Botched and Abusive Web Interfaces and Forms

There are a lot of ugly and hard to use web pages out there. We all know this. Have you ever tried to read one of those pages where the background made it impossible to read the text? Or the colors where so outrageous you had to highlight the text to read it? Often the font is strange or so small you have to press your eyeballs up to the screen.

Admittedly my own web page is not beautiful or incredibly easy to navigate. And I think user interface design is really more the domain of artists than engineers. But even I can put something decent together. Take a look around. I've followed a few basic rules.

  • Reasonable size fonts.
  • Fast loading pages.
  • Simple colors and background.
  • Pages link back to the main page.
  • No irritating flash screen.
  • No poppup anythings.

But what really frustrates me to no end is online forms. They're awful and it seems intentionally so in many cases. Ideally, you would never have to fill out any online forms. All your information would be stored in one place. Unfortunately any attempts at this so far have failed. I'm sure it will work this way eventually, but in the mean time, the forms should be as easy as possible to fill out.

Have you ever had fields limit how much you can enter? And I'm not talking about 256 character passwords. Think eight or nine. Have you ever had the form display your password in plain text? (Or even worse -- e-mail you your password in plain text.) I recently had a web page inform me with a message box that all the material was copyrighted when I tried to copy an address (as if I couldn't just view source). And there have been many other instances where certain mouse buttons have been disabled to try to block me.

The worst occurs when you apply for jobs. There are almost always long forms asking you to enter way too much information. Sometimes you have to fill out the same form for different companies. Sometimes you have to fill out the same form over and over for the SAME company but a different job.* Monster like to slip in those annoying unrelated applications when you're in the middle of applying for something else. Cute.

There are fields that require multiple selections but only allow one. And there are fields that have no applicable selection; so, you have to lie. Often the form is several pages long. If you make a mistake, it may make you re-enter the password. But sometimes it makes you re-enter more and sometimes everything. And what if something goes wrong right before the end? Don't even try to back up when you're finished. You'll just get lots of errors about re-posting. I recently got an e-mail telling me my application was incomplete; so, they deleted it (and could I please apply again). Gee thanks a lot. Of course I didn't apply again.

One time I was enticed by a very simple looking form (e-mail and password only). The next page was where they asked for the real information. Sometimes details are hidden from you on the first page. You don't learn the bad news until after spending a half hour filling out the form. Other times you can't complete the form but don't find out until the end. One job form would ask me one question at a time. There was no way for me to know how long the form was.

I should NOT have to fill out similar forms over and over again where very little or none of the information has much chance of ever being viewed by a human being. And then they tell you that the information is deleted after six months. This is wrong.

In the past I have generally filled out the fields truthfully that ask for information on how I found their web site or job application. Now I just find it distasteful that they have the nerve to ask me for even more of my time.

*Form Nonsense

The question arises as to whether companies intentionally make it hard to apply for jobs by making you work through a long obnoxious form on the Internet. At first it seems this advantageous to the company. They should only get interested applicants, right? Possibly. But really it's just screwing everyone.

Having an interface that deters people from applying means you get less resumes. The more resumes you get, the more choices you have. If you get a thousand resumes and only two percent are of any interest to you, just take the time to skim over them. Large companies can pay someone to do this. Small companies won't get so many resumes.

The damage to job seekers is far larger. There are millions of people looking for work at any given time. Looking for work is a full time job. Filling out online forms takes forever and it is exhausting. If you consider that all these unemployed people could conceivably spend a few weeks worth of time filling out online forms, that's billions of dollars in lost productivity. It would be very easy for the person receiving the resumes to take some time to look them over.

Often if you send your resume by e-mail, the form will tell you to include a job number (or the e-mail will come back requesting it). This should not have to be done by the person applying for a job. Some of the larger companies are better about it; they do the work themselves. It is human resource's responsibility to handle resumes. They should not be pushing the work onto you. Often, there aren't any jobs that exactly apply to you; so, you just want to send a resume. If they handled things correctly, everyone would be better off.