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UI Rant ---forgive me

Am I allowed to say this,

http://order.ecplace.com/emgr_cgibin/maemgrorder.exe?AppVersion=ecBuilder%20Pro%205.0%20Trial&PartnerID=&PackID=2052&MerPSN=AQIAAAFoAAAApAAAHzh6lBbXnCPSvoPKPoyqviay0Uf7VUj5rzUdirk4P9T2mP4f%250AqXeFnN/LYXT%252B7JjOcHFhAidv9fPmhpTbvJDreA%253D%253D%250A%2520%252BFlgit5dqeEa/emvGiA%253D%250A&FileID=entrance&MessageType=inquiry&Merchant_CompanyName=AMS%20Accounting%20Management%20Solutions&Merchant_Postal_Street_Line1=56%20Station%20St%20&Merchant_Postal_Street_Line2=&Merchant_Postal_City=Moorabbin&Merchant_Postal_StateProv=Vic&Merchant_Postal_CountryName=Australia&Merchant_Postal_CountryCode=00&Merchant_Postal_PostalCode=3205&Merchant_Telecom_Phone_Number=03%2096863778&Merchant_Telecom_Fax_Number=03%2096863779&Merchant_Online_Email=anthonyt@iaccounts.com.au&UDFName1=Installation%20%26%20Setup%20Required&UDFType1=Yes/No&UDFMandatory1=Yes&UDFName2=&UDFType2=Text&UDFMandatory2=No&UDFName3=&UDFType3=Text&UDFMandatory3=No&UDFName4=&UDFType4=Text&UDFMandatory4=No&UDFName5=&UDFType5=Text&UDFMandatory5=No&UDFName6=&UDFType6=Text&UDFMandatory6=No&ColorScheme=Lhotse%2C%23FFFFFF%2C%23CCCCCC%2C%230066CC%2C%23000000%2C%23660066%2C%23994FA9%2C%239966B1%2C%23000000%2C%23006699%2C%23FFFFFF%2C%23990033%2C%2366CCFF%2C%23006699%2C%23333366%2C%23006699%2C%2399FFFF

But this web page is dodgy, and the UI dumb enough for me to sit and stare at it a few times and wonder what they were thinking.

What is with all the red asterisks….my gosh is the ‘subject’ that important that it requires an entire line explaining the you can’t submit this form without a subject.

And it is an inquiry, but it is required that you fill in whether installation is required or not….my gosh.

--Sorry this is a bit of a rant isn’t it. But truelly I am very interested in UI, I think it is such an important part of what is involved in design (design of anything), I wonder that some people take it (seemingly) so flippantly. I pasted the URL after writing the above, and couldn’t get over the length of it, don’t they consider that someone might want to paste it somewhere?

Aussie Chick
Thursday, January 15, 2004

It isn't perfect,  I can see 5 small changes i would make, but all in all it looks like quite a well designed form to me.

braid_ged
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Gee, that was a big URL all right :-)

tinyurl.com/2vj8c

Frederic Faure
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Im not a hacker or anything, but I remember hearing something about hooking the CGI executable directly to the URL like that..
Any CGI experts care to comment?

Eric DeBois
Thursday, January 15, 2004

---"The field(s) marked with asterisk (*) indicate required information."----

Joel commented on this verbosity from his time at Juno. English Majors from Ivy League Colleges who studied literature, not because they had any passion for language, but because the chicks came from the right background.

(*) = obligatory

is already long enough.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Brad, yes 5 small changes, but I think they turn a simple form that could easily look professional, into a form that looks done by an amateur.

And that is exactly my point, it is major things that they have done, just showed a lack of caring.

Aussie Chick
Thursday, January 15, 2004

> Im not a hacker or anything, but I remember hearing
> something about hooking the CGI executable directly to the
> URL like that..
> Any CGI experts care to comment?

Won't call myself a CGI expert, but yes the URL is pointing to a CGI (maemgrorder.exe, site is totally Windows platform based). The URL contains all the form data that had been submitted from some previous page. Basically the data is being passed in the URL itself; the CGI reads this data from the URL and based on the data, the CGI can do some processing and churn out customized HTML page.

Back to the topic:
I agree with braid_ged, that some minor changes need to be made but overall the page looks quite well designed to me. Some of these minor changes could be to align the "The field(s) marked with asterisk (*) indicate required information." text at all the 3 places, ensure that the spacing above the (blue background) headings is consistent etc.

> What is with all the red asterisks….my gosh is the ‘subject’
> that important that it requires an entire line explaining the
> you can’t submit this form without a subject.

This is a standard feature in Web pages when you want some fields to be always filled in. It is not just about 'subject' field or any other field. Its just that those fields are required by the company in order to process the request. Maybe the subject is being used to keep track of the requests or for quick reference, or for any other reason. But what the Page is conveying is that it is required for the request to be processed.
Another thing that could (rather should) have been done is that the "The field(s) marked with asterisk (*) indicate required information." should be mentioned only once, that too at the beginning of the page instead of repeating the same thing 3 times in the same page.

> And it is an inquiry, but it is required that you fill in
> whether installation is required or not….my gosh.

