A Gallery of Bad Design

January 30, 2009

A large number of (what I consider to be) design errors:


  1. Amazon has a list of books I’ve already bought from Amazon. It also has a list of books I intend to buy, courtesy of my (large) shopping cart. It also has a list of books I have no interest in, due to my clicking “Not Interested” where appropriate. Yet, throughout the site, it continues to recommend books from all three categories.

    The Little Computer Scientist’s recommendation: Amazon’s recommendation engine should not recommend books I already own or books that are already in my shopping cart. 

  2. I keep many books in my “Saved for Later” section of the Shopping Cart. It’s my “intend to buy when I have time to read” list. Every so often I bump a few books into the Shopping Cart proper and buy them. The UI for the “Saved for Later” does not support searching or efficient browsing. Furthermore, when I look at a book listing, there is no hint if that book is already in my cart.

    Recommendation: Allow searching in a cart. When I make a change in the cart, it should not cause a full page reload, nor lose my place in the paginated list. Integrate the cart with book listings, such that a listing for a book warns me if the book is already in my cart. 

  3. Amazon maintains a taxonomy of books. It allows a user to “Browse by Category.” But many books are in the wrong categories. There is also lots of overlap. For example, The Black Swan and The Adobe Photoshop CS4 Book for Digital Photographers top the Computer Science category. The Adobe Photoshop CS4 Book for Digital Photographers tops the Software Engineering category under Computer Science. What?

    Here are the categories for Adobe Photoshop CS4 Book for Digital Photographers:

    1. #1 in Books > Computers & Internet > Programming > Algorithms > Digital Image Processing
    2. #1 in Books > Computers & Internet > Computer Science > Software Engineering > Information Systems
    3. #1 in Books > Computers & Internet > Digital Photography & Video > Adobe Photoshop

      In an earlier revision of this post, I accused Scott Kelby, the author, of cheating the system, because I believed authors chose their categories. I shouldn’t have jumped to that conclusion—this is entirely Amazon’s fault. 

DrProject, del.icio.us, and others

  1. Do not break my browser’s password-save feature. Please. In DrProject’s case, the login form is in a JavaScript popup, unlike every other website that has a dedicated login page. Firefox is clever enough to offer to remember the password, but alas Safari is not.

    Del.icio.us just deliberately breaks password saving on its sign in page by specifying autocomplete=off in its form.

    I hate it when coders put effort into features that degrade the experience. You actually have to try hard and spend time to break the browser’s password-save feature. It doesn’t help anyone.


  1. WordPress recently redesigned their interface. Presumably they tested it and found some advantages. Yet they have ignored the #1 rule of human-computer interaction: Responsiveness is king. The new interface is noticeably slower than the old one. The old one was already slow.

    Responsiveness lets users make mistakes without consequences and therefore without fear. Responsiveness allows experimentation, which gives a UI discoverability. Responsiveness compensates for many other design errors. Responsiveness is the most important UI principle in the world. 

  2. If I don’t give a post a category, it is placed in the Uncategorized category. If I later give it a category, it remains in “Uncategorized” as well. This is wrong. Posts should only be in Uncategorized if they’re uncategorized.
  3. Switching between the Visual and HTML views of the blog post editor loses whitespace information. Whitespace operations should be preserved between the two views of the same post.

7 Responses to “A Gallery of Bad Design”

  1. Scott Kelby Says:

    Hi Aran:
    Just so you know; I have absolutely nothing to do with the categories my books get placed in, and I don’t believe me publisher has any control over where Amazon.com does either. I have no idea what the criteria is for placing books in certain categories, and it even mystifies me sometimes where books wind up being assigned, but just so you know; it’s totally out of my hands.

    So, I’m not “gaming the system” or cheating in any way. I just write the books and they wind up where they wind up.

    Hope that helps. 🙂

    -Scott Kelby
    Non-cheatin’ guy

  2. Greg Wilson Says:

    Um… what does DrProject do to your saved passwords? It’s not *supposed* to do anything…

  3. aran Says:

    @Scott: I apologize for the mistaken accusation. I’ve updated the post to correct it.

    @Greg: Safari (and thus presumably Google Chrome) is not clever enough to see through the login popup. I’ve updated the post to make my criticism more clear.

  4. Scott Kelby Says:

    Hi Aran:
    Thanks for correcting that—it’s much appreciated (and says a lot about you that you were willing to do that). 🙂

    All my best,


  5. […] really matters February 4, 2009 In my last rant I accused WordPress of bad decision-making in its new UI, because they’ve traded away some […]

  6. Jorge Says:

    Just wondering if you tried Gears to speed up WordPress a bit.

  7. aran Says:

    @Jorge: I’ve installed gears, thanks for the tip. I hope it helps.

    According to Safari’s network timeline for the wp-admin page, https://littlecomputerscientist.wordpress.com/wp-admin/ downloads 207KB of stylesheets, 190KB of images, and 135KB of scripts. The total size of the page is over 0.6MB.

    It loads an swf chart. It loads gravatars from outside the domain (extra DNS lookups). The entire page takes 112 HTTP requests.

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