know that something is happening, they turned spinners into simple, pretty useless animations.

Then, the time-demanding operation freezes for whatever reason, and you keep thinking that it is still processing, since the spinner is still spinning. To add insult to the injury, the application isn't smart enough to check that something is wrong, and interrupt/restart/do something about the hang.

This is so common that even Stack Overflow has this issue. Click to open the comments of a question or answer, and you see a spinner. If the server fails to respond, you just have a useless spinner on your screen that keeps giving you hope that the response will arrive, sometime... There is no timeout and no way for the user to cancel and restart the request (unless you reload the page).

(1) Absolutely agreed. However, on the web, the only option you have is to put in an animation. You could probably check if the server request is operating as it should in some way, but apart from that, sticking in an animation and hope for the best is the only way to do it on the web. At least without using flash or silverlight. - Arve Systad
[+8] [2009-06-18 23:23:42] Jason Watts

Any application that looks/behaves radically different than the OS it is targeted for (this is usually a non-issue for the Macintosh folks).

(2) A NON ISSUE? are you insane? I wonder in what meeting Microsoft decided that what mac uses would really love is an application that behaves like a Windows app and has the Windows accelerator keys? - Alex Brown
(5) That was probably a more difficult than we realize, because they had to juggle between Mac users who want to use Office, and Office users who want to use Macs. Both have a different set of expectations. - Jeremy Frey
(1) Not true if this is an app you use every day for your job. I'm using a cad package I want it to behave the same on whatever machine it is running on. - Martin Beckett
[+8] [2009-06-19 01:08:37] steamer25

Remote controls where the up, down, left and right arrows do not stand out from the other buttons and the button at the center of the arrows is not enter.

how about remote controls where fast forward is up and rewind is down? - David Berger
[+8] [2009-06-18 21:43:41] Jeremy Bade

I find it irritating when programs swap the OK and Cancel buttons at the bottom of a window.

For app1 it's [OK] [Cancel]

For app2 it's [Cancel] [Ok]

I end up hitting the wrong button more often than not.

(1) I think OfficeMax's credit/debit machines are like that (or maybe it's OfficeDepot). The checkers actually warn you about it when you get to the screen. It takes forever to commit to the button when I KNOW they are switched. They've even color coded them. God knows why they haven't fixed that yet. - Nosredna
(5) The Apple guidelines say that the rightmost button should be the one that does the least harm. For instance, [Cancel] [Save], or [Format] [Cancel]. I love that policy, and it hurts my brain when app vendors ignore it. - Alex Brown
(1) Apparently Apple messed up. On the Safari 4 beta (haven't upgraded yet), if you have multiple tabs open, it warns you. Problem is, Quit, rather than Cancel, is on the right-hand side. - waiwai933
(1) Ubuntu/GNOME's system of using icons on the button is by far the best method. Having a green tick and red X means it matters less which way round the buttons are (though it's fairly consistent anyway). - DisgruntledGoat
[+8] [2009-06-18 12:52:52] Larry Watanabe

Websites that are overly concerned with promoting their own agenda at the expense of the user, i.e. too many popups, advertisements, etc. I especially hate sites that direct you to an advertisement and force you to look at it for x seconds. Further, they often make a token concession to the user by providing a tiny button somewhere that allows you to skip the advertisement ... if really want to help, make that button in a larger than 3 point font!

@Larry - stop with the link farming, or we'll just start deleting posts... - Marc Gravell
On a related note, Netflix may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but now that approximately 75% of all "pop-under" ads that manage to defeat Firefox' popup blocker are from them, I will never join the dark side. - GalacticCowboy
[+8] [2009-06-18 11:31:32] l0b0

Over-use of metaphors. For example, circular motion is simple with a single finger (iPod), but it's is pretty awkward with a mouse pointer. Just use a slider instead. Also, backgrounds that look like drawing boards or physical desktops usually have none of the desirable properties of the physical object (friction, elevation, containers, flexible lighting), but all of the drawbacks (distracting background, inflexible surface) and then some (limits screen usage, much smaller than the physical object).

Metaphors are powerful things but they can come with a lot of baggage. If you don't follow through and only honor some of the expected behaviors, it may very well be more confusing than helpful. - pimlottc
[+8] [2009-06-18 11:59:39] Bluestone

One thing that really annoys me.. A badly designed 'Options' window.

If you ever have to Google how to find a certain setting in an application's settings, the UI designer should be fired.. Visual Studio is a real pain for this, finding a certain option can take ages if you don't know where it is.

It can go too far the other way too, it can be even more irritating when an application gives you almost nothing to actually set.


Pretty much every "technical" application does this. OpenOffice and Notepad++ are pretty bad, not least because some options aren't even in the Options dialog (e.g. auto correct options in OO). - DisgruntledGoat
I had this in Excel 2k7. I wanted the VB Macro editor, and had to google for the instructions "Go to Options->Popular Settings->Display Developer Tab on Ribbon->Exit Options->Developer Tab->Vb Macro Editor." For Christ's sake, it used to be "F11". Better still is on my Mac Excel 2k8 they simply killed the feature altogether! It's like they want me to use OpenOffice.... - Karl
I think all those MS Office were made by same person, Outlook 2003 has 1000 different options dialogs and with no apparent order - clinisbut
[+7] [2009-06-18 09:36:17] Paddy

And another particular favourite - websites that don't double check their JavaScript, or that of their advertisers. Seeing as I have my machine set up to prompt me to debug JavaScript errors, this is particularly irritating...

