Wednesday, August 12, 2015

User Interface Changes – Are They Worth It?

I read a terrific blog post last month regarding the problems that result when websites or computer applications change their user interfaces.  We discuss below.


Last month I stumbled upon “Lauren Weinstein’s Blog” for some reason.  Her article “UI Fail: How Our User Interfaces Help to Ruin Lives” points out several problems when we in IT change things.  His article was a compilation of an informal survey of users and that:
“(r)esponses poured in both as first-person reports and as testimonials by family, friends, caregivers, and other persons acting as "tech support" (often remote tech support) for older users. 
Any stereotypes about "older" users were quickly quashed.
While some of the users had indeed never had much computer experience, a vast number of responses involved highly skilled, technologically-savvy individuals -- often engineers themselves -- who had helped build the information age but now felt themselves being left behind by Web designers who simply don't seem to care about them at all.”
In particular he noted problems with fonts being used on web pages such as “low-contrast”, “gray fonts on gray backgrounds”.  And that even “screen magnifiers can’t help in such situations”.
Next, and I share this frustration, “hidden menus”.  Don’t get me started on the “charms bar” that Microsoft put into Windows 8 and 8.1.  At least they removed those in Windows 10.

Recently one website I work with removed the typewritten link and left only a graphic picture link. What is the deal here? Did the web page designer miss playing hide and seek like when they were a child?  Mr.Weinstein also points out problems with “tiny upside-down arrows”.

And let me put a hex on the persons who came up with cascading menus that are more than two levels deep.  It is like playing the game “Operation*”.  One false move and beep, the patient (or in my example the link) is dead

Then there is the “hamburger” or “gear” setup/configuration icon.  No standard there.

To conclude Mr.Weinstein offers an excellent idea, web sites should think about providing:
“easily enabled "basic interfaces" to their main services, alongside the existing "primary" interfaces.
We're not talking "dumbed-down" interfaces here. We're talking about UIs that feature clear menus, obvious and easy to click icons, and most importantly, that would be supported for important functionalities for significantly longer periods of time than the rapidly evolving primary interfaces themselves.”
Good idea Mr.Weinstein!

* Here is a link to a YouTube recording of a 1980’s television commercial for those of you who aren't familiar with the game.

Photo credit: "Operation game" by Pernell - Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikipedia -


  1. Glad you liked the post. It's indeed an important -- and very complex -- area without simple answers. (By the way, I'm a he, not a she, but just call me Lauren!) Thanks.

  2. Thank you Lauren for correcting me. I am glad you liked the article and I will definitely be following your writing as well in the future.