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Trying to do too much

 
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jabailo



Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2008 10:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The other amazing thing is just how some of the most used systems can suffer from interfaces that can be difficult.

Just now with Amazon.com for example, I did what I do everytime I try to log in -- I got caught in the new customer, old customer dilemma.

The first field is e-mail address, followed by a radio button with "I am a new customer" or "I am a returning customer and my password is:" and then a textbox for password. For some reason, the new customer is selected so, I enter my email, and hit tab twice to the password and then try to sign in, whereupon I get the message

You clicked on the button indicating you're a new customer, but you also provided a password.

I think I do this for two reasons, first the natural flow of tabbing through the form, and the expectation that a returning customer is the default, not a new customer. But to me, the fault seems to be that they are trying to do two things at once: appeal both to the new customers with an easy sign up and to the returning customers with an easy login but making it confusing for the returning customers as a result.

I see this same behavior on Netflix.com. The default on the home page is an email name, password form for signing a "new customer" up. To log in as a member, you have to go to the home page, and then select "Member Home" and then log in. I don't log into the site often, because I've set up a long list of movies for them to send, but at one point, I used an email address that is not my account email on the home page form and ended up creating a second account!

The irony is, I would actually like to start using the second email as my account address; however, when I try to transfer my original account to my other mail, it throws up a message that the name "has been taken". Yes! It was taken, by me! accidentally!! I even called up customer service and asked them if they could transfer the information from one to the other, and they said I should just cancel the first one (losing all my ordering history and preferences) and use the second. (Apparently you cannot cancel or undo an account that's been set up!)

The really interesting point is why they would use the new customer as default and this goes back to the original topic. I will speculate here about Amazon and say that I bet they have a lot of customers who buy one thing and never use it again. So, there's a big "burn rate" where someone needs a book, and they want them to jump in, create an account and then they'll never use it again, or (like me) use it once or twice year.
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brian-hansen
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 12:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've made a new forum, "The First One is Free", and moved this topic to it.
-Brian
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brian-hansen
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 1:50 am    Post subject: Free advice for Amazon Netflix & eBay Reply with quote

I've moved this topic into a new forum.




jabailo wrote:
The other amazing thing is just how some of the most used systems can suffer from interfaces that can be difficult.

Just now with Amazon.com for example, I did what I do everytime I try to log in -- I got caught in the new customer, old customer dilemma.

The first field is e-mail address, followed by a radio button with "I am a new customer" or "I am a returning customer and my password is:" and then a textbox for password. For some reason, the new customer is selected so, I enter my email, and hit tab twice to the password and then try to sign in, whereupon I get the message

You clicked on the button indicating you're a new customer, but you also provided a password.

I think I do this for two reasons, first the natural flow of tabbing through the form, and the expectation that a returning customer is the default, not a new customer. But to me, the fault seems to be that they are trying to do two things at once: appeal both to the new customers with an easy sign up and to the returning customers with an easy login but making it confusing for the returning customers as a result.


First, thanks for posting this. This is just the kind of thing that drives
us all crazy. I hope that Amazon showers you with gifts. Who knows?


Meanwhile, I see 4 problems highlighted in your example.

In the first place, I agree that many interfaces try to do too much.
The more you want to do on a single screen, the more care is needed
to make interactions centered on that screen work as a whole
in a way that is usable by experts and novices alike. How much
is too much depends on the structure of the problem, and on the
skill of the interface/system designer.

Secondly, there's a perfectly simple and expected technical fix
to the problem you encountered. The act of entering text in the
"returning customer" text box should change the radio-button
selection. The most common time I see this is when I go to
print the first page of a document in Windows. If I type in an
end page of "1", the "print all" radio button is deselected and
the "page range" radio button is selected.

I encounter a similar problem as your Amazon example when I
go to give multiple feedbacks at eBay. By default I can give
pleasant canned feedbacks, or I can choose to type my own in
a text box. Typing my feedback does not move the radio button
selection, so the canned reply is sent, even though I typed a
personal note.

It's nice to have fewer clicks to accomplish a task, but its even nicer
to not have to switch back and forth between mouse and keyboard.

There must be a hundred different solutions to the new/old customer
distinction when logging in. The best solution might be to not make
the distinction at all. Subtractive software.

Quote:

... they would use the new customer as default... I will speculate here about Amazon and say that I bet they have a lot of customers who buy one thing and never use it again. So, there's a big "burn rate" where someone needs a book, and they want them to jump in, create an account and then they'll never use it again, or (like me) use it once or twice year.


I think you give them too much credit. It never bothered them and
their millions of customers enough to notice it and do something
about it.

I think about the last time I used a tool. It was a screwdriver.
I was fixing a table. There was a solidity and predictability to the
behaviour of the tool. Fixing that table was a pleasure. The
complaints about the kinds of tools providing access to Amazon
(and the others) may seem to be small, barely significant elements
of the overall software functionality, but little things do matter,
and when you look at those other parts in closer detail, you find
that they often have many problems too. Multiple layers of poor
design often interact, commonly making some systems virtually
unusable in particular circumstances.
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