Monthly Archives: September 2012

More questions?

In some way or another, we would have encountered the need to fill out questionnaires. Regardless if it is to help a friend of yours who’s attempting to do market research on their project or some stranger that you bump into while strolling down the streets for a short survey as they would usually imply or providing feedback for a module/restaurant/service.

Not In A Million Chance! (Bad Examples)

Let us consider some of the distressing questionnaires.

Some scenarios:

  • 30 questions + all of them open-ended questions
  • 40 questions + close-ended but populated with 10 choices each + long sentences for each choice

To avoid:

  • long sentences
  • lengthy questionnaires coupled with boring questions
  • insensitive questions

Tipping Of The Hat 🙂 (Good Examples)

Let’s now partake in the fine tasty grapes.

  • elicit a positive engagement from the respondent
  • accurate responses
  • sustained interest

Takeaways:

  • Be concise
  • Always have the respondent in mind

All right, you can go and fill out those questionnaires now.

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Classical elements of web design

Web designs are such a quintessential part of the internet that as users, we do not give much thought about it. Take for example the Google search engine (pictured above) that we have grown so accustomed to.  It has a concise, simple and minimal design, providing information on what we have inquire about with clear signs and short descriptions of the site we are about to click on. However, there are sporadic lapses where we raged and be absolutely confounded by a new website that violates the classical elements of a web design which can both be daunting and traumatising to the user.

Lingscars (a site that provides cars for hire)

WARNING: POSSIBLE MOMENTARY BLINDNESS and NAUSEA (from the ‘graphic’ nature)


The website floods the user with not only a sea of information, but also with jarring colours, inconsistent fonts choices coupled with confusing navigation links. This has quite a disconcerting effect on the user and simply warrant a quick and swift exit of the site by the user.

In direct juxtaposition is the news site, Guardian.

The site has demonstrated a good web design in spite of having to display and containing a plethora of information. It provides guidance with an organized page that enables the reader to navigate smoothly throughout the site even though the home page is constantly updated with the latest news. There are a few key elements of web design that is employed by the site:

  • Navigation (segregation of the various content in different categories e.g. top bar with World, Politics, Media, etc…)
  • Typography (consistent font choices and size coupled with the choice of colour for the fonts)
  • Spacing (adequate between each news stories with good padding)
  • Consistency (coherent between pages)
  • Usability (providing short excerpts of the newstories

In short, the classical elements of web design should always have the user in mind providing an ease of use and to be aesthetically pleasant.

erroneous error messages.

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Ehhh?!?! :O

If only all error messages were more helpful. Unfortunately, some point in time somewhere, we come across error messages that trigger The Hulk hidden within us. Be it trying to decipher what did you miss out on an online application form, why the website is not working, why you are unable to execute certain commands, why the programme cannot be compiled, why the programme cannot be compiled, WHY THE PROGRAMME CANNOT BE COMPILED???… Apologies, nightmares from coding classes still linger… Well, the list just goes on and on.

Upon encountering an error, what we really need is a solution. We need useful help. Many times, error messages raise more questions than providing us with any leads to an answer, especially technical ones like:

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How about one that does not make any sense:

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We eat the humble pie and click “OK” without knowing what went wrong or what is the next step to take (did I hear the developers snigger…)

The Ideal Error Message

An error message should not make us feel like “it is the end”. Useful feedback provided by an error message to prompt the next step to take would be greatly appreciated. It should aid us in solving the problem. Such feedbacks can come in the form of increased visibility:

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Or provide us with a help tab or a link to solutions online:

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The bottom line is not to leave the user blank and frustrated. In a nutshell, a good error message should possess the following:

  1. Catch the user’s attention!!!
  2. Clear visibility (in pointing out the error)
  3. Explain what went wrong and why
  4. Understood by anyone (avoid technical jargons)
  5. Provide leads to solving the problem (help/link button)

That said, erroneous error messages continue to be part and parcel of our lives; they are almost inevitable. Be surprised! 😉