User Inconvenience / User eXaspsration Design


Continuing the discussion from Stuff That Really 'Grinds My Gears…':

Hi, thanks for coming to my TED talk.

Internal systems are notorious for bad UI design. At my job, we have to use an Electronic Ticket System to track work orders, case notes, shipments - basically everything.

And it’s… actually good.

RIP the design team, who disbanded in 2016.



Thank god I don’t have to use GovTrip anymore.



I just don’t even have words to describe some of the abominations I’ve seen. Web systems that override basic browser functionality (like, for instance, links) with javascript that reimplements the same functionality but in a way that it’s usually broken is just the beginning. “Requires Internet Explorer 6.0” is the next step.

Then there are the Rube Goldberg internal systems made up of an obsolete version of Lotus Notes trying (and failing) to interact with an obsolete version of Microsoft Office, backed by excel spreadsheets that automatically corrupt any data entered into them, tied to Access databases with a custom Visual Basic front-end that wouldn’t run on any computer from the last 18 years.

One case there were 3 separate datasources, all old Cobol systems, which would have been ok, but none of them agreed with what was in the Excel sheets, which weren’t even formatted right.

Then there was the company that still used old DOS programs for everything but wanted a modern web interface. Some of the stuff couldn’t even be converted to a modern format without manual re-entry because it was in a weird proprietary format.

It’s been a few years, but not that long, when I was just listening in on a phone call and the client was concerned about whether things would still work with IE 6, because that was what all the executives used, and the agency guy said “Not a problem, just send us an address and we’ll send them all new laptops. It’ll be cheaper and less hassle for all of us.” On mute, I laughed my ass off.


  • If I open a file, it always jumps to the foreground. Sometimes I want to open 20 files and go through them in turn. Since these may not appear in order in whatever file or library tools I’m using, usually Finder, Calibre, or sometimes Blik, I can only open a few, then jump back out of their windows, open a few more, jump back, and so on.

  • Blinking cursors and especially marching ants. For me, these blind me in the area of the flash, so I can’t see where I’m typing.

  • Gesture-based controls, except as an optional alternative which can be disabled.

  • Tapping, except as an optional alternative which can be disabled. Good for arthritis though.

  • Mouse-keyboard combinations. Complex multi-key combinations, especially if they don’t work with Sticky Keys. Opposite-side-key combinations.

  • Putting Page Down next to Enter.

  • Autoscroll, smooth scrolling, and smart scroll.

  • Hiding scrollbars when not in use. You can’t rely on things popping up at the right time and not at the wrong time.

  • Excessively narrow scrollbars.

  • Tendon-ripper wheels. “But they never injure me! The ionly injure people why try to scroll up!” I don’t know what kind of work doesn’t require people to scroll up.

  • Objects which reinterpret scroll as zoom.

  • Having to use Command-Shift-F for functions which otherwise only require Command-F.

  • Unnecessary animation, including Position: Sticky objects resizing as people scroll, pop-ups, etc.

  • Unnecessary fixed elements, especially backgrounds, but also headers and sidebars.

  • Sites which break with readable fonts and/or font sizes. Text overlapping text, text hidden behind other objects, links hidden behind other objects or behind tooltips which pop up if people mouse near the link. I know full-page zoom is the standard solution, but it is a shitty solution since it doesn’t address different users’ font requirements, it expands larger text as much as smaller text, and it often requires horizontal scrolling.

  • Calling a mode which disables any safety and accessibility tools “Safe Mode.”




If I give the command for something to open, and then do nothing between the time that I give the command and said opening occurs, then sure, I’m okay with the new window having focus.

If I give the command for something to open, and then start working in a different application, I expect the application which I’m working in to retain focus. You may highlight the new task on the task bar, to tell me that it has finished opening, but if I am typing into a different window, you may not take focus so that the stuff I am supposed to be typing into an already-open application goes into your application instead. If I am addressing a different application while waiting for you to open, then, when you’re ready to proceed, you will put your hand up and sit quietly until addressed by name.



This is the kind of feature that makes me wish for messy homicide to be visited on the perpetrators.

Many items on this list, to be honest, starting at the top and going all the way down. Disabilities aside, the real issue is the horribly disfunctional relationship corporations have with things like quality and usefulness.

A window-opening FIFO queue in the background would be my killer feature. Practically everything should open minimized to the task bar. I can’t think of a single program which startup messages and other bullshit that shouldn’t just dump all that into a log that you can peruse if needed. I should not have to stop all my work just to keep moving my actual work back to the top of the window stack.

Microshit employees should contemplate the words “window manager” and implement one.



The hard part is that I want Calibre and Blik to open to queue not to SEIZE THE SCREEN. Which may involve more technical challenges than getting the finder, or Gnome, or its equivalent to do that.



This is supposed to be a Mac workaround:

I can’t get it to work, either as a service or an application.


  • Minor one, but sites which have “forgot?” for BrE speakers who forget passwords, and nothing for AmE speakers.


I miss KDE 3.58. I miss it so much.



I’m close to giving up on not going Mac.



Not KDE.


For whatever reason, KDE would always maximize screen brightness when starting up. It wouldn’t allow user settings with non-burning screen brightness until logged in, which poses the problem: how do you log in with the screen like that?



I absolutely despise this current design trend. Windows 10 is all-in with this with it’s hidden scrollbars and borderless everything (another design trend I hate).



I’ve written enough UIs to know that UI design is hard. But all the big OS makers also publish very good, detailed, and well thought out and reasoned UX guidelines.

It just seems as if so many UI designers simply aren’t aware of these or figure “lol I can do better than those corporate design nerds” not realizing a lot of time and thought went into those guidelines.



I haven’t seen hidden scrollbars in Windows. In Mac OS, it’s the default though. Took me awhile to figure out why things kept disappearing and then find the “don’t hide my stuff from me” setting that should have been default.

Another UI/UX thing I like about Windows vs Mac OS - the editing and arrow keys actually work consistently! In Mac OS, you have no idea what’ll happen when you hit those keys, since it varies wildly from program to program. That may be why they left them out of the laptop keyboard, but anyone who types much is going to get an external keyboard and expect it to work. I just assume no one at Apple has ever edited text.



Agreed 100%. Also tabbing to change UI element focus just makes no damn sense on MacOS. If there’s one thing Windows does very well and (usually) pretty consistently it’s keyboard-based navigation.

In Windows hidden scrollbars are unfortunately the norm in UWP applications. A pox on that design trend. I’m not against slick and pretty UX but FFS don’t hide important functionality.



I switched back to Mac because of too many hardware and driver issues when using Linux on Ubuntu-certified Windows machines.

It’s not like I can test things in store, because (a) stores aren’t accessible and (b) stores fuck with my eyes and ears and © stores only let me test the default os, not the customizability of another os.



This is such my bugabear. Why oh why do we keep inventing more and more new functions when the old ones don’t serve us? Why don’t the companies that make this stuff put more time into making it really smooth?

Some of the online companies that serve entrepreneurs have amazing UX/UI. You want to see a great program? Open a Canva account. Wow. That program is truly intuitive. So why the fuck hasn’t Photoshop done the same with their program? That thing requires a Masters degree to use.




Also, marketers think “now does X!” is a more compelling sales pitch than “Y sucks less!”.



And why do they have to simplify, dumb-down, and idiot proof everything?
And why do they have to take stuff that works well, and destroy it? (Windows Explorer File Search, I’m looking at YOU.)