Not So Great Moments In Web Design

It’s some very small things in web sites that clearly point out to me that they were (a) designed by programmers; or (b) never run through usability testing by humans. Here is today’s morsel…

An email notification arrived telling of a new message posted to some discussion forum I cannot recall visiting for a project I barely remember. I really hate notifications that just say “Something new has been posted by Kerry Polangalog, click here to read”. It would take no overhead to provide the text of the posting or at least a 500 character snippet. How do I judge whether it is worth my time to click to a site, log in, and read what old Kerry has said? What if it is just a “I agree!” posting? How motivated will I be to have spent the effort to get that?

But wait, that is just the pre-amble, not the bad design part.

I get to the login page, it requires a username and password. Have I ever been here? I try some of my usual combinations. No. I try my email address, often it is the user name (though it helps when sites like flickr let you know clearly that your username IS your email). Nope, the form field does not take enough characters. But no worries, there is a “Forgot Your Password” [moron?] button.

Now is where it gets stupid:


The password recovery field not only asks me for an email address, like most well designed sites use, so it can just email the password or reset it if it finds your address in the database. Nooooooo, this one requires that I enter my username and fails to work without it. Now, if its been months since I’ve been here, and I cannot remember my password, what are the odds I remember my username too? Do you really need a PhD in cognitive psychology to sense this?

Bad dog.

The end around does not work either- I try creating a new account and it tells me one exists already for me. So now, I have to poke around to find a tech-support email contact, and say, “Excuse me, but how do I get in the door?” Needless to say, at this point, I have virtually no interest in what old Kerry has posted.

Yes, this is small potatoes, and maybe I am petty, but it is some of these small annoyances that trip up people not immersed in technology. If even the minimal amount of usability testing was done, it should have surfaced this as an issue. The sites that have done any amount of design and user-center thinking feature both a “lost your password” function and a “Forgot your username” recovery method.

24 hours later Update: My gut was correct; all the effort to log in was a TFWT (Totaol Friggin’ Waste of Time) on irrelevant topic posts.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I have some favourite forums I remember my password to, however, usually I don’t have a good memory for passwords. I had to register some free e-mail accounts as I couldn’t retrieve my password on some forums and I couldn’t register a new account with my corporate e-mail address. One forum was lost for me as I forgot my password, and they didn’t let any free e-mail accounts((

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