The worst thing you can put in a webpage

The worst thing you can put in a webpage is a little tiny menu of (many) choices of which the user needs to select one or more. This is one of the most frustrating things a user can ever have to go through. Drop down, or scroll box style doesn’t matter, it is enough to make me shout WTF out loud, and stop using the web page. Now I have no HCI or UI design experience, but I am an avid user of all sorts of software (tee hee), and the kind of guy that wants to fix things that are bad, instead of live with them (for real).

You might ask, what is this blogger’s problem, is he just a lazy ass? Well, hopefully not. I sincerely believe that these menus are really (really) bad design. They hide information from the user, information that the designer presumably assumes the user needs. For example. I might be selecting jobs I might want on monster.com (which sux for other reasons, please recall). I am required to scroll through a 5-line tall menu, and select as many as I want. The problem is, I have to remember to control click on any past the first, lest I remove my other selections. This also goes for industry/category selections, and job location selections. That’s one hard form to fill out. Does Monster (or CareerBuilder, which is even worse) even hire UI designers?

Here’s my proposed solution. Don’t use scrolling or drop-down menus. Don’t ever force the user to navigate ultra-precisely with both his mouse and keyboard precisely for more than a couple clicks or scrolls. Since each of these options is important, and the user doesn’t even know what they will all be before scrolling the list, lay them all out for the user to see, and allow freedom to click on each without worrying about screwing up previous selections (checkboxes, anybody?). If you have a huge amount of things to choose from, narrow it intelligently. Maybe have 10 or fewer choices for a general category, and then list all position titles relating to the ones the user chooses (at this point, its probably ok to have 20 to 30, as long as they are clearly displayed). If you have to display more than this number of things, you’ve already done something wrong on your end. Simplify your categorization scheme. If you’re finding where the user is willing to work, list general regions of the world/country and have the form auto update as the user narrows it down. Ex: USA->West Coast->Bay Area->Choose from a list of towns or areas within the region.

None of this has to be a proper tree either (this is an arbitrary rule often self-imposed by the designer). Maybe LA shows up in South West and West Coast, maybe NY shows up in North East and East Coast. Etc. Again, the important thing is to always display all items the user might want to choose.

Hell go one step further, collect data on who chooses what when, and when users choose nothing, this might teach you more about your design than any documentation you read while designing it.

Call that a freebie, Monster. Next time I’ll charge you for my advice.

The second worst thing you can put in a webpage is an ad with a black and white flashing background.

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