I mentioned in a blog post a couple of weeks ago that I had passed a certification exam and was now a Certified Usability Analyst (CUA). In this blog post I want to address a couple of usability issues that I noted recently.
Completing college application forms
It’s amazing how something that is a current interest to you can help you see what would otherwise go unnoticed. Just like how, when you buy a new vehicle, it suddenly seems like that vehicle type is everywhere. It has been like that for me lately with usability issues – having spend some time studying for the exam and becoming attuned to identifying subtle difference in color choices, content positioning, and understand how one’s mental model influences their experience with a web site or application I’m seeing usability issues everywhere.
I’ve been contemplating returning to school for some time now and finally settled on a couple of degree programs so decided to submit applications for same. I won’t “name and shame” the universities in question but on each occasion I send an email to the appropriate webmaster alerting them to the issue. I encourage you to elevate usability issues that you encounter to the appropriate webmaster because issues don’t get fixed if no-one knows that they exist.
Usability issue #1
Usability issue #1 involved a field titled Legal Last Name. My legal last name is spelled O’Brien and I have blogged previously about how one’s last name is not to be trifled with. So I was annoyed when I clicked out of the Legal Last Name field and the field changed my entry to O’brien. I clicked back in the field and corrected it but once again the field changed my entry to O’brien immediately I again clicked out of the field. It was then that I noticed the field-specific instructions for the field advising that only one capital letter would be accepted by the field. Say what?!
I’ve never encountered an application form before that set rules around how one might enter their name. Worldwide there are many different last names that include multiple capital letters, apostrophes and other special characters. Why would any web or application developer in their right mind set such a rule? One workaround was to enter it as O’ Brien but that’s not my legal last name either – it’s spelled O’Brien and any other format is a misspelling.
Usability issue #2
I could suck in my annoyance and pride and deal with the bastardization of my last name but usability issue #2 literally stopped me from continuing with my application form. I selected the Yes option on the US Citizen/Permanent Resident field because I am a US citizen (and damn proud of it too). However, further down the form I was requested to indicate the city and state of my birth, which was a problem because I was born overseas and took on US citizenship through naturalization. I fully expected the dropdown list of options on the State field to include an option such as Other or International that would then allow me to choose from another dropdown list of foreign countries, or even enter the foreign country name in a blank field, but no such option existed.
Usability issue #3
This one blew me away – the Email Address field spellchecked my email address! No joke!! The field actually put that red squiggle line under my email address.
And there you have it; three usability issues on two graduate admission applications on two different university websites. What kind of usability issues have you encountered lately?