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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Anti-Pattern: Missed Moments - Roger's Chocolates

Anti-Pattern: Missed Moments

Recently Tim O'Reilly pointed out the nice Ajax interface that Roger's Chocolate employs. While I think it is pretty cool it does exhibit a common anti-pattern.

As Tim points out "to build a custom assortment of your favorite flavors, you first place an order for the standard assortment, then click on items to take them out of the box, and choose from a list to put others in."

Once you know that process it is indeed fairly easy to customize a box. The problem, however, is that it is not immediately obvious that is the process. Here is how you remove candy from the box (clicking on the 4th candy on the top row will delete it).

And now to add a new candy in it's place you need to click on one of the candy links on the left
The anti-pattern in operation is Missed Moments.
Missed Moments -- Not providing feedback throughout an interaction. Missed moments will confuse the user about what to do during an interaction.

In this example we have two actions we would like to cue the user to do. First, how to remove a piece of candy and second, how to add a new piece of candy in it's place. The current interface tries to do it through help text (a sign that there are no other cues to how to customize your box):
We know that users rarely read instructional text, so a better way to handle this is to provide some timely cues. We can do this through the use of invitational patterns -- inviting the user to perform an action at the moment the action is available.

For delete we can provide a type of invitational pattern, the In-context Tool. In-context tools provide actions near the object being hovered over (the focus of the current action). In this example, when the user hovers over a piece of candy we can show a Delete action represented by a delete icon in context. Here is one way this might be represented:

Compared to just the cursor changing:
Another obvious improvement is to place an invitational message in the empty area once the candy has been removed.

Here are some things I don't like about this. And some alternate suggestions.
  • When you hover over the links they show up in the candy slot but don't stick till you click. Hover actions on links are usually confusing (another anti-pattern, Linkitus)
  • Referencing another interface element way to the left in the nav list is problematic due to related elements being so far apart. The rules of proximity argue for it to be close by for the action.
  • You could just use drag and drop of the flavors. Ideally it would be the candy items you would drag over into the box. But drag/drop is not highly discoverable.
Pulling it Together
Another approach that pulls proximity, invitations and in-context tools together would be to provide the choice for a new flavor like this:

Other ideas for improvement?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Events This Week - Dec. 2nd

Attending & Speaking at Web Builder 2.0 this week in Las Vegas, NV (Dec. 3-4).

Later in the week I will be one of the judges for the PhizzPop Design Challenge (sponsored by Microsoft) down in Los Angeles, CA. That will be Thurs night, Dec. 6.

I also did a podcast with Jared Spool ( on Friday. It was about the upcoming Web App Summit 2008 in Coronada Island, CA where I will be giving a talk on "When Designers Get Too Clever: Avoiding the Traps of Bad Design". We chatted about Yahoo!, Netflix, Patterns, Anti-Patterns, Yahoo! Teachers and so on. Always a blast to chat with Jared. Should show up here when the podcast is live.

Look me up if our plans intersect.