(1) Maybe expand this to "Confirmation Dialog Boxes suck" - Breton
Like Stack Overflow? - amn
[+7] [2009-08-10 18:34:15] JonathanHayward

alt text

(From one of my webpages at

+1 I'm out of upvotes for today, but the "descriptive" buttons above are indeed how I often feel when trying to "kill" an unresponsive program. I often wish this dialog had 3 buttons. [Force as graceful a shutdown as possible] [Kill it, kill it now!] [Cancel] Not likely the most PC button labels, but that's the gist of what I would like. - scunliffe
I don't even try to End Program. Task Manager -> Go to process -> End process - ymv
(2) Whenever I get this dialog box, I think, "Didn't I just tell you to end the program? Why are you asking me again?" - Kyralessa
[+7] [2009-11-12 16:19:34] chillysapien

Lack of support for Dual Monitor Setups

I have recently come across 2 separate applications (one which was SQL Developer and one custom piece that the place I'm currently working at uses) that do not work properly with a dual screen setup. I shouldn't be restricted as to which of my two screens I can display the application on, and I certainly shouldn't have to unplug my second monitor because otherwise the application doesn't display properly.

[+6] [2009-11-12 18:31:10] NDP

My answer speaks to a "higher" and more philosophical level.

The worst UI design mistake is made, in my opinion, when a UI design decision is made by someone who is not a trained, experienced, talented, informed, and sensitive UI design engineer.

When a product marketer makes a decision like: "we need a splash screen to increase branding impact", or when an accountant decides "we cant afford to pay what a real UI design engineer costs to design this product", or even the worst case (IMO), when a lawyer says; "we can't use that word on that button, because our competitor uses that word, and we'll be sued." - then what is really happening is, the UI design decisions are put in the hands of non-UI designers.

WORSE - the actual design, test, and build tools are not in the hands of those people.

Good engineering happens; in any discipline, when the engineer carefully follows established practices, documents his or her work, performs testing, gathers performance metrics (and in this case, we mean, ACTUAL USABILITY TESTING; and no, you probably cant afford to do it - ), and that information is allowed to flow back into the actual design of the product.

If that were allowed to actually happen, of course, cell phones would cost $1000, not $50.

In some ways, we, the cheap-ass customer, are the worst UI-designers of all.

[+6] [2009-09-27 11:15:06] David Crawshaw

Mandatory registration.

Why do I need to "log in" to read the New York Times? The BBC can manage without me filling out a form.

It is even worse for companies who want me to download their software. Mandatory, arbitrary, questions will make me look for your competitor's product.

I couldn't agree more. Data that you collect from someone that hasn't developed interest for your product/service is plain garbage that you'll take into account tomorrow. - Filip Dupanović
(4) The BBC is funded by the taxpayer whereas the NYT is a for-profit organisation. - graham.reeds
[+6] [2009-07-11 22:39:00] Brian Ortiz

Big thread so someone may have mentioned this, but I hate it when people don't use form labels correctly in HTML forms. You should be able to click the label for a check box to toggle it, but you can't if you just use some text next to it.

Some applications are like this too. You should always be able to click the label.

[+6] [2009-06-21 02:33:02] Clinton Blackmore

Requiring two hands to perform a simple operation.

In particular, why can't laptop makers put a second Fn key on the keyboard, on the right-hand side? When I'm holding a baby in the middle of the night and need to push the page-up key, I could do it with one hand, if one of the buttons wasn't clear across the keyboard!

Train the baby to press [Fn] for you? - glasnt
(1) @TomatoSandwich - LOL! I'm afraid the baby is more adept at hitting buttons like "eject" and funky key combinations that I can't replicate. : ) - Clinton Blackmore
[+6] [2009-06-18 19:09:28] mikez302

Here is one that no one seemed to mention, which I've seen in many Windows programs. I am annoyed when I right-click on an option in a dialog box and see an option called "What's this?". Sometimes it gives some hint as to what the option does, but sometimes it gives the unhelpful message "No Help topic is associated with this item.".

[+5] [2009-06-18 19:50:57] David Berger

A big mistake is assuming that the design spec can be used to determine the frequency of use cases. This goes along with the oft-mentioned "You can't expect one person to get the design right without user feedback", but it specifically addresses the dilemma of flexibility vs. simplicity.

For example, do users need to be able to search records in a basic CRUD app? Do we assume that a simple text match will cover most cases and then provide a massive "Advanced Search" tab that provides custom matching for all fields? Do you include some of those advanced search options right along with the basic text box? It can be really surprising when users end up saying something like "Most of the time, we just need to narrow down by date or date and category. Narrowing down by phrases in the title or body might be helpful, too."

Sometimes I find it disappointing that I can't watch my users use my application, because often feature requests don't come in until after users have tried and fail to discover how to use an existing feature.

[+5] [2009-06-18 11:21:20] l0b0

Buttons for sliders (scrolling, volume). Seriously, the iPod is the only device that gets this right at the moment - The click wheel combines speed and accuracy like no other device I've used.

(1) Except when you want to reach into your pocket for something else and your hand brushes by your iPod, and it goes to max volume. If I wanted something to happen, I would have explicity told it to. Implicit Apple interfaces are really frustrating. - Lotus Notes
@Lotus Notes: Every iPod I know of has a physical lock. (Interesting nick btw, considering topic) - Jonta
[+5] [2009-06-18 23:42:34] community_owned

I have a very simple approach nowadays. I give the site to my girlfriend and I tell her to have a go. She's not very Internet, or even computer, savvy. I basically just stand behind her and watch what she's doing.

I offer no advice and at times it's all I can do to just stand there and say nothing.

The upshot of the exercise is that I can see the holes in my design that I need to either plug or rewrite.

I'm doing the same thing with my father. I usually end up thinking it's not a good idea :) - frbry
[+5] [2009-06-18 09:43:21] Alex Brown

Services that think they are applications and load at windows login. Even for users that didn't want them. And fill up the task bar.

Such as SKY and Channel4 Clients, Many virus checkers and spyware.

These should be loaded at system boot time and have an optional loadable UI.

[+5] [2009-06-21 07:07:48] NULL

Websites that use a background image or color, but do not define, and assume a black text color. This also includes text boxes and buttons on websites (and even some native applications). If you're a person who likes lighter colored text on a dark background, you have to install Firefox add-ons to fix the color of a lot of websites.

[+5] [2009-06-21 00:49:12] rpflo

Popups, generally.

[+5] [2009-06-19 20:46:18] JohnFx

Web pages that disable the browser's back button, because why would you ever need to see another site after visiting the ONE TRUE web-site with all the answers?

