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The Journal of Literary Satire | Hastily Written & Slopilly Edited
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Jakob Neilson's Top Ten Design Mistakes in the Human Condition, 2007

Poor navigation, nonresponsive support, and the complete lack of concrete results top this year’s list of design mistakes in the human condition, according to the 2007 user survey from noted usability expert Jakob Neilson.

  1. Unclear Statement of Purpose
    The overall purpose or goal of the human condition remains vague and mysterious at best. Unfortunately, obscuring this basic fact makes it extremely difficult for users to interpret all elements of life, including navigation, measures of success or failure, and time required to complete even the most basic tasks. Quality of existence suffers because it fails to offer the one hard fact that users need to place other facts in their proper context. A strong mission statement would ground users and help provide context to the overall experience, vastly improving usability and user satisfaction.

  2. Confusing Navigation
    Current navigation is spotty and, more often than not, simply unavailable. Users require strong navigation in the form of a firm sense of structure and place—where they are and where they should go next. Current best practices in usability call for the development of clear pathways, as well as user-centric navigation. Users also require an adequate Search feature (more below).

  3. Lack of Support
    When users have difficulty completing tasks or finding information, they need support. While many representatives of the human condition claim to provide support, users commonly find resulting instructions vague and based on outmoded or unreliable information systems. Moreover, results seem to be of the standardized, “out-of-the-box” variety, with near identical responses (or nonresponses) to all users, regardless of the specifics of the support request. For instance, users with terminal cancer received virtually identical support as those whose kitten was stuck in a tree. The vast majority of support requests, however, received no response whatsoever.

  4. Dynamic or Subjective Navigation
    In order to be effective, navigation must be clear and consistent for all users. Too often, current navigation is dynamic or subjective, offering one thing to one set of users while returning completely different results to others. For instance, users who acted on navigation options such as on “join military” or “Hurricane Katrina” received dramatically different results depending on personal demographic information.

  5. Outdated Information
    Users continue to be forced to use reference materials that are out of date and, far too frequently, literally ancient. In some cases, user manuals are more than four thousand years old. These manuals offer little in the way of practical support for the modern user. For instance, users seeking information about “What now, Lord?” might receive the following advice: “He must bring to the LORD a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed. He is to present the bull at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting before the LORD. He is to lay his hand on its head and slaughter it before the LORD. Then the anointed priest shall take some of the bull’s blood and carry it into the Tent of Meeting. He is to dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle some of it seven times before the LORD, in front of the curtain of the sanctuary.”

  6. Confusing Search
    Current search functions are widely scattered, with little navigation directing users toward specific search functions. Users are required to find the functionality that best suits their needs with no guarantee of results. Too often, search function is determined largely by geography, bloodlines, or demographics.

  7. Lack of Specific Search Results
    Current search results return too much information to be of ready use to the modern user. Of particular concern to survey participants was the fact that users are required to exit the human condition before learning the results of their search. By definition, this is a profoundly flawed and unsatisfying method for providing results. “If I put a dollar in a Coke machine,” one user said, “I know I’m gonna get a Coke. With this stuff, you have no idea.”

  8. Degrading Hardware
    Users are frequently faced with hardware that malfunctions as early as the first quarter of its life expectancy. In addition, users are forced to constantly monitor hardware in order to ensure maximum efficiency and longevity. Even when all recommended service maintenance is adhered to, however, there is little guarantee that hardware will continue to function at optimal levels.

  9. Unnecessary Items
    Existence is littered with unnecessary distractions and nonfunctional items that can get in the user’s way, making an effective, streamlined experience nearly impossible. Impediments to clear navigation include Angelina Jolie, the Super Bowl, missing white women, jolly weathermen, boy bands, hurricanes, political scandals, war, money, puppies, and Paris Hilton. In a positive development, few current users identify Janet Jackson’s breast as a primary obstacle to effective navigation.

  10. Poor or Incomplete Quality Assurance
    Quality assurance remains a problem. With over 6.5 billion units currently in circulation, active production on the human condition continues unabated. It is no surprise, then, that users again report a decline in overall quality. “There’s just so many assholes,” one respondent commented. “Assholes everywhere. And every day it seems like there’s more of them.”

Dave Housley is a Web geek and writer who lives outside Washington, D.C. His first book of short stories, Ryan Seacrest Is Famous, was just published by Impetus Press.