I often use applications and electronic devices for which I think: "Why on earth did they engineer that thing as it is? They must have known that it is a pain in the neck to work with".

On the other hand I often observed that I created a (G)UI that I was convinced about, that it'd delight my customers and was a breeze to work with. Although my customers thought that too, it became obvious that it wasn't at all easy to work with in day-to-day work.

Because of that I believe that there are many developers and designers out there who are genuinely convinced that their product has the perfect user interface, but it hasn't!

That's why I wrote this question: To collect some of the common misconceptions developers have about user interfaces and to prevent other developers (including me) from making the same mistakes.

What annoys you most in user interfaces of applications, web sites, electronic devices, etc. but presumably was created for the benefit of the user? What was it that you were convinced would be a great idea—but in the end only annoyed your customers?

Please write only one example per answer.


33 Answers 33


Scenario: a developer creates a form that, depending on what checkboxes are checked, certain actions will take place. While a person will have to pause to consider the impact of their selections, the developer believes the form is simple, as it only has a few options to select, and the text labels in the form sound rational to him.

Developer misconceptions:

(1) the shortest route for the developer to get the form on the page and make it work just happens to be the best way to present the form to the user

(2) the form would make sense to other developers even before I explained it to them

(3) when I did a demo of the form, it was reasonably clear to everyone, even though it was me who was doing all the clicking and explaining

(4) the form would make sense to anyone; in fact, you'd be an idiot if you didn't understand it

(5) users have a chip inside their brain playing an .mp3 of the thought process the developer used to make the form; they play this whenever they wonder what precisely the implications of their selections mean, because it's not explained anywhere else


"Lotus Notes also does it like that, so it's good".

  • 2
    Lots of organisations use Lotus Notes, so it must be good.
    – Erics
    Commented Oct 23, 2011 at 5:30
  • @Erics how is Lotus Notes (now IBM notes) still around?
    – Celeritas
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 9:39
  • Because enterprises have themselves locked in on the system. Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 7:40

"I'll design the UI now, then the functionality will fall into place."

  • 2
    I disagree. I think that the UI should be designed first, and the functionality figured out later. or simultaneously, if you have people working on a form of MVC architecture.
    – GSto
    Commented Aug 17, 2010 at 19:34
  • Functionality is designed first, otherwise you don't know what you're doing. Functionality is "what the app's for" not "what came from implementation"
    – naugtur
    Commented Aug 18, 2010 at 9:54
  • 8
    For all intents and purposes, the UI is the functionality, from the perspective of the user. Of course you need to know what the application is going to do, in broad strokes, but the UI design is going to bring up what is really important. Commented Aug 22, 2010 at 14:49
  • 4
    I believe requirements should be designed first. Requirements define functions (not functionality) without mention or implication of graphical appearance. Then a user interface is designed around the requirements. I actually hate the reverse: "We will build the back-end first and then you can skin it" as then you just end up with an interface that exposes the "back-end" rather than a user-centred design.
    – jeef3
    Commented Aug 30, 2010 at 2:02
  • 2
    The user interface is one of the most important parts of a piece of software. Commented May 24, 2011 at 0:57

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