Is it really possible for a website to disable the browser's back button? - Hemant
(1) Technically no. For practical purposes, yes. You just add some script to the onUnload event of the page to interfere with the user trying to leave your site. See #1 on this page for details on what I am referring to: - JohnFx
[+5] [2009-07-02 12:52:35] macbirdie

An often annoyance is that an application notifies of a potentially long running operation's success, which is in 99% of cases expected, with a focus-stealing modal message box.

Something in the lines of "Breaking news. Sun still sets on west (more or less)!".

Indeed! This is actually often a bad idea for failures, as well! It is generally much better to just use a far more unobtrusive approach. Imagine the red X for missing images in IE - this is a good way to handle errors, instead of some "Failed to load image ABC!" message box. Message boxes should only be used if their meaning is not available from the primary context itself (e.g. page/document/...). - Sander
[+5] [2009-06-22 17:19:11] community_owned

(Annoying) music and animations. Websites are the worst here: e.g. I'm looking to buy widgets. I know what a widget is, that's why I'm looking at your site. I do not need a Flash animation of a cutaway widget, with a cheezy soundtrack, all taking time to load - just tell me the models and prices of widgets you sell.

IE lets you disable sound. Firefox lets you disable sound. Why the heck can't Flash let you disable sound (globally)? :boggled: - 280Z28
Or provide -at the least- an 'if you already know why you came here/aren't a complete moron: skip this intro' type link. +1 - David Thomas
[+5] [2009-06-29 20:50:27] community_owned

Disabling common interface and input paradigms, i.e. websites that turn off right click, or applications that use their own arcane shortcut scheme rather than control-C, V, Z like the rest of the world. If there's a good reason, i.e. vim seems to have pre-dated lot of that, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't be updating to modern paradigms, particularly if this does not functionally change your program.

[+5] [2009-09-21 14:48:54] thenonhacker

The use of the "Clear" "Reset" button for forms.

Have you accidentally clicked one of those?
Yes, I know, it's annoying.

You have to retype that sign-up form again.

[+5] [2010-08-21 22:31:15] adrianh

One thing that annoys me - and is the cause of many of the annoyances you'll see on this page - are organisations that think they can figure out out how their customers will use their product without actually getting their customers to use their product!

I'm amazed at the number of companies who still don't invest in quick, cheap guerilla usability testing. Spending half a day and getting a little feedback would save them a barrel full of pain later on.

[+5] [2010-11-19 22:12:03] Bob

Great post.

My answer is probably far too late, and has also probably already been mentioned (I couldn't read through all replies!)

But, modal dialog boxes that fall behind the main window. If anything aches your balls, it's disappearing dialog boxes!


[+4] [2010-10-16 15:11:09] Jason S

Requiring credit card numbers to be entered without spaces or dashes, e.g.


instead of


(hint to site devs: can you say replace(/[- ]/g,'') ?)

well the best would be 4 separate fields that the cursor jumped through as each field filled up, but that would be bad in non-js browsers. - Tor Valamo
@Tor Valamo: I generally hate the cursor-jump fields, because they are rarely done completely. For instance, for phone numbers, if my software autofills the wrong number, it can take me as much as 3 minutes to correct, because every time I try to edit the field, my cursor jumps away. - Caleb Huitt - cjhuitt
I agree, I end up fighting those auto-field things all the time. - Jason S
phone number is one thing, but you're not auto-filling your CC number, are you?!? :D - Tor Valamo
[+4] [2010-10-22 21:07:53] Marko

Google Instant Search

There is nothing more annoying then seeing results as I type. My usual query takes about ~2-3 seconds to compose, and 99.99999% of the time I know what I'm searching for.

Thank god you can turn it off.

(1) Yes there is: Interfering with your search query. I type interference and press enter, and get results for internet speed testference - aib
[+4] [2010-10-06 20:28:43] Chris Gieger

My Top 10 Myths, Misconceptions and Actual Quotes I’ve Run Into Over The Years:

  1. UI design is the graphics or aesthetic display of the interface.
  2. All users read left to right so everything important should be on the left.
  3. Everything in the application or website should be no more than 3 clicks ways.
  4. Scrolling is bad.
  5. The design should always fill the screen – at any resolution.
  6. Drop down menus are bad.
  7. Links within the content are bad.
  8. Everyone knows the company logo always links home.
  9. All web pages must be less than (a specific file size).
  10. Users will not wait more than 5 seconds for a page to load.

Read more on my blog at:

Regarding 8: I misread why it was a myth at first... the myth part being the "everybody knows" (I assume). However, if you have a company logo that links to something, please make it one of the main parts of the company site (and the same target page from each viewed page). - Caleb Huitt - cjhuitt
[+4] [2010-01-25 19:34:11] David

Websites forgetting my search results when I click the Back button

... even when they don't let me use my browser's Back button and I click on theirs. I have to resubmit my search query and click through the results until I find the last one that I clicked on.

Related, and just as bad: Websites that allow me to order search results by specific criteria and then display them in a different or random order after I click Back.

[+4] [2009-11-12 15:59:25] Matt

"Lotus Notes".

That is all!

A fine example of every single UI faux pas, including rare species still as yet to be discovered by scientists. - Jason Williams
[+4] [2009-09-27 12:10:18] Walter Mitty

The most common UI misconception, by far, is that ease of learning and ease of use amount to the same thing. They don't.

A UI can score very well in one of these measures of goodness and lousy in the other.

Yes, this, exactly. I am late to this party, but have been reading all the answers, looking to see if anyone had given this one yet. It's the crucial misconception which causes many otherwise well-planned gui development efforts to produce dissatisfied users. - CPerkins
[+4] [2009-06-29 17:25:48] Michael Itzoe

That the installer knows better than I do where an application should go, without any option of changing it. My Program Files folder isn't on my C: drive... well, it wasn't supposed to be, anyway.

A friend of mine once managed to install Windows on D drive, with C being some removable device. Much hilarity ensued. - lins314159
[+4] [2009-06-19 08:59:55] PATRY

Any application that does not conserve the setting for load/saving files, and/or that does allow to define a default directory.

