I'm curious what are other people's list of recent design trends that end up hurting usability. Extra points if you still have to do them because you need a "trendy" design.

My personal favorite is text-shadow on nearly all text. Major culprit is Twitter and Apple but I'm seeing it everywhere. Yes, sometimes it's fine, but usually the displays being used just technically can't handle the text-shadow well (let alone fonts in general) and the text becomes hard to read and fuzzy.

9 Answers 9


In-page tabs via jQuery, since they (like the More discussion above) break the back button. Click between some tabs, then go to another page, then hit the back button and you're looking at the first tab again.

  • 3
    Really, anything that breaks the back button.
    – Adam Vandenberg
    Dec 13, 2010 at 5:11
  • This is a really good point. I know that SammyJS (code.quirkey.com/sammy) preserves the back button functionality.
    – manlycode
    Dec 13, 2010 at 14:43
  • Isn't a lot of AJAX prone to this though? May 24, 2011 at 0:59
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    A lot of AJAX and Flash is prone to this, but it breaking the back button is not an inherent quality of these technologies just poor implementation. AJAX/Flash can add to a nice experience and be usable, we should be pushing for both.
    – edeverett
    May 24, 2011 at 9:03

Tooltips on EVERYTHING. Hover over something for a second, and BLAMMO, it gets covered up with a yellow rectangle. Web sites, desktop apps, it is everywhere.

Even worse when it isn't even a standard tooltip, but some sort of custom "super tooltip" that takes up even more room.

  • The Excel formula bar is prone to this. Very, very annoying. May 24, 2011 at 1:00

I actually made a quick video one night when I was frustrated. I'm annoyed constantly by those boxes that appear when you hover over just about ANYTHING on Facebook. A while ago, I noticed it on Twitter too, but I don't think they have that in their new interface.

What I mean: http://vimeo.com/17630240

Given any time one of those boxes appears, I am actually wanting the information to be there about 10% of the time.


I was once forced to use flag icons (which were anchors) for language selection. Beyond the fact that many users may NOT know what country a flag belongs to (and what to do when the country is multilingual??), I had to figure out how to get some text to show to all visitors.

I eventually got away with a complicated images sprite with title attributes that appeared not only on mouse hover but also on :focus. Except, of course, in IE unless I wanted to bloat up with more Javascript.

All of which could have been avoided if, instead of cutesy icons that don't mean anything to large numbers of people, we had just had a list of languages in plain text, like Wikipedia and all the smart people do.

Famous last words before your engine pukes: "what's the little flag in the water mean again?"


"More" style pagination without history support. Github Issues was guilty of this so I stopped using it. I navigate to the second page of issues, open the issue, deal with it, and when I push "back" I'm back to the first page of issues. Twitter does this too as do many other sites.

  • I agree, I'm actually dealing with this right now in an app I'm making. I want to have a "forever scroll", but page transitions destroy it without storing some kind of state. Annoying.
    – Zed A. Shaw
    Dec 12, 2010 at 22:50
  • Zed - why 'forever scroll' instead of pagination? It has always struck me as a dismal innovation.
    – andybak
    Dec 13, 2010 at 1:33
  • @andybak -- See "trendy designs you have to do anyway" :-)
    – Zed A. Shaw
    Dec 13, 2010 at 1:44
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    Not to lean towards one or the other, but I think the "More" style pagination was created as a database scaling thing. I can't find the link I'm thinking of, but the query that has to take place to do "More" vs "Page 1, 2, 3, etc" (like you'd see on a Wordpress blog) ends up being much faster for large datasets (like Twitter). Or something like that... In some implementations, I like the "More" style pagination, but others it sucks.
    – Daniel Huckstep
    Dec 13, 2010 at 2:32

Corporate colors

The company has dark and light blue as colors in their logo, now the whole web presence, including PDFs are written with dark blue color on light blue background and so on. Poor contrast, bad readability. Users enemy - not user friendly.


Gloss paint buttons

Buttons in gloss paint today shall simulate a mirror effect, mirroring highlights, which of course makes icons and texts on the button less readable, not better readable.


I prefer more pagination or auto load a la google images or facebook post history. I don't have to click anywhere, which saves me 0.1 seconds. Not much, but still a saving...


Loading more entries so that when they click back after drilling down to an entry's web page, the dynamically loaded history is gone and the browser's scroll position is lost.