Category Archives: Usability

How to blow your launch

I’m not sure if TechCrunch jumped the gun, but boy is TalentSpring awful. I noticed that TalentSpring is a northwest company (Seattle), which made me want to check it out, as I don’t bother with most of the stuff that comes through TechCrunch these days. Though I can’t speak much for the business and/or idea itself, as I’m not totally sure what the point of it all is yet. It seems slightly interesting, but the TalentSpring site itself is so unusable right now, I have no motivation to explore.

talentspring-candidates.png

First off are the 500(!) requests to urchin.js, locking up my browser. Once that is fully swallowed, you are presented with a half-empty UI. I guess there are no “Amateur Programmers” in the system? I play with the job category thingamabob and still can’t get any results. Next I try these filter widgets, and boy are they slow (this is client-side slowness, having nothing to do with the load on the site). Oh, I see that I’m “Already Logged in,” well no actually I haven’t logged in. Finally I entered some stuff to the “Get Ranked” form (I put some skills, not sure exactly what they mean by accomplishments, seems kind of vague) and hit go, and after about 30 seconds my browser finally came back to life with absolutely nothing changed on the screen. After that, I’m outta here. I can’t wait until uncov gets on this one.

User Experience is hard, I can relate with my own struggle to to create positive experiences that really get the message I’m trying to spread, across. But, simplicity can go a long way to helping that, and I would give that advice to the TalentSpring team. I think the problem is that the home page is trying to do too much with multiple kinds of filters in the browse area, the results area itself, and the “get ranked” form. But, while trying to do too much, nothing gets accomplished here, I never saw any results. Perhaps getting rid of the “Get Ranked” form and prefilling the latest resumes into the results (then the filters can be used) would be a good start. Just some thoughts.

Dump the CAPTCHA

Why do do new or moderately trafficked sites insist on using a CAPTCHA on their registration form? A CAPTCHA is a simple test to verify an actual person is using the computer and not a machine, usually in the form of a “type the letters in this graphic” question. They are used primarily to thwart spam bots roaming the web.

Sites create an unnecessary roadblock to user adoption, and it seems to be becoming more common. The problem is, these tests can be unintelligible and a normal user can’t pass it. If you’re MySpace or Facebook and getting thousands of registrations a day, then it makes sense to worry about thwarting the bots, but until then, please dump the CAPTCHAs. Use email verification instead, which you probably do anyway, so no need to beat up your users before they’re actually users with too many tests.

Today, after 5 attempts, I failed my CAPTCHA test at fatsecret (techcrunch coverage). It looked interesting, I wanted to see how they did some things as the idea is similar, feature-wise, to what we do with personal finance on NetworthIQ. Plus, I could stand to lose a few, so maybe it could help me out. But, now we’ll never know for sure because I can’t sign up.

Like.com forgot the basics

Like.com logo
Turn off javascript and try to do a search on the newly launched Like.com (Scoble and TechCrunch have more on the release). What do you get? Nothing. This is a move sure to fire up accessibility advocates everywhere. You may say “But who really ever turns off javascript?”, well I say why on earth do you need to write a series of javascript functions, have 15 javascript file includes, and wire up event handlers to submit your search form? Why not keep it simple and let HTML and HTTP do a little work for you?

In looking at the source, I see they’re trying to set two things, a category to search within and the search query text. Let’s find a much simpler way to do this that still keeps the form accessible.

Like.com version (minus some layout/styling markup and all of the javascript necessary to process it):

<form class="searchform" id="form1">
    <input name="mainSearchField" id="mainSearchField" type="text"
        class="textareafont" value="" onkeypress="return searchEnter(event)">
    <a href="javascript:search()"><img src="pictures/searchbutton.gif"
        width="81" height="26" align="middle" border="0"><a>
</form>

What I would do (no javascript necessary to get the default action):

<form action="search" method="GET" class="searchform" id="form1">
    <input name="btnSearch" type="hidden" value="all">
    <input name="searchText" type="text" class="textareafont" value="">
    <input type="image" src="pictures/searchbutton.gif" width="81"
        height="26" align="middle" border="0" >
</form>

Now the form works for everybody out of the gate and a user without javascript gets a search in the “all” category. Add some javascript to set the hidden “btnSearch” field (which identifies the category) when the user clicks on one of the other categories (and optionally submits the form if there is a query already there). The requirements may be more involved, but this is my 10-minute clean up.

The irony: Eye clinic site not accessible

The other night we had an eye emergency in the family, and I desperately needed the phone number for the Oregon Eye Specialists. As you probably know, I use FireFox. Well, guess what happens when you go to that site in FireFox? Nothing! Absolutely nothing. Just a blank blue screen. No alternate content, just blank (Yes, Flash is installed). In my haste I went back to Google to track down the phone number. Later, I gave it a try in IE, and what do you know, it worked. Now if this isn’t the ultimate irony that an eye doctor has a completely flash-based movie (I won’t dignify it by calling it a site), that’s almost completely inaccessible by most definitions, I don’t know what is.

I think someone needs to educate whomever developed this flash movie. Get a clue! For a site that very easily could have site-impaired users, using alternate browsers, it’s unacceptable. Not to mention the search engine traffic they’re missing out on with this design. I don’t even want to think about how much the clinic paid for this site.

Start by reading more of Molly, Andy Clarke, and spending some time at the W3C’s web accessibility site.