Windows applications used to do this before My Documents showed up. - aib
[+4] [2009-06-21 02:22:24] Clinton Blackmore

Using special symbols to respresent keypresses without indicating to the user what the heck the symbol means. I'm particularly thinking of Mac shortcut keys [1]. I've read through pages on which key the symbol corresponds to, but I end up having to guess most of the time.


[+4] [2009-06-20 21:39:53] Mark3308

Image Hosted by

The above is pants. Would prefer to have a list box with the tab page shown when I select an item in the list, rather than spending ages trying to find something.

[+4] [2009-06-18 09:35:02] Berry Tsakala

Don't change accelerators and basic UI (at least -- have a setting for backward compatibility).

Programs that change their interface, starring Office 2007 as worst (but not the only) example.

Being an MS Office power user in the past 10 years made me very fast and efficient.

But in each version I have to learn how to do the same things. Even worse, since every person got a different version installed, I have to remember all differences.

I don't want to accumulate useless bits of info, I want to use it.

More examples:

  • In Windows, the control panel was in My computer, now it's not
  • In Linux, every distribution got its own shortcut keys, file locations, interfaces
  • Every Python IDE I've used has slightly different way of autocompletion
  • The same Browser software in different language has different accelerator keys.

I wouldn't post a sentence like "Being an MS Office power user in the past 10 years made me very fast and efficient." on a site like this. - Nikolai Ruhe
(1) Why wouldn't different IDEs have different ways of auto-completion? Same for linux shortcuts. It's a frustration from the user-perspective to be sure, but it's certainly very different from changing the ui between releases of the same product. - David Berger
(1) Just because something was the first design doesn't make it the best one. The software ecosystem improves over time. And if another systems standards become more popular - its better if you adopt it too. The design that Microsoft came up with for user interfaces 20 years ago isn't necessarily the best one. Seven years later they added a toobar. Ten years after that they combined menus and toolbars into one simplified construct (Ribbon) - Ian Boyd
"In Linux, every distribution got its own shortcut keys, file locations, interfaces" - To be fair, its neither the fault of the distributions nor does there exist a set of guidelines that affect any significant portion of Linux software (e.g. for GTK+ developers, only GNOME has any interface guidelines. And a significant number of people who write GTK+ software do not use nor care about GNOME). I would assume the same of Qt. - new123456
[+4] [2009-06-18 07:25:34] Artem Barger

What annoys me the most is when an application show a progress bar and you have to deduce and make a guess what is the exact percentage of progress. No one actually bothered to render the numbers, but only the nice-featured bar.

But why do you care about the exact percentage? - MaxVT
(1) I don't care about exact numbers, but at lest there should be shown something and not the only colored bar. - Artem Barger
(3) Even better are those progress bars that zip up to about 90%, and then stall there because the "how long will this take" heuristic wasn't properly tuned. - Laurence Gonsalves
(6) I think exact numbers are useful for long operations because this way you can check from time to time that the process is not frozen. - Brann
Exact numbers are a problem when the application really doesn't know how long it's going to take. Surely you can usually display some sort of completion percentage but it doesn't always correlate with time. - lhahne
this very closely mirrors one of my own pet peeves... the trend in Windows UIs nowadays seems to be progress bars that are dashed. i.e. they move in discrete steps. This is very, very irritating for small (screen size) progress bars, since the steps are constant width... for a long-running operation, you get no useful feedback! - rmeador
(4) I often put my mouse cursor at the end of the progress bar, and leave the machine. When I check later, it is obvious if the bar has moved. - Clinton Blackmore
[+4] [2009-06-18 21:58:13] Magnus Lindhe

Not allowing the plus sign in email addresses.

GMail does, also this isn't a UI problem. - Charlie Somerville
Exactly, if you are using this feature of GMail you want other applications to allow the plus sign when you enter your email address. - Magnus Lindhe
(1) @Charlie: This is a problem with some UIs. Plus is a valid character in an email address, but some UIs will try to be 'helpful' and reject an address that has that character in it. - kenj0418
[+3] [2009-06-19 05:13:04] Joseph Paterson

That people know the difference between an option and a preference.

[+3] [2009-06-20 21:45:36] Mark3308

When you press Shift+F10 or the Right Click Key on the keyboard it should make the application behave the same as if the mouse had been right clicked. Developers don't always set this up.

(1) Wow, I didn't know Shift+F10 was the real keyboard shortcut for right click. Thanks for the info!!! - Shehi
[+3] [2009-06-19 13:21:33] Alec Smart

The tabs feature in Internet Explorer 8. It takes me a disgusting amount of time to figure out which tab is the active one. There should be clear differentiation between the active and unactive tabs.

(1) They're sized and colored differently. ??? - GalacticCowboy
Agreed - they lost a lot of visual difference from IE7 to IE8. I'd also like more control over where new tabs are opened. Personally I want all new tabs opened to the far right - for me the order of the tabs represents the order in which they were opened. Thus if I want to find the last tab I opened, it should be the last tab.. the 3rd, is the 3rd, etc. - scunliffe
[+3] [2009-06-20 17:24:41] jes5199

Menus that only appear when you hover the mouse.

There's an increasingly common type of web interface where some of the actions only appear if you put your mouse in the right place and then they disappear if you don't keep your pointer within the walls of the element. It makes your UI into a test of hand-eye coordination.

[+3] [2009-06-29 18:02:49] abramN

Automatic updates that aren't truly automatic, and more: Couldn’t agree more - automatic updates suck [1].


[+3] [2009-06-27 21:24:07] JustJeff

Animations and effects that can't be disabled. A lot of people like animations, but some don't. So just because the animation/effect settings of the latest version of Windows all default to ON, please don't hard-wire your application so that little notices come bubbling up from the screen edge, or dialogs fade in and out. (ahem reader) Please try to find out from the OS what the user preferences are in this area, or at least put some checkboxes on the preferences dialog?

