Friday, September 12, 2014

Nice When UI Designers Sweat the Details

I am constantly frustrated by the lack of thought and crafstmanship in web UIs. For decades now, many Microsoft products have put intelligence into text boxes, to allow them to do text validation. So, for instance, I can specify my line-spacing as "2 li" or "4 pt" or ".4 in". They all work. Same with Outlook reminders: "60 m", "0.5 d" and "12 h" are all valid entries in the combo box.

But web UI is usually the polar opposite.  Even really basic, obvious text-input flexibility is lacking. For instance, if you paste your phone number and it includes hyphens, that may be rejected. Conversely, other times it may be rejected without hyphens. Then there are all the helpful inputbox labels that tell you exactly the format required: "mm/dd/yyyy", for example.

So I was happy today when I noticed Gmail was smart enough  to fix a mistake I made. I had right-click copied an email address, and pasted it into the TO field in Gmail. Just as I pressed the SEND button, I noticed that the copied text string included the "mailto" tag. I expected some kind of error message to appear within the next 2 seconds, and was astounded when it didn't. I had to check the SENT folder to convince myself--sure enough, Gmail had parsed and stripped the mailto tag. Seamlessly--not only an error, not even a warning or dialog asking "Remove apparent 'mailto; tag?"


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