San Luis Valley IT

Websites and IT for Southern Colorado

Your professional UI is terrible and nobody likes it

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I saw a reddit comment by an IT guy whose boss asked him to put up a warning about the site's cookies. The tech replied that this was unnecessary because the company doesn't do any work in the EU, and is not subject to the GDPR rules that would require it. The boss said he knew that, but he thought it would make the site to look "more professional".

The IT worker convinced the boss to leave it, but I think about it all the time. Sometimes it feels like more complex UIs are a bandwagon that "look professional" but users actually hate. The vast majority of people don't know what cookies are except that you have to click accept for them. I actually know what they are and care about my privacy and even I think those messages are worthless. It's like UI trends are on a race to the bottom, with snakeoil digital marketing firms leading the charge.

Misleading metrics

One of the most-hated UI horrors is the newsletter signup popup. Market research (asking my friends) has confirmed that nobody actually likes those things. But they're wildly popular. Why? Marketing suits see that x% of users shown the popup will sign up and y% of people that see their newsletters will buy something. So they think that increasing those two numbers, however tiny they are, will squeeze out a little more sales.

I'm not so convinced of causation between x and y in this case. I help my grandma with her computer and one of her common complaints is that her inbox is full of junk and she can't find her actual emails. It's because when she sees one of those popups on a website, it asks for her email so she puts her email in. I am convinced that increased sales from your trashy UI are mostly from lost grandmas on the internet. It's not ok.

My grandma also told me she was getting charged for something called Amazon Prime and she didn't know what that was. Anyone that's ever used Amazon knows that you have to navigate a mess of suggested products, wait for several stages of spinning yellow wheels, and dodge constant messaging to sign up for Prime. The last page before payment is a bunch of small text explaining what prime is, followed by a small link that says "No thanks" and a huge yellow button that says "YES I WANT FREE SHIPPING FOR 30 DAYS". My Grandma did the right thing, to get the charges reversed, but probably x% of Grandmas don't and Amazon withdraws their money every month until they complain and dispute it. It's downright scammy behavior that preys on unsaavy users like my Grandma, but Amazon knows that it's profitable and they have the metrics to prove it.

Simple UIs are better anyway

Having a simple, text-based UI might not look "professional", but users actually like using it. Scripts that direct popups at users, track their mouse movements, or flash animations aren't just intrusive; they bog your site down and add to its complexity. That makes it harder and more expensive to maintain. This is especially true if your site's APIs are based on a third party that can alter their pricing as they see fit. On the other hand, a simple website with minimal dependencies can last decades with little to no maintenance. Craigslist is a great example of a simple UI. Everyone likes using Craigslist; it loads fast and is easy to use.


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