1 second fade is 10 seconds on remote desktop. In one bad case (where I couldn't just uninstall it), I had to hack the licensing system out of a signed binary so I could set the fade timers to 0. - 280Z28
[+3] [2009-11-09 02:51:30] pcantin

Opt-out instead of Opt-in

When installing many software, non-related features or completely separate software will be installed unless you opt-out by unchecking the option.

Installing should be a one step thing or, at least, install only the featured software when answering yes to all the questions. Other features should be opt-in features only.

[+3] [2009-12-08 16:07:54] Victor P

"Thank you for calling X. We have a new offer of blah blah blah blah blah blah blah ... 2 min later... press 1 for..."

specially annoying when you are abroad and those two minutes of calling are money

That's because you're calling your phone company... - moi_meme
[+3] [2010-07-13 22:41:10] SteveCav

One of my faves is the dialog in SQL Server Management Studio, the one that pops up to tell you that you just pressed the cancel button on another dialog ("User cancelled out of save dialog"). Really? Is that what I clicked? Tell you what, why don't you pop up some more so I'm really sure of what I just did...

There are two UI and usability principles I adhere to: That the user's mottos are "don't waste my time" and "don't make me think".

[+3] [2010-10-12 04:27:16] Erik Reppen

It's a web app that looks and behaves like a desktop app! Right down to being a resource hog, breaking related processes into unnecessarily separate "windows," requiring a manual to use, and being slow as hell!

[+3] [2010-10-22 22:05:59] Jason Williams

Hidden User Interface.

Whats wrong with a button looking like a button and inviting you to press it?

  • I have a TomTom sat-nav system. It shows a map and some information on its touchscreen. How do you change the volume? Well, you tap on the bottom left corner of the screen of course. There is no indication that there is a hotspot there, and certainly nothing to suggest that the area relates to volume. And if you inadvertently tap there, you have to change the volume to make the UI go away again.

  • Those awful point-and-click adventure games which consist of waving the mouse all over the screen to see if you can find a hotspot to advance the game. This technique now seems to be favoured by many websites, too.

  • Even Microsoft (in Vista/Win7) has started using areas of text that only highlight and admit themselves to be clickable buttons if you hover the mouse over them. It took them 20 years to get around to reading the Apple UI design guide and start to understand the basics, and then in the very next OS release they throw away everything they learned. Gah!

It's great to hide "secondary" or "advanced" user interface (like a hotkey to save you using a menu item, or drag and drop to save havign to copy & paste), but hiding everything so you can't see how to use the device??!

[+3] [2010-11-26 01:07:57] aib


I don't even know where to start: Ruins music or anything else you might be listening to, distracts. Takes up much more space than the whole computer display. Easily violates the user's privacy. Not always available.

It should not be a UI element. Not unless the user explicitly asks for it to be.

The first thing I do after I install anything with feedback sounds (download manager, IM client, operating system) is to go and disable them. - aib
[+3] [2011-03-26 04:21:57] Simasher

Second clipboard !

there should be another clipboard to copy another thing. all applications specially OS'es need it. may be something like

Ctrl+C to copy first value Ctrl+B to copy second value

Ctrl+V to paste first value Ctrl+M to paste second value

i hate when i need copy something while i already copied another thing on my clipboard

[+3] [2011-01-25 12:56:44] Deele

Already mentioned before, but the thing, that you don't know what is currently happening inside app you are using or trying to access. I would like to see some messages with timestamps, that shows current action, that is being performed, that allows me not only understand, where the delay was, or how much time it could take (if app cant calculate remaining time by itself).

Couple examples...

When network connection is starting up, we see just plain "Not connected" or we see a big error popup/baloon, that shows almost no useful information about steps that were taken and at which part it stopped with error. No straightforward buttons, to enable offline mode, and to start troubleshooting.

When installing a app to your computer, most of installers shows nothing what it is doing, it shows some "Installing..." message, and I had cases, where install is going for couple of minutes already, and it suddently shows something like "Error accoured... Reverting installation", progress bar rolls backwards in 500% faster speed (that is most funny part) and shows result of installation "Installation was interrupted cause error accoured [Exit]".

Games that connect to online servers and show plain "Connecting..." message and some moving/rotating image, that can take from seconds to minutes, and you cant guess what it is doing, you just notice, that moving image/animation is freezing for some moments, and animating again... Nothing happens, after a while, you can get your connection, or you can get "Error connecting" or other stupid error. No comments, no timestamped logfiles, nothing.

More and more applications are starting to use "The Sims" like loading screens, that contain some stupid loading messages, that "should" entertain a user, while he is waiting. What a nonsense! Give me an application faster, and allow me to interact with applications as fast as my computer allows, or give me a specific reason, why this is delayed!

Ok, I am speaking mostly about delayed processes, errors and troubleshooting options, and most of time, user would not be able to understand those technical words, that deeply explained errors or timestamped log files says, but in any case, this could help solve or understand problem, using support service or eaven neighbour computer-geek telling your problem by phone.

I would rather like to see my browser page filled with timestamped messages about what it is doing/downloading/parsing right now, than stare at blank page, waiting for minutes to something happen... I would like to see resource analysis for downloaded content by default, to see, what is being downloaded currently, what is taking my time, what I am paying for. I would like to see all modifications installation is doing to my system, without using some 3rd party tools, that entangle every application.

In the end, I don't think, that all or eaven a part of this, is needed by most of users, and I have only a clue, how to achieve some of this in some user-friendly manner... "Standart... Expert..." user modes works just for some specific applications, but there should be another way to visualize current progress and activity of system.

And WTF is interested in "Elapsed time", give me "Remaining time" goddamnit!

You know, time is money, and applications should save you money, by doing job in less time.

[+3] [2011-01-25 13:04:52] Deele

I hate, when there is no option to "delete my account", in most of sites you cant. I would like to be able to change every field that I have entered, including any login data (login name or e-mail, if it is used), and I would like not to give any more additional information, if possible.

I prize "Stack Overflow" for showing a user12445123 (that is userid, as I understand) as display name, if none is selected.

