Tom Chi  

The scariest interface part II…

November 11th, 2005 by Tom Chi :: see related comic

Wow, we got some great entries for this contest. A quick recap is in order. The task was to submit the scariest interface you’ve every used. We saw complicated weather pages including one that threatens to freeze your machine if you right click. We saw a variety of apps that buried us in a landslide of menus toolbars buttons palettes and tabs. We found out what happens when you hire 12 designers and take just one design element from each, as well as what happens when you hire 400 advertisers and take *every* ad from each.

There were creations of colossal clutter from companies big and small. There were curiosities of unclear utility. There was even a scary site that let you listen to the star-spangled banner whilst shopping for assault weapons.

My personal favorite was band in a box, which offers all the headache and confusion of a sloppy band practice without any of the fun. Its combination of familiar elements with terrible UI gives it a glimmer of understandability right before confusion and panic set in.

Kevin didn’t agree. He picked horserentals.com as the winner, commenting that Band in a Box got to me primarily because of my musical training. Anyhow, we had no tiebreaking vote, so both submitters get to be supergreat winners!

So now for part II: The prize this time is a cameo appearance in a future OK/Cancel strip! That’s right, you’ll get to join the ranks of Nielsen, Norman, Spool and Tutfe as a two dimensional collection of colorful cartoon pixels. All you need to do is pick either of the following:

* horserentals
* Band in a Box

…and redesign it for usability and appeal. Link a screenshot of your revised interface and post it as a comment. You’ll be wrestling Alan Cooper in no time.

15 Responses to “The scariest interface part II…”
Chris McEvoy wrote:

I vote for “Band in a Box”. It reminds me of something I would have copied from a magazine in about 1982 in hex format.

My re-imagined user interfaces are:
http://www.vintagesynth.com/korg/ps3100.jpg

and a more blue sky concept:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/lookaroundyou/wallpaper/images/800/synthesiser_patel.jpg

Jim Jams wrote:

Nonononono! That horserentals site cannot possibly be real… can it? Surely this is the revenge-driven work of a disguntled younger relative or something. It must take some dedication and flair to achieve something so perfectly awful.

Maybe the next competition should be to redesign well-known sites in a horserentals style.

Reed wrote:

The horse rentals thing doesn’t count. It’s just domain squatting really. Lots of sites like that, someone grabs a bunch of domain names that all go to the same site, created in the shortest amount of time with the most stuff in it, mostly outgoing links found on a search engine in minutes, and lots of ads. The goal is to look useful in google’s results, and maybe capture you for a while in the hope that you’ll find a useful outgoing link.

hilary wrote:

but the horserentals site has so many new (and so so awful) ideas. It has a drop box where the default value is “Use your back button after visiting hyperlinks. (Select state)”! I’m amazed–instructions telling the user how to return to the site *in the drop box*. And just in case you don’t know what to do with the box itself, they also tell you to select a state.

At the top, you also have instructions to the user: “Double Click on ALL Underlined Blue Links.” Wow.

We have blue text on a blue background, blue text on yellow,

They are honest about the search engine goals on the home page: “The below links are just important meta tag links for search engines.
They all basically link to the same page.”

Tom Chi wrote:

Reed, I think the horserentals is actually a real site with a real person doing stuff, not an autogenerated spam blog. Looking at the code it is clearly written by a human, and not by a robot (robots could not invent some of the crazy interactions on the site!).

Now this person does apply copious SEO techniques, but as far as I can tell it looks ‘legitimate.’

AR wrote:

I concur: Band-in-a-Box has the worst UI on the planet but, on the other hand, Peter Gannon (the brains behind Band-in-a-Box) managed to produce brilliant quantizations of real bands’ behavior and, even better, the automatic solos in the style of famous improvisers truly recreate their musical minds - I say this from my 25-year jazz guitar teaching experience…

Somebody wrote:

A late entry I know, but you might want to consider www.immobilienscout24.de as well.

Fred wrote:

Oh my god, that immobilien scout is horrible. I can’t even understand the text! Talk about someone who needs a spellchecker…

In all seriousness, with programs like 3DS Max like you have linked up there, I feel like using them is an art form itself. There are so many different things that you can do, that you need multiple menus and such, which you can turn on and off depending on your needs. Once you get used to it, it’s not so bad. Plus, most people use hotkeys while they 3D model. So I guess I might even put it in the class of an artform, where you have to develop a skill to use the tool(like a musical instrument). Although, maybe there is a better way.

I would love to dig in and see if there are any problems with 3D modelling programs.

Olof wrote:

Just trying to move from working in 3D Studio Max to Maya is quite a challenge…

KC wrote:

This is also a late entry, but I had to add it.
http://www.shakespeares-sonnets.com/
The sad part is that it does rather a nice job of explaining and annotating each sonnet. I’ve looked at it quite a bit just for that. As far as sites that offer sonnet commentary, it also seems to be the most complete. But the colors, text sizes (changing size in the middle of a word), link placement, and lack of navigation or coherence are terrible. In one block of text, the author actually advises selecting the text you want to read in order to enjoy a different background color if you have trouble!

Jarrad wrote:

Would have to vote for the horse rentals… not just because of the site itself,but the quality of the sites are quite similar, you have to pay consistency in design

KAUSHIK DAVE wrote:

Check out the banners..

http://us.makemytrip.com/

Dror wrote:

How about inventing your own version of the English langaugae?
http://www.munee.info/

Olafurw wrote:

So nobody has any interest in actual help or ideas for those poor lost souls.

As a basic idea for the horse rentals is to first design an interface which fits each browsers width, possible utilizing more vertical space if needed.

Categorize by type and location. Top bar which a user can select the type of ride or activity they are looking for. Then a side selection bar based on each type of activity chosen and sorted by location in the main page, while still being able to freely select the activities at the top if the sidebar doesnt have the info, or go back to the introduction page.

Hilary wrote:

A very, very late submission:
http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000734.html


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OK/Cancel is a comic strip collaboration co-written and co-illustrated by Kevin Cheng and Tom Chi. Our subject matter focuses on interfaces, good and bad and the people behind the industry of building interfaces - usability specialists, interaction designers, human-computer interaction (HCI) experts, industrial designers, etc. (Who Links Here) ?