July 13, 2001

Web review: Interface Hall of Shame

Author: JT Smith

- by Tina Gasperson -
Whether or not you believe your computer has a mind of its own, it is true that applications speak to us and expect us to interact with them. Sometimes there's a distinct communication gap. The Interface Hall of Shame points out some hilarious GUI goof-ups; I hope you will enjoy browsing them as much as I did.The Interface Hall of Shame hasn't been updated for about a year. But the examples here are not only timely, they are entertaining, and useful to those who are or will be engaging in the design of graphical user interfaces. Open Source programmers especially should heed the lessons here so that the applications they create can continue to be superior to closed source.

The Hall of Shame is sponsored by Isys Information Architects, a company that spends every day creating interface designs and usability engineering services for its clients. With the Interface Hall of Shame, they're poking fun at those unfortunate interface designers of fewer talents by pointing out "how software should not be designed." Let's go see.

A big focus of the site is the review of the QuickTime 4.0 player GUI. The review begins: "One look at QuickTime 4.0 Player and one must wonder whether Apple, arguably the most zealous defender of consistency in user interface design, has abandoned its twenty-year effort to champion interface standards." The review continues on in fairly technical and detailed terms and proceeds to rip the QuickTime interface to shreds. Fairly interesting, but not the best part of this site.

The rest of the site is divided into collections of different types of deficiencies: controls, "stupidity," visual, color, terminology, errors, tabs, metaphors, and globalization. There's also a section full of more in-depth reviews along the lines of the QuickTime decimation.

Each of these sections houses a collection of screen-shot examples from various applications, some well known, others obscure. When you read these, you will laugh. You will wonder how programmers could be this stupid -- and then you will wonder how so many software companies get by with no quality control. What about beta testers?

Perhaps software users are so accustomed to being treated as lesser creatures by companies like Microsoft that they simply accept inferior quality as their due; or, like some people I know and get irritated with, they refuse to immerse themselves in technology. "Old way works better," they say. Gaffes like these are surface evidence to justify that position, at least to them.

But hey, we don't want to get all serious and depressing. And we can afford to be jolly. I didn't see one example of Open Source software in the whole bunch; not only that, but it's Friday. Have a look at the Interface Hall of Shame, shake your head and let go with a few belly laughs. It's good for the soul.

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