[+2] [2010-10-26 12:09:43] esther h

having the minimize / restore down / close button (upper-right corner) not aligned with every other normal application.

example... i have a lot of windows open, minimizing a bunch in succession, I get to Chrome - oops... I just made the window smaller... annoying

[+2] [2010-10-22 14:03:35] Roflcoptr

Websites that doesn't allow to open a right click or even worse that doesnt allow to open a new tab in firefox with CTRL + T.

[+2] [2010-01-25 18:33:43] David

Not allowing multi-select on search criteria that very logically fit together in groups

For example, if I am looking at job postings by location on one of the large job boards, I should be able to multi-select all of the specific locations that I want. I should not have to add every location separately using Country, State, and City drop-downs. And the worst interfaces are the ones where I can only search by one city at a time (resulting in multiple queries that are more demanding on the database, or the user just giving up) or have to include the whole state.

Similarly, there should be enough separate criteria on one of these interfaces to give the user what they want. If a user lives in Montana, it would be inappropriate to give them search results that are hundreds of miles away just because the state has a lower population than many other states and was divided into 2 or 3 very large regions. And if the user lives in New York City, it wouldn't be helpful to do a radius search that returned places that take several hours or more to get to in traffic. For reasons like these, I like being able to customize - very specifically - which places constitute acceptable commutes. And it's very helpful when I can select all of those easily in one go, using a control that is big enough to not require an obnoxious amount of scrolling.

[+2] [2009-12-27 06:48:35] Wayne Conrad

From a *nix point of view, the biggest sin is to create a program that is not inherently graphic and give it only a GUI. A GUI program casts off the panoply of *nix CLI tools and cannot be automated by any ordinary means.

Programs like Photoshop/GIMP are inherently graphic and get a pass, although ImageMagick shows that even graphical things can be done by command-line tools.

[+2] [2009-12-01 19:36:24] Philip Schlump

Dialog boxes with errors where the error message is too long for the dialog box. That way you get an error that you can't read. Often the dialog box will not allow cut and paste. That way it is impossible to read it at all (I am thinking of Windows 7 right now!).

Dialog boxes without scroll bars and no way to realize them.

[+2] [2009-09-27 17:13:02] Selene

Unreadable color schemes.

It's more of an issue on the web, but I keep coming across websites where the designer decided that medium gray text on a light or white gray background looked "sophisticated". Sometimes the regular text is black but it's the link text that's medium gray, which makes it really hard to see what the links are labeled as.

That just makes me use a "zap colors" bookmarklet. If I visit the site more frequently, I set up a Stylish style.

for example red on blue - jao
[+2] [2009-10-10 20:48:14] community_owned
  • The use of a checkbox instead of button to confirm something (i.e. as soon as it's clicked a choice is made)
  • Message boxes saying "please wait" and then an 'OK' button, AFTER which the application does what you were asked to wait for.
  • Default usernames in fields like 'Username' which don't automatically clear or highlight when you click in the field. They make you delete the text first or accidentally log in as 'minibusernameluedragon'

Upvoted for the 2nd item. - mikez302
[+2] [2009-09-27 11:22:47] Cecil Has a Name

Topmost splash screens, so that you can't multitask (i.e. go back to reading a document while a program takes a while to load, but hides your desktop with a big logo).

Duplicate from the first page... - Dour High Arch
[+2] [2009-07-01 14:29:03] HLGEM

One thing that will drive users mad is when the order of fields on the data entry form does not match the natural order of entry (I saw one once where address was first before name) or the order the of the paper form they are doing data entry from. This is not only annoying, it generally causes massive data integrity problems as data is typed in the wrong place.

(On a side note, I notice that many of the answers on this question are things that would annoy programmers only but not users.)

I once worked on an application that had a huge form that needed to fit in a tight space. The programmers did a Tetris job on it, so it somehow fit but everyone hated it because it was missing all logic in the arrangement, which made data entry hard. So the project manager figured out a brilliant solution... customize the tab order so it goes in the order that the data entry people want to enter the data! I believe an appropriate name would be the write-only form paradigm... - Sander
[+2] [2009-07-10 11:03:00] ForerMedia

Try some USABILITY!!

All the listed UI design failures in this question are due to failure to implement usability methods & context of use analysis.

The reason there are so many bad UI features mentioned just tells me that too many developers/designers know very little about or do not apply usability methods.

UI design is not usability. Usability guides/governs UI design along with many/all other aspects of the systems development. Remember, as much us developers think their system is so amazing, it is still just an interface between what the user wants/has to do & the results they require.

So my "UI" misconception: why do developers/designers need to be repeatedly be given justification for the importance of usability and usability engineering?

Every answer given here is your answer to that question. Now go read up on usability & become the answer.

that is management's failure, not developer's. The usual story goes like this: Dev : - i need a week to design this UI Manager : - All the hard work is done at the back end. How hard can it be to drop in a few buttons and a grid. I want it done by tomorrow. - AZ.
[+2] [2009-07-01 20:26:53] Zack

Lack of thought when choosing a default value.

In applications where the same thing is done over and over again (ie. internal company applications), there should be thought put in to default values. If you have a default value for a select box / radio box, talk to the end users to find out which option -- if any -- will be correct the most often.

[+2] [2009-07-13 18:54:30] greggorob64

Although not specifically a design choice, putting random load times at inappropriate locations can lead to frustrations with using the GUI. In Visual Studio 2008 when I click on the "toolbar" side tab, it has to load the entire toolbox at that time. Leads me to think my application is frozen.

[+2] [2009-06-20 18:06:07] MatrixFrog

Maybe it's just me, but I think checkboxes, OK/Cancel dialogs, or any other user yes/no type of thing should be phrased in the more affirmative way, if possible. Whenever I see "Suppress warnings about XYZ?" I think "No, I don't want to see warnings about XYZ," not "Yes, I would like to suppress those." I'd rather uncheck a "Show" box than check a "Hide" box.

[+2] [2009-06-20 04:04:44] cletus

My biggest gripe is Websites and even some applications that completely ignore OS DPI settings. Sorry but that 8 pixel fixed font doesn't cut it on a 1920x1200 15" laptop screen.

