Tonight I filled out the Canadian Census 2006 using their online form. The idea of having the census information gathered online makes complete sense to me. Unfortunately this implementation is a disaster.
Like all applications we develop, we must keep the needs of the end user in mind at all times. I’ve worked on enough systems to know that there is a significant number of end users that are more comfortable not using the mouse. Heck, half the time I’m that person and I’ve never worked on a mainframe/green screen system. So if we keep that in mind, why is it that the Census system does not fully support tab key navigation? A prime example of this being a hindrance was the three entry fields for date of birth (Day, Month and Year). I selected the day of my birth (drop down with the days 1 to 9 appearing as 01 to 09 which forced me to open the combobox to figure out why the keypress wouldn’t work) and I pressed tab to move over to month, but nothing happened. I tried again. Same thing. So I mouse over to the Month drop down, made the drop down area visible, and selected the month. Again I had to navigate to the year entry point by using the month.
So why was it so hard for me to make three simple entries? I’m going to blame it all on the developers (not having been there to hear the ridiculous claims that clients can make). Part of the job of the senior technical people on projects is to protect the client from their uninformed technical decisions. That should not give carte blanche to developers. I’m sure that the developers chose to implement the dates with the value of 1 to 9 having a leading value of 0 so that it would be easier for them to sort the dates in the combo box. Slack-ass bastards. Sure it’s easy, but it’s fucking ridiculous. Do the job right. Just because it’s easy doesn’t make it right.
I’m pretty damn sure that the people that wrote this application don’t read my blog, but if you do I challenge you to explain why you chose to either implement the way you did, or allow the client to force you to implement this way.
I’m the Igloo Coder and I’d really like to see developers put a little thought into UI design for a change.