Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Don't Fix Problems by Documenting Them

There's an old saw that says there's no such thing as a bug -- only obscure features.* Apparently, Yahoo! has taken this to heart. I have a Yahoo! email account I use, like, never. Sorry, Yahoo! (and my DoS** just asked me why I'm apologizing to an Internet service.)

In any event, in order to test an email configuration change, I needed to send an email from an account other than my own and other than GMail. So I logged into my Yahoo! email account and I accidentally agreed to upgrade to the new UI, whereupon I was presented with this alert:

I'll ignore the unnecessary cuteness of the figure on the left because there's a bigger faux pas. There's no way out! Surely, Yahoo! must really think it's important for me to see whatever it is they want to tell me. And what is it?

The thing labeled "Contacts" is my Address Book. Well, duh. That's what almost every other program calls it. If it's wrong, why don't they call it Address Book? Maybe they could use a larger icon that's a little more visible and a little clearer than a rolodex card ("what's a rolodex card?" says my daughter).

Use the thing labeled Options to set your Options. Gee, thanks! Is there a problem with discoverability? Maybe they should make it more obvious.

Use Check Mail to check your mail. Wow! Don't forget to tell me to use the pull down menu even though I don't have a pull down menu (because I only have one account).

To get help, use Help. Yeah, it's a tiny blue button. If people are having problems finding the help, give it a big icon. And, maybe, if it's a big issue, your software isn't quite as easy to use as you want it to be.

Fix the problems, don't document them. And even my daughter thinks the illustrations are just annoying.

*One of the first debuggers I used was actually named after this fact -- BOFF, the B Obscure Feature Finder was the B language debugger on Honeywell mainframes.

**DoS, apparently, means Daughter over Shoulder. PoS is much more common webspeak. And here I thought it meant Denial of Service.