Misc Usability Problems

I’m always surprised at the obvious usability failures that I run into in the course of a normal day. It’s worth documenting them, I think, to remind us that such obvious design flaws still occur. Some recent ones:

  • I’ve switched to Mac (which I’ll write  more about later).
    • But today I’m trying to transfer my Outlook calendar to iCal on my new machine. Found a utility online that should help — converts Outlook files to .ics format. But I can’t find where it put the converted file to be exported. What good does it do to create a file if I can’t find it? (Since I can sync my phone with Outlook and with iCal, I used my phone to mediate the transfer.)
    • Installing iWork has caused Microsoft Office to fail — and to try to start over and over again. And fail over and over again.
    • On the plane yesterday I managed to delete from Aperture all my photos tagged “Yellowstone” — probably thought I was deleting one. It shouldn’t be so easy to accidentally delete that many images. At the very least, I should have got a “do you really want to do this?” warning. (They’re still on my hard drive, but not in Aperture any more.)
  • The university sent faculty and staff a notice about WarnMe, a new campus alerting and warning system. Said they had activated student access earlier, and were now activating staff and faculty. Clicked on the link in email, and the Faculty/Staff link was not yet working. (Now it is, several days later.)
  • Wanted to know what Olympic coverage was on TV one night. Went to the NBC Olympics web page, which was cluttered with all kinds of info — but not this. The schedule link took me to the schedule of events in Beijing, not the TV schedule. It was either not there, or I couldn’t find it. Surely what MOST people will want to know from NBC (as opposed to, say, news organizations) is what events are on which NBC channel at what time, so this should be an obvious link.
  • Checking in for my United flight from Bozeman to Denver at 7 am Sunday — United had a planeful of people due out of a small airport and their check-in process was chaotic and slow.
    • They had only one line for everyone: those who needed to deal with an agent, and those doing self-service check-in with and without bags. The whole point of the self-service terminals, as I understand it, is to whisk those people through the process. But no.
    • When I finally got to the self-serve kiosk the agent handled my check-in instead. Maybe she thought this would be faster, but, while she could have been helping someone else, she tied up herself AND the self-service machine I had stepped up to. (And she didn’t ask me for my ID as is required. Same thing happened to others.)
    • They had only one printer for boarding passes, and only one for baggage tags, so added time was taken as people waited for their printouts and then as the agents would grab a pile of paper and try to match up the right person to each printed piece.
    • In the last week, United has instituted charges for ALL bags — which added to the confusion. They’re spending more than the $15 they charge for the first bag in staff costs to handle all this.  The check-in area at Bozeman is small; why not put up a sign telling people about the new charges?
  • TSA was no better. This was a flight full of vacationers, i.e., people who don’t know the drill for going through security. And the TSA did nothing to tell people ahead of time to take off shoes etc etc. So we were all held up as people tried to go through security unprepared.  (The foil on someone’s gum wrapper set off the metal alarm!)
  • Driving through Wyoming, looking for a side road friends had told me about. No signs. Eventually I realized that the side roads each had a sign about 100 feet up the road saying where it went. I.e., to find the turn I would have had to drive up EACH side road, to see if it was the one I wanted. (I only figured this out after I missed my turn.)
  • I’m changing campus parking passes. Logged on to buy one — all went well, including it verifying that I’m employed by UC and entitled to one, until it told me to come in and pick up my pass. Which is, of course, exactly what I’m trying to avoid, the long lines in the parking office at the beginning of the year. And surely THEY don’t want to have to deal with me f2f, either. ???

2 responses to “Misc Usability Problems

  1. Interestingly, the student WarnMe system didn’t work when they sent the email either. I tried to respond to their email to tell them…but it bounced. Surprise.

  2. Pingback: Usability Update « Nancy’s Blog

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