Me thinks that this could've been phrased better. Maybe what they wanted to say was whether a demo version or trial version is required at this stage or not.

hmmm...
Thursday, January 15, 2004

I'd pretty much guarantee that page is the output of a template. The order company probably handles many clients. They probably have a choice of fields they can collect and mark as required as each client desires.

The download forms I build for my company are the same way -- template-based -- and we list the fields and mark them as required after the client has cherry-picked from what we have available. The forms look pretty much the same as what you linked. For example: http://download.trueweather.com/longlines/longlinespublicsignup.asp . They're usually also hosted by the client within their own format-template based site. I did take the time to at least make sure my forms validate for HTML, CSS, WCAG and US508.

Troy King
Thursday, January 15, 2004

I love URLs like that.  All that unvalidated page-building information, just begging to be subverted:

http://order.ecplace.com/emgr_cgibin/maemgrorder.exe?AppVersion=ecBuilder%20Pro%205.0%20Trial&PartnerID=&PackID=2052&MerPSN=AQIAAAFoAAAApAAAHzh6lBbXnCPSvoPKPoyqviay0Uf7VUj5rzUdirk4P9T2mP4f%250AqXeFnN/LYXT%252B7JjOcHFhAidv9fPmhpTbvJDreA%253D%253D%250A%2520%252BFlgit5dqeEa/emvGiA%253D%250A&FileID=entrance&MessageType=inquiry&Merchant_CompanyName=Monkey%20Loving%20Pirates&Merchant_Postal_Street_Line1=%20Baboon%20House%20&Merchant_Postal_Street_Line2=%20Guenon%20Street&Merchant_Postal_City=Colobus%20City&Merchant_Postal_StateProv=State%20of%20the%20Mandrills&Merchant_Postal_CountryName=Land%20of%20the%20Barbary%20Apes&Merchant_Postal_CountryCode=00&Merchant_Postal_PostalCode=YAY%20MONKEYS&Merchant_Telecom_Phone_Number=03%2096863778&Merchant_Telecom_Fax_Number=03%2096863779&Merchant_Online_Email=anthonyt@iaccounts.com.au&UDFName1=Monkey%20Loving%20Requested&UDFType1=Yes/No&UDFMandatory1=Yes&UDFName2=&UDFType2=Text&UDFMandatory2=No&UDFName3=&UDFType3=Text&UDFMandatory3=No&UDFName4=&UDFType4=Text&UDFMandatory4=No&UDFName5=&UDFType5=Text&UDFMandatory5=No&UDFName6=&UDFType6=Text&UDFMandatory6=No&ColorScheme=Lhotse%2C%23FFFFFF%2C%23CCCCCC%2C%230066CC%2C%23000000%2C%23660066%2C%23994FA9%2C%239966B1%2C%23000000%2C%23006699%2C%23FFFFFF%2C%23990033%2C%2366CCFF%2C%23006699%2C%23333366%2C%23006699%2C%2399FFFF

The programmer probably thought they were doing a great job, too.  I mean, it's really extensible, right?

*sigh*

JP
Thursday, January 15, 2004

JP, very humorous although I don't think that's a problem they necessarily need to concern themselves with.

Yes, the URL should be shorter and tied to a CGI and the interface shouldn't be defined on the fly within the URL.  But that's not a really devastating problem.

Perhaps the most infuriating thing about forms like this is that they are difficult to scan (look at the size of the font, there's little spacing to indicate whether the words are on top of or below their respenctive text boxes, and they occupy the same amount of space).  This poor design is augmented by information which probably isn't truely required except in some instances (installation requried = yes).  So ask that first, and if they answer no only display a limited field set.

And of course, one can use javascript and the dom to only display certain fields given the choice in a drop-down (which should be a radio box mind you). 

I recently made a contact form like this for our internal site, and about half way through I realized how much of it was entirely unnecessary for certain situations.  Some javascript and dom calls later and it is a much reduced form with client side checking for required fields.  That makes for an easy to use form that doesn't invite frustration.

Lou
Thursday, January 15, 2004

JP: You made my day. :-)

Tim Sullivan
Thursday, January 15, 2004

JP: I was feeling quite miserable until then. Thanks!

Andrew Cherry
Thursday, January 15, 2004

still laughing...

pdq
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Aussie,

Most people are unaware of how horrid a user interface most things have (and not just in software) or simply want to get the job done, and don't particularly care how efficient, elegant, pretty or effective the "how" is.  And some think that they must just be "dumb" and there's nothing wrong with the UI.

But I'm with you.  I've always been a believer in both form and function.  Even as a kid, when I'd build my Lego spaceships and stuff, if I needed two red 1x2 bricks I'd hunt until I found them or if I could only find one I'd switch to a different color rather than use two different colors.

-Thomas

Thomas
Thursday, January 15, 2004

>if I needed two red 1x2 bricks I'd hunt until I found them or if I could only find one I'd switch to a different color rather than use two different colors.

me too, except I am not a kid, and I bought my husband the 'lego inventions kits 2.0' for christmas....I want lego, piles of it, it is great fun, and it is something you can just sit and play with while chatting.
I think most people would get into that sort of stuff, even if they don't want to admit it.

Aussie Chick
Thursday, January 15, 2004

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