The otherwise fine phpED program can't alter the size of menu and dialog fonts. What the ...? It seems whatever library/framework they've chosen has fixed that on OS DPI.

Even the otherwise good Chrome browser, which does have a Webpage zoom at least, can't set the default zoom level. You have to zoom on every page you open. It's annoying and stupid and the Web is full of threads complaining about it. It'd be so easy to fix too.

And no changing the default font size on a browser is not good enough. Most Websites can't handle that and if you're actually designing those pages you have to do it at default settings.

[+2] [2009-06-19 20:58:51] Bill K

I think the biggest is that a programmer EVER knows how to code a GUI. No single person really knows the best way to program every GUI.

A good GUI is a combination of a programmer who knows what can be done and a user who knows what they want to do. From there it's iterative.

I get really nervous when I hear someone say they are a "GUI Specialist" and can define some arbitrary GUI without additional input.

The best GUIs I've done have been in collaboration with either Customer Support or QA. Once they have taught me the entire process they go through, I can make it quite simple to do by thinking from their point of view.

I've even coded a GUI based on a manual. As the Support person described how the device worked to me, he kept referring to a group of abstract pictures in the manual. They had already spent a lot of time figuring out the best way to present the information, so I just took 10 near identical pictures and combined them into a single "Live" image that would mutate depending on options selected.

We got a contract to provide all the DSUs (like a modem for a T1 line) for Microsoft's MSN network because of that project.

[+2] [2009-06-19 08:58:05] xcramps

Microsoft popup balloons (e.g. "Your system may be at risk"). Norton's worthless ads, installed by the manufacturer. Clippy. Worthless names for programs under KDE. How about an English translation of what your poorly named program actually does?

(1) +1 for the KDE naming. What is it with those names ... - ldigas
(3) If Linux -- especially Linux with KDE and Gnome -- is going to gain any public acceptance, they need to stop using those "cute" punny names. Titles like Gnumeric, Kontact, and Kolf come to mind. - Barry Brown
[+2] [2009-06-19 07:01:09] community_owned

When I was on Windows. Each time you install a new program it asks and prompts you to install their toolbar in Internet Explorer.

If I wanted their toolbar I would have added it myself. I hate browsers cluttered with crap they don't use. While I do have eBay companion on Firefox at least you can turn it off.

[+2] [2009-06-18 16:42:31] ampersandre

The thing that annoys and frustrates me the most:

  • When the 'Ok' button is right next to the 'Cancel' button.

Please, these two buttons should always be far enough from each other that I can't mistakenly click 'Cancel' when I meant to 'Save'

The worst is when you try and close a word processor, and you get the following message:

Do you want to save the changes you made to xxxxxx?

[Yes] [No] [Cancel]

I hate it when I click 'No' instead of 'Yes'

(1) The two buttons should be renamed so they rephrase the question being asked. [Save] [Don't Save] [Cancel] - Barry Brown
(1) Or people that swap the yes/no order in different dialogs - Martin Beckett
[+1] [2009-06-18 11:39:50] rein

User interfaces that don't degrade nicely in the "Scrunch Test": that is, take the user interface, resize it as small or as large as possible and see what control layout really breaks.

It's amazing how many user interfaces just don't degrade nicely.

Related to this: applications that allow you to resize a window to any size you want, even though the size is ludicrous. Firefox in Mac OS is the perfect example. Just press the green button and observe as the window goes from almost full screen to about the size of a postage stamp with a stoplight in the left corner. - alex
MFC the main gui framework for MS for the last 10years doesn't even let you resize dialogs without using a lot of underhand tricks - Martin Beckett
[+1] [2009-06-19 08:45:18] Jason

JavaScript errors. Enough said.

[+1] [2009-06-19 12:45:33] Mattl

Nag screens telling the user when updates are available. Mac OS X handles this nicely by having a bobbing icon when updates are available - I wish applications like WinAmp and iTunes had a more subtle means of notifying me that updates are available instead of a pop up!.

[+1] [2009-06-19 14:29:17] community_owned

Developers overestimating the skill set of their intended audience. I saw an accounting program at a business I once worked for that took the accountant a week to teach a qualified book-keeper how to use this specific program. While it wasn't really this hard. The program was very limited and not that easy to use.

I don't disagree, but I'm curious as to why you were watching them. For a week... =) - David Thomas
[+1] [2009-06-21 00:52:23] DisgruntledGoat

An annoyance with GIMP's slider bars:

  • If you use the mouse scroll wheel on the slider, scrolling down makes the value go up (slider to the left) and vice-versa.
  • If you use the wheel on the input box with the value number in, scrolling down makes the value go down (as expected).

[+1] [2009-06-21 07:36:19] chiggsy

Forcing me as a user to check/uncheck a bunch of checkboxes/switches as the only configuration option.

I'd prefer the initial option to be more of a usage based thing, i.e.:

"Users using this application for this usually select these options."

Then I'd modify what I wanted inside those option sets.

[+1] [2009-07-21 14:34:07] ShayneM

Inconsistent UI sections or relative screen locatons for common items such as for headers, hint areas, status messages, including positioning of common control such as Save, OK etc. They should ALWAYS be in the same relative location.

[+1] [2009-08-05 09:05:47] Regent

When an application decides the language it will be installed as without asking the user.

Usually I have an English version of Windows but it makes sense for me to set up some regional settings to use Russian formats for currency etc. as well as default language for non-Unicode programs.

When I install Intel video drivers it reads one of the mentioned settings and decides that it should be installed with Russian UI and creates Russian menu items on desktop's context menu. It looks very inconsistent and ugly when you have menu items in different languages.

It is even worse when the application does not allow you to change its UI language or select one you want during install.

(2) It's even worse with games. I recently bought the US version of Fallout 3, because the German version is censored and the German speakers are terrible. But when buying add-ons via Microsoft Live I'm forced to use the German versions, resulting in a mixture of English and German texts and voices. I have to wait for the game-of-the-year edition... - Daniel Rikowski
[+1] [2009-11-09 21:21:06] azamsharp

I really hate the UI which greets you using voice!

