The worst interface of all

I've been writing on 'poor usability' for over ten years now. When I first created Usability by Design (a UK usability consultancy) I wrote something called the Wooden Spoon awards, in a reference to the wooden spoon they award to the worst performing sports teams in some countries. Each month we'd report on a site that we (or visitors to our site) had experienced the pain of, and would describe our pain in great detail - in the fervent hope that someone somewhere would read it, be embarrassed, and perhaps try to make amends. Once or twice, they did.

On a much more frequent basis I've reviewed and written on various sites, mobile phones and software applications, generally on behalf of clients. Some were good, some were okay, some were poor and every now and then I'd find one that should have been shot at birth.

But in all those ten years and of all the interfaces I've dealt with, the one I've been batting my head against this week is by far the worst and by far the most evil.

Imagine an interface controlled by voice - yet where almost every single word you speak seems to be misinterpreted and mistaken. You have to repeat everything you say to it multiple times before you even get a response - and you can guarantee the response you get isn't the one you expected.

There are no instructions, no help, no guidelines. Errors, when they occur, cause screaming fits and tantrums within the interface. It's expensive, incredibly so, and incompatible with almost everything else you are bound to have installed. Oh, and it comes loaded with malware too.

The interface is, of course, the teenager. I've always struggled to communicate with this one, but it's not until you evaluate the relationship in terms of good usability that you realise just how doomed - as a parent - you are.

Time to re-read 'Don't make me think'....

Gary Bunker

the Fore