Are user interfaces getting worse

About 2 or 3 months back there was someone asking a question about whether software was generally getting buggier or not. I cannot remember where it was, and cannot find it now, but I distinctly recall dismissing the idea at the time. Mainly out of the thread being anecdotal, and. Lets face it we encounter more software on a daily basis than we ever did before. We rely on it more and find ourself disadvantaged far more when it is offline/bugged. But I’m still not convinced it is generally buggier.

But I’m having a second thought on this topic now. Back in the summer I stood in a parking lot trying to feed real money into a parking meter, yes real round shapes into a vertical slot. Not using a digital payment, and it worked. But the UX was terrible, the sun was shining very brightly (an unusual problem in Wales) and the display was unreadable. I realized that day how a fair number of systems actually “work” by dint of being terrible but at least having the intended default outcome when a customer who cannot read the display puts a coin into the slot and it just prints a ticket if they press enough random buttons.

I had a similar experience lately with a singing vocals sheet app. Please tell me there are some testers who sing . The app lets you download an alternative scored PDF for voices instead of just getting only lyrics, but the way to get the sheets to download is to tap on the song title NOT on the ubiquitous-by-now “Hamburger” . It’s so bizarre a UI convention I am seeing that you have to tap on anything randomly these days to get mobile apps to work correctly.

I have the same UI obscurity problem with a campanology app, you have to swipe right near the top of the screen to get the hamburger to appear because the app is an “immersive” app. In fact as an app developer, some of the most confused customer reviews we get are from people who do not understand how immersive mode works on their devices. Am I imagining this, or are web and mobile apps becoming more complicated and feature rich, to the point of being hard to use now?


From @dsynadinos :

Source: ExTwitter

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I have been saying that software quality is getting worse for perhaps ten years, and it wasn’t good before then. There are a variety of reasons, most relating to the terrible way that agile development is done these days.

Starting with UX, the first half (and arguably the first three quarters) of the double diamond design process is usually missing. The user interface evolves piecemeal over time, ending up as a mess you would never have designed if you had all the requirements at the start. But does it ever get refactored? Of course not.

We have known the fundamentals of good UX for several decades and they barely change, yet designers are either unaware of them or ignore them. They frequently take a concept that works well in one context (such as infinite scroll) and apply it in a completely different context because “Facebook do it and look how successful they are”.

Functional testing has become trivialised due to the insistence that “all testing must be completed within each sprint”. The absence of good testing is an aspect of technical debt, but one that never gets addressed. Automated testing gives the illusion that a lot of testing is being done and everything is working fine, and no one on the project has the wit or the balls to point out how deluded this is.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, along comes artificial intelligence and hordes of gullible fools who think it’s going to turn them into rock star testers overnight. Sadly, there are no grounds for believing that anything is going to improve.


I have the same feeling. Over time interfaces were improved and now that they work someone decided to change them again. But different is not always better. Users have to get used to the changes, form new habits.


Hmm, I do get a sense of this.

Like over time as us folks who have been using tech for 20+ years, we should ideally find things easier – given our experience. So it does feel back to front that we sense that it isn’t.


Love a good sing. I’m predominantly a drummer yet enjoy singing as much as I can. :smiley:


Testers do like to sing.


Amazed how this thread has had a lot of that relaxed coffee machine chatter feel to it. Definitely wanted to moan but also look back at good times gone and hope.

I think yes @sles12 new slick user interfaces are very possible, cool simple apps with consistently intuitive navigation are possible. But far too easy to badly imitate a UI that works well in one context. New can be scary for the more senior, but it can also be done wrong.

(Oh and I do love the singing music stand app now, it just took ages to work out. I’m keen to see how well it works to put my iPad onto the music stand and not have to print out music sheets ever again.)

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Part of me thinks “first world problems” when we struggle to use software. Not in a way to diminish the problems it causes, more in a sense that “aren’t we so lucky to have the tech that we have”.

Another part of me thinks that it’s easy to forget how basic software was back in the day and how much more it is (supposed to be) doing today.

Our standards are certainly higher these days. It’s easier to develop software and designs based on templates.


I’m not sure about worse, but they seem to be getting definitely annoying. For example, Google Meet has popups that re-appear when you do certain actions while sharing your screen and don’t like all the handholding and seeing the same tooltips over and over again. I don’t know maybe they are catering to less tech-savvy users, as the unfortunate reality is that as life gets more convenient people generally become more spoiled and incompetent. :sob:


I agree with the annoying aspect!

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No comment.


Don’t get me started on Google. For a group of super intelligent people, they do some remarkaby stupid things. For instance, they recently replaced the pagination links on their search results page with infinite scroll. Here’s an extract from Nielsen Norman’s article on infinite scroll:

“Long, endless pages are good for time-killing activities. Endless scrolling is not recommended for goal-oriented finding tasks.”

Well that’s ok then, because no one uses search engines for goal-oriented finding tasks.


Infinite scroll is a device for merely failing to implement any kind of filter? And let’s face it there is a use case for no filter, like when you are searching for images of cats and using cute as an additional search criteria will merely add bias. But the rest of the time I really want my search to only go 4 pages deep maximum as well . I’m with you, I do recall having seen a “you are all caught up now” in Facebook for example, to remind you to stop.

But the rest of the time, I want a UI that helps me get my day-job done. And for me, when I’m logged into Facebook, I’m running a fundraiser and swamped with comms channels which I need to respond to. I don’t want infinite scroll, I have a mission. So Facebook have an actual back-end for people who are using the platform for real life stuff, and that’s pretty granular in control, it’s amazing to see clean functional tooling that paying users are given. I would love to look at analytics and A/B testing. At my day job we are doing some work now to try get customers to sign up to the subscription that matches our goals and theirs, and it’s amazing how just moving content up or down the page or changing navigation can steer things.

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The expectations are probably higher, as in theory there should be an evolution of the software functions and its quality.

There’s software for too many things now, even unwanted or unneeded. There’s also many variations of software for the same purpose, even of the same business and the chances of getting into a dozen problems daily are very high.

As much as possible now I prefer to face people for various services.