Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Plus ça change ...

... plus c'est la même merde.

And what merde (pardon my French) do I mean? Software that was perfectly good, but was "improved" anyway -- by deleting longstanding features. Software with an idiotic user interface. Software "standardized" to give the same experience on tiny phone screens and big monitors. Software that ...

I'm not opposed to change. That's kinda frowned upon among SF writers. And I'm fully supportive of updates that add new and useful features, squash bugs, improve security, or improve performance. I'm not complaining (today) about blatant bugs that -- somehow -- made it past QA, but that might -- someday, one hopes -- be fixed.

No, today's post (okay, rant) is about software stupidities by design. As both a user and onetime software developer, I feel entitled. Herewith a sampling (with names omitted not to protect the guilty, but because I don't care to moderate a flood of justification comments from the guilty) of software design stupidities that regularly vex me:
  • On a web portal, the checkbox set by default at logon to stay logged on. So rather than have someone who wants to stay logged on click or tap the box once, I have to uncheck the box daily.
  • On multiple browsers with the feature to change the font size of content, no way to change the tiny type of the browser's own text -- like menu items and bookmark names. (Yes, I know about add-ons. I use one. This one shouldn't be necessary.)
  • On a banking app, the camera feature changed to take check pictures faster than a normal human being could frame the check. (To give credit where it's due, the next update restored a reasonable few seconds for setting up the check image.)
  • On the same banking app, the genius "innovation" of entering monetary amounts sans decimal point -- even though the virtual keypad has a decimal button (that doesn't work). Evidently, this design choice is to spare me the odious task of tapping a period before entering pennies. Of course for any check that is for an even dollar amount, that feature adds two taps, in order to enter zero cents (e.g., one dollar must be entered as 100, not simply 1).
  • On countless websites, the needless and recurring relocation of controls. Was the familiar tool moved into a new menu? Exiled to a new tab? Was the menu bar swept into a menu icon, from which to pull down the menu? Always in the pursuit of a "modern" look that will be reversed or reworked in a few months for a newer modern look .... 
  • The readers-and-authors site that tracks the number of an author's reviews -- and offers no way for the author to find his new reviews beyond clicking through to each title.
  • The search engine whose number of hits differs with the sort option chosen (date order vs. most relevant). 
  • The search engine whose number of hits somehow increases when search terms are added, no matter that the (supposed) Boolean logic is an AND of search terms, not an OR.
  • The social-networking site that refuses to respect that I want to see "most recent" posts, not their concept of "top stories," no matter how often I select "most recent."
  • The photo-sharing site that similarly refuses to remember I want photos sorted by most recent first.
  • The webmail service and browser that each hound me many times per day with popups to make a change I indicated I do not care to make. 
  • The etailer whose product search doesn't support grouping words (e.g., an author's entire name treated as a single search term) between, for example, quotes. Instead, a search without grouping returns all manner of irrelevant hits. 
  • The news sites that insist on starting an embedded video playing as soon as, or even while, a page loads. Why can't I decide if/when I want to see a video? Maybe I came to (gasp) read the text. Maybe I don't want the performance hit of streaming. Maybe I'm someplace where it's inappropriate or inconvenient to have speakers on. (Yes, I use Flash Block. Not all videos are Flash.)
  • The news site which pops up a reader comment(s) over the article I came to see. Dismiss the comment, and it immediately returns or it is replaced with another comment. If I want to see comments (and usually I don't), I can scroll.
I could go on (and on and on, you say), but I'm sure you get my point.

What's your software bête noire?

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