Sometimes it is even hard to find which window is produced the voice.

[+1] [2010-12-21 02:42:28] houbysoft

Quite simply, adding UI where there is no need for it.

Example are most Windows drivers. Why the hell would I, the user, ever want to talk to the drivers?

[0] [2010-12-21 02:44:12] houbysoft

Reinventing the wheel.

HP printers', Wireless Card's, and many other devices' drivers that use custom solutions when a standard one exists (like Zero Config for WiFi on XP), I'm looking at you.

[0] [2011-03-16 16:42:41] Berlin Brown

The best answer is to look at user interface design and accessibility requirements. There really are federally pushed standards for accessibility. In the case you have poor eye sight, blind or poor hearing. And those accessibility requirements also help with regular design requirements.

Also, there are actual courses and books out there for good UI design. I took a course and here are my thoughts.

I think in most applications I see out on the web and in desktop applications break all of the rules on UI design.

  • Big offender: creating a non-standard user interface. If you have an artisty site or something creative, do something new. If you are designing a standard business application like a shopping cart, please don't come up with a completely non-standard interface. A big offender is have submit buttons at the top of a page as opposed to the bottom or placing icons on the left of the display as opposed to the right.

  • Another big offender: I see this a lot with open source software. DO NOT COMPLETELY REDESIGN YOUR INTERFACE VERSION TO VERSION. Microsoft (God bless them) have kept a very similar interface version to version. And of course, they employ the top UI designers. Ubuntu and other open source systems completely revamp their interfaces. From a UI design perspective, that is bad. Obviously you should be able to add features but some systems may move widget bars / applet window. It may flow on the left with one version and then the right on another version and then on the left again.

  • GIMP follows a lot bad UI practices. The window interface is very unusable, don't do that.

[0] [2011-04-28 19:28:38] R Hughes

Click a link, scroll down, click another link, a popup, a button, a tab, another link, back to the main screen, pick another tab, a popup, 2 drop downs, and a save button. All to post 4 pieces of related information. (Not counting the actual data entry). I get to deal with this 20+ times a day. Bonus points if you guess which CRM package I'm referring to...

Or worse yet, put ALL related info on one screen in no particular order and let the user figure out what to put where. Sites like this remind me of the cockpit of a 747. Yikes!

[0] [2011-05-06 15:45:17] Nick Weaver


Implementation of javascript's alert('Annoy me in every tab'); or basic auth modal dialog in Firefox and other not named browsers.

They annoy the hell out of me in tabbed browsing, if one pops up it switches the tab it originated from and prevent any action until dismissed.

(1) This is now fixed in Firefox. - SLaks
@SLaks Thanks for the comment. - Nick Weaver
[0] [2011-06-08 17:13:15] vsz

Not reserving at least a minimal amount of resources for the GUI.

With the performance of today's computers, we surely could allow to reserve for example 0.001% of processing time exclusively for the GUI. It would not slow down the system in any noticeable way, but would avoid the very annoying behavior when because of a task or program using up too much memory or processor time, opening a menu will lead to the following: borders will be drawn one pixel at a time, and after that, the menu items will be filled with a speed of 2 seconds per item.

Especially annoying when it affects a very important part of an OS, like Windows waiting for half a minute or more just to draw the graphics of the Task Manager upon hitting Ctrl+Alt+Del. On a Dual Core processor.

(1) This is not the fault of the CPU, but bad system design. The UI doesn't draw because it's blocked by system interrupts. There are fundamental changes needed to the OS to do this right. If you really hate it, maybe it's time to look at another OS like Mac OS X? - bgever
Of course I meant to have a better OS / software design, and not to solve it through hardware. By the way, it's not even exclusive to OS. Some applications themselves don't handle their own threads in the right way, leading to similar effects even if the OS would have the necessary resources to do the job right. - vsz
[0] [2009-09-27 11:44:31] tsilb

This will end your Windows session.

OMG, you don't seriously want to quit, do you?

Come on, really?

OK, fine, give me a few minutes to close.

[0] [2009-09-27 11:45:40] Filip Dupanović

Installing multiple applications as part of a product suite.

For example, why wouldn't Adobe provide one common environment from which you could launch their Photoshop, Illustrator or InDeisng editors. Why wouldn't Microsoft provide a common environment for launching Excel, Word, Power Point editors?

(2) What problem to launch it separately? Do you like to wait while "common environment" is loading or take unnecessary memory? - Kamarey
Kamarey, I believe that's beside the point I was taking a jab at. Sincerely speaking, your reflections on resource economics are misplaced. Applications that run as a part of a suite all independently load their resources, even though they have much that they share in common. To contrast the point--imagine if you had a different execution environment for every perspective you have in Eclipse now, how that look like and how would it make you feel? - Filip Dupanović
[0] [2009-08-19 08:08:01] Everyone

Menus/Control buttons crammed in so close that it requires effort to not hit the adjacent button, and perform some different action altogether

[0] [2009-11-09 19:37:42] Paddy

A common misconception is that users will automatically understand how to operate a UI if the logic behind the UI is internally consistent. For example, when one control determining whether another controls is disabled - sometimes works, sometimes doesn't. The internal logic doesn't always ensure that it does.

[0] [2009-09-27 14:39:36] Xavier

Operating systems that haven't yet natively implemented tabbed file browsing in their file browser.

[0] [2009-06-20 22:27:54] ldigas

An Google Reader example, where "shift-n" is a valid shortcut, but "N" is not. Such things.

This is a limitation of web browsers. - Improfane
@Improfane - downvote ? Could you explain more ? - ldigas
Hmm .. for me, N moves to the next subscription (and O opens it). - unhillbilly
And I'm confused: is there a difference between N and shift-n? n seems to move to the next article. - unhillbilly
[0] [2009-06-18 11:20:07] finnw

HTML DIVs with a fixed size (in pixels) containing lots of text and no scroll bars. If you change the font size in the browser then some of the text will overflow and be hidden.