25 January 2015 | PSCHub
PSCHub is an in-house application for managing compliance with corporate standards. We have a list of requirements. For each requirement we set a state, such as compliant, not compliant, or in progress. This is my first encounter with the tool. I am responsible for a particular area (usability) so I have to set the compliance for all requirements in my area. I came to the list and tried to set the state of one of the requirements from not set to not compliant.
I got a new empty page with the message “I’m sorry Dimiter, I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.” Followed by a “take me back” link.
The URL of the page ends is …/#/403, which makes me think that this is an HTTP 403 error. Code 403 is returned when the server is operable and can be reached but refuses to take action.
- Stuffed hedgehog toy. I guess this is the keeper of the PSCHub doors.
- Missing subject. Let me do what? We humans are bad at remembering – see Memory Recognition and Recall in User Interfaces
- Missing explanation. Why wouldn’t the hedgehog let me do that? Since there is no reason, the message does not help me much.
- Missing next step. What am I supposed to do now? The only thing that the message suggests is “take me back”. I suppose this means that I will return to where I came from. This does not help me much either. Should I try again? Should I ask for permissions? Whom shall I contact?
- Misleading composition. I assume the message is not supposed to mean to take the hedgehog back. The choice of words and the way the information is ordered on the screen supposes to be read this way “I, this hedgehog, cannot let you, Dimiter, do that, so take me back”.
Overall, the message is useless and irritating.
Plain text seems to be so boring to us humans that we constantly trying to make things “nicer” by adding all kinds of related or, most of the time, unrelated imagery. For example, 33 brilliantly designed 404 error pages.
I am not against it. I expect that the imagery comes as a supplementary thing that adds some color and liveliness to the boring text. In our example here with the hedgehog this is not the case. The message does not help me, so the hedgehog looks stupid.
It is also irritating because I figure it out that the designers and developers took the time to find an image but did not make much of an effort to tell me what the problem is and what I am supposed to do now.
Note also that the message addresses me by name. Do I want that? No. Did they ask me whether I like it? No. Do I like being addressed by first name by a stuffed plush hedgehog? No. Getting personal with users and making software more humane is a huge topic and overall a positive trend. But they got it wrong here. Mentioning my name in an error situation might very easily make me feel as though I am to blame that I got into that situation.
This is yet another point for irritation. The PSCHub team has dedicated a certain amount of effort to capture my personal information and bring it into the text of the message. They would have done better explaining the reasons for the error.
Quick and dirty: At least tell me that you have no idea what happened and I am on my own. Remove my name. Make the hedgehog smaller.
Design for humans: Do not waste time on decoration until you get the basics right: what, why, and what now.