Thursday, February 25, 2010

Poor form design

Even Google gets things wrong sometimes. (I don't mean like Buzz. That's more like "Even Google completely nukes a section of the internets and then attempts to apologize later, as if words could somehow make up for the incredibly stupid decisions they made.")

Have you nominated your area to be a test market for Google's reported 1 Bbps fiber service? You should. I did, and when I submitted the form, Google politely told me that while they'd saved my information on the page (good), there was something I had to correct ...

One of the boxes could contain no more than 384 characters.

Why 384? Who knows. (Typically it's 255; you may get smaller numbers if they do something to the text going in or coming out, and I suppose this could be a natural-language field, but I digress.) The point is that they showed me a restriction after I submitted the form ... and not only that, they didn't even tell me how much I had to change.

This is very bad practice. First, you should do this checking prior to form submission so that you don't make the user waste a step. We don't like trying things that don't work. (Google is notorious for low-load pages ... but then they have AJAX to bring up search tips and such, so why would they not use JavaScript here?) Second, if there is a problem, tell the user exactly what it is, and if possible, make recommendations to fix it. Tell me how many characters I've typed. Don't make me copy the text into Word just to count it. Better yet, add code to the text box to show me exactly how much room I have.

Ah, Google. Just like the rest of us, aren't you?

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