Use Urls – Don’t Use Click x, Then Click y, Then Click z Instructions

In the 1980s software applications had to use click x, then click y, then click z type instructions to get you to a specific location in a software application (or at least they had a decent excuse to do that). Too many web application development organizations forget that they now have urls to direct people exactly where to go: and that they shouldn’t rely on ancient “click here, then there, then in that other place” type instructions.

Here is an example I wrote up on my recent experience with iTunes and their failure to do this properly: Bad iTunes Ux and How to Submit a Podcast to iTunes. I see it all the time, that is just one example.

It is so sad that Google can’t even offer mildly decent help for their own software nearly a couple decades after they started out with the goal to organize the world’s information. And lots of other software companies also point you to clicking around various gui (graphical user interface) click paths instead of just

  1. showing the url (say in a help email) – instead of the gui click path text
  2. a clickable link to the url in web documents

On top of the waste inherent in click path instructions they often fail because the interface has changed and no one bothered to change the click path or the click path depends on other things being a certain way and they are not so the click path breaks.

I really can’t comprehend how this usability failure is something I run across all the time. Urls are not some secret idea only PhD computer scientists have heard of. This is super basic stuff – click path instructions should never have been acceptable for any web application. It is pitiful they are still common among companies that see themselves as advanced software development organizations.

Using the proper urls also will help make sure you are using human readable urls. Another super basic usability concept that is ignored far too often by some web application developers.

Related: Usability, Customer Focus and Internet Travel SearchMaking Life Difficult for CustomersPracticing Mistake-Promoting Instead of Mistake-Proofing at ApplePassword Gobbledygook Instruction (more bad usability)What I Would Include in a Redesigned Twitter Profile (2014)

2 thoughts on “Use Urls – Don’t Use Click x, Then Click y, Then Click z Instructions

  1. Paul Sheldon

    John I agree with you for the most part. My one exception would be when teaching people how to use a software package. I have taught a lot of statistical software classes in my day and find that it is helpful to follow the click-x etc. because it encourages the prospective users to understand the rationale (if there is one) behind the menu nesting. One of my frustrations about providing support to statistical software newbies is the reluctance of some to explore the software they will use. I have answered many Minitab(R) questions by directing users to the Help functions and particularly to the formula portions which provide at least an outline and references to how the calculations are performed. As a woodworker wannabe I’ve learned to pause now and again to sharpen my tools. That lesson applies to much of what we (should) do in life.

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