Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Web User Experience Annoyances: Missing Events

In working on a Windows XP Pro client with IE and Firefox internet browsers, I'm  finding the experience increasingly erratic.  My productivity in doing day-to-day tasks is going down. The interfaces I use, largely Web-based, have increased latentcy for sure, but broadband has improved quite a bit and keeps improving. That ain't it. The problem is that I'm also finding that the apps are increasingly missing or ignoring the user interface events.

Keyboard presses, field focus, mouse clicks... these are the only ways I have of working with the computer at the moment. When we lived in an isolated desktop world, we could get a lag on the system due to overloading, but missed keyboard events were otherwise a sign that an app was about to crash. In the world of the Web, nothing on my computer _seems_ to be lagging, but the application platforms seem to be designed to ignore me anyway.

Now it is such a regular occurrence that I'm realizing about a third of my user interface gestures regularly have to be repeated. Not so very long ago, I used to watch in minor annoyance as computer novices hunted and pecked on the keyboard, ever unsure of whether some keystroke or mouse click would be OK to do. Now, I'm finding the user experience of Web apps is making me feel the same way as those novices.  It is as if the apps were designed to be a little hard of hearing in one ear. If you've lived with a relative who was a little bit slow or had wax build-up, you know what I'm talking about.

"Honey, can you pass me the (muffled word) puhleeze?" 
"I said, could you puhleeze pass me the blftter?"
"Did you say 'glitter' ?"
"What, why would I ask about glitter? No, the BLITTER puhleeze"
"Oh, you must mean 'butter'?" 
"Yes, that's what I said, "bluter" .

The first such conversation is quaint, but the constant repetition is a draining experience. As I write this on blogger, the WYSIWYG text cursor has magically become invisible, leaving me to wonder where the next character I type will appear. "Sigh, yes dear, I'd like the glitter please." I think it is time for Web apps to get the equivalent of a cochlear implant.

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