Web 2.0 doesn’t imply usability


I recently got myself a Flickr Pro account,
and have been using Flickr for more of my photos. I find myself more
and more annoyed at the rough edges in the Flickr user interface. For
example, when you want to delete a tag from something, you click on
the [x] to the right of the tag. Flickr asks you “Do you want to
delete the tag?” Cancel/Ok:
delete?

This is almost certainly the wrong thing to do. It annoys people
because the website is (in effect) saying “Hey, that might be a stupid
thing to do, so I’m going to slow you down so you can think about it.”
The first couple of times people might pause to think (but what
they’re likely thinking is “you stupid computer, I told you
what to do”.) After that, when they want to delete a tag, the action
will be “Click X; Click Ok”, with no pause for thought.

That is how people think. That is how people are able to learn a
complicated game like chess, or go. People chunk information and
actions together. This allows the forebrain to go on thinking about
other things while the rest of the brain carries out an action
previously decided-upon. If an action requires a confirmation, the
hindbrain will confirm it as part of executing the action chunk.

The way to work with human congnition rather than against
it is to allow for Undo. Undo isn’t a new idea — we were using it 25
years ago. Undo works well with the human brain because it allows
actions to happen without confirmations, but it also allows the
forebrain (which operates slower than the hindbrain) to realize that
it has made a mistake, and correct it with an Undo.

Flickr isn’t all bad. They do use Undo sometimes:

confirm1

When they add an image to a set, they add an indication that it’s
in the set over on the right, so the “OK” part is useless. They
should skip the dialog entirely and insert a temporary “UNDO” below
the set listing. Even when they do use UNDO, they spoil its operation
with a confirmation:
confirm2
Of course I want to
remove it from the set! That’s why I just clicked on UNDO, right?

Following the confirmation is another useless “Click OK to indicate
that you are still alive” box.
confirm3
Of course it’s been
removed, because the set listing is now gone. The proper way to
handle this is to grey out the set listing on the right, and add an
“UNDO” button below it.

Even if you’ve implemented your website using Open Source software
like Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP, you don’t escape the low quality
typical of proprietary software unless your software is Open
Source.

It’s easy to volunteer other people to fix problems. In the Open
Source world, the typical response is “great idea; send a patch.”
Flickr lives in the Web 2.0 world, not the Open Source world. Their
software sucks just like any proprietary program. We can’t fix it.
Only Flickr can fix it, and hopefully, they’ll at least fix the
problems I’ve outlined here.