I sometimes see features on websites that, for a few moments, make me think wow, that’s cool. Then, upon using the site for a bit, I start thinking wow, that’s pretty damn annoying. Initially I feel the site’s developer or webmaster might be onto a good thing, but then the old usability angle comes into play and changes my mind. You may have experienced the same thing. It’s perhaps just a subjective thing. After all I am just a single user with my own tastes and preferences. I mean no disrespect to anyone, and some of the things I have grown to dislike most certainly have their place in world of the web. They can be neat tricks that, if used at the right time and in the right place, can make a site really shine and come to life. Okay, I suppose you want an example. All right, here goes, here’s one: CSS pop-ups; the kind used for tool tips. They often bug me.
First of all, let’s look at the tool tip itself. You know, the
title="" attribute. If the site’s content is well written and well presented, regular tool tips are seldom necessary. Let’s say, for example, you’re reading an article about a new technique called The Foo Method and in the article the author explains that this technique was developed a Mr. James Foo. In that mention the author of the article offers a link to Mr. Foo’s website. The link in this case may be offered like this: To learn more about The Foo Method, go to JFoo.com. Do you really need a tool tip on this link? Is it in any way helpful? Not really, I say. I mean you know the discussion is about The Foo Method and the link text clearly states the target of the link and why you might want to go there. So what’s the
title="" attribute or tool-tip even applied for? For the sake of redundancy? To get in the way if you happen to hover over the link while reading? In my opinion it serves no real purpose.
Now, offering the attribute in enhanced form, as a CSS pop-up, increases the same unnecessary thing more significantly. If you hover over the link you get a large box restating the link, often explaining it in detail, and sometimes even offering you the URL to go along with it. But why? Developers really need to take care when employing the latest craze and really think through the effects of offering such things.
So, this is one that gets in my way in terms of site usability. What’s yours? Do you know of a well-meaning yet particularly annoying site enhancement that you run into more often than you’d like? Spawning new windows got you down? Unneeded alt attributes getting in the way (or sounding strange out of order or out of context)? Animations making you crazy? Fixed font sizes or low contrast making you strain? Please lend me your thoughts. Your responses may help well-meaning developers avoid making simple usability mistakes.