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Consistency reduces confusion

May 25, 2009

As I’ve stated in my presentations on reviewing user interfaces, if you follow the three C’s of communication — clarity, conciseness, and consistency — you reduce the other C — confusion.

The other day I encountered a situation in the Investor Centre on the Computershare website where a lack of consistency caused me some moments of hesitation and just a little confusion.

What am I meant to click?

What am I meant to click?

So what’s wrong with this picture, you might ask?

Well, I wanted to print out the current statement for my tax records. The instruction said to click on the ‘Statement history’ link (I’ve highlighted this in yellow). Simple enough?

I looked all over the page and the navigation menu for something called ‘Statement history’. But there was nothing. I looked again, just in case I’d missed it the first time. Nope. Nothing. So then I looked more closely at the navigation menu, and realised there was a menu item called ‘Payment History’ — perhaps that was it? But no — that was the page I was already on (the title and the visual cue in the navigation menu gave me that information). Maybe it was ‘Tax History’ or ‘Payment Statements’ or even ‘Holding Statements’? Each of these options had one of the two words in it I was told to look for. But which one did I have to click to get to the PDF so I could print it? After at least 30 seconds of this faffing around (technical term!), I tried ‘Payment Statements’ and found what I was looking for.

I SHOULD NOT have to spend 30 seconds looking for something that isn’t there, nor should I have to try the other options to see if any of them gave me what I wanted. I’m very computer savvy compared to the average Mom-and-Pop investor, and I wasted a good 30 seconds on this. Average Mom-and-Pop investor might spend even more time, perhaps call Support, or give up in frustration — every time they do this, Computershare’s reputation gets a little more tarnished in the eyes of their customers.

So here’s a hint for anyone from Computershare who finds this blog post — make sure the words on the screen match the words in the menu! It’s called consistency and it’s not rocket science. Consistency reduces confusion, and therefore frustration and anger. Users of your website feel that somehow they have failed because they haven’t been able to do something as simple as click a link that you’ve told them is there, but that they can’t find.

If only Computershare’s web designers had followed Steve Krug’s mantra — Don’t make me think!

It’s not that hard to be consistent. Really. And if your designers can’t see these inconsistencies, give the job to your technical writer or an editor or usability expert — they’ll find them for you. If you don’t have people like this in house, hire someone on a short-term contract who can do this sort of review for you.

2 comments

  1. I agree with you. When I have called institutions on this, they tend to be well aware of their user interface’s inconsistencies. Their response, however, is, “Our people are aware of it and say it would cost too much to fix.” The business entities, I guess, don’t care THAT much, no matter what they say. No wonder we’re in a recession.


  2. […] Consistency reduces confusion CyberText Newsletter – PeopleRank: 0 – May 25, 2009 …Steve Krug’s mantra — Don’t make me think! It’s not that hard to be consistent. Really. And if your designers can’t see these inconsistencies, give the job to your technical writer or an editor or usability expert — they’ll find them for… + vote […]



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