Comedian Michael McIntyre teaches us about usability

Comedian Michael McIntyre is a funny guy. But when he turns his attention to work you produce, things get uncomfortable. Have you built sites guilty of the frustrations he expresses?

As I am away on holiday and unable to write a proper post I thought I would share the following video by comedian Michael McIntyre.

It is brilliant observational humour that looks at the challenges of navigating the web. As web professionals we have all been guilty of making users jump through unnecessary hoops. McIntyre certainly thinks so!


Many of the issues raised in the video I’ve written about before. These include:

McIntyre also talks about other annoying issues. He touches on having to confirm email addresses and struggling to remember passwords. These are all things we can associate with and yet time and again we put them on our own websites.

  • Steve G

    This brings home how bad we can be as an industry by blindly following what is used elsewhere- funny but perceptive. Interesting though, I just wanted to comment and had to provide 2 pieces of information to do so :)

  • Guest

    Are you joking? Michael McIntyre? What a simpleton.

    • DesignOrchard

      First CIA and now this abysmal drool. I think Paul has lost his faculties of judgement. There must some new decent web design blog these days, this one is so over.

      • http://boagworld.com/ Paul Boag

        Feel free to post the url to your blog. I am sure its much better.

  • simoncox

    Brilliantly observed. Could have gone on to add a bit about the bank phoning you after you have purchased something on the web to make sure it was you! It’s a wonder we actually purchase anything online anymore.

    Also Paul – shame that I had to sit through three lots of adverts in that video – though suspect thats Daily Motion pumping those in but it really broke the flow at exactly 5 minutes in and the page was spinning up 58 different tracking tags (detected with Ghostery) and they refreshed each time the adverts popped into the video.

  • http://blog.javorszky.co.uk/ Gabor Javorszky

    Because it would be an amazing world if:

    - no one, ever, ran into the problem where they put a typo in their email address and never received their ticket (and thus missed the show, and it’s the organiser’s fault)
    - no one, ever, invented a way to fill out forms automatically possibly overloading the booking server making it impossible for normal people to make a booking
    - if the booking forms knew exactly who you are, and in which country you registered the card you’re using, because no one is on holiday, no one is on a corporate trip, ever, or the law actually made it possible to omit the country data from the payment gateway data
    - if no booking company were ever sued because the client thought something worked in a way, the company thought it worked another way, and there were no clear guides to normalize these viewpoints

    While some of these can be improved upon (dark patterns!), most are there for a very good technical / legal reason. We do actually need the consent of the users and we do actually need them to make deliberate actions. And sometimes conversion rates go up even though asking for a piece of data is entirely redundant. (http://pud.com/post/87930228516/how-i-increased-conversion-on-my-checkout-form-by-60, card type. The first few numbers tell you what card it is exactly, and it’s publicly available information anyways)

    So uhm, what exactly is the take away of this article?

    • http://boagworld.com/ Paul Boag

      I can see your point of view but the fact is that all of those issues can be solved in ways that do not inconvenience users. For example emails can be confirmed without the users having to type them twice.

      The point is that as developers we tend to make these problems those of the user rather than come up with a more elegant solution.

      • http://blog.javorszky.co.uk/ Gabor Javorszky

        On one hand, yes, declaring that “this thing should be easier!!” is a good thing. On the other, how though?

        On the email confirmation: Yes, I am sent an email, where I have to click a link, that confirms that I have access to that email address (because that is what we’re hoping for). So instead of typing it twice, I now need to:

        - wait for an email to arrive (which could take anywhere between instantaneous and 48h depending on the email providers on both ends)

        - open the email

        - click the link

        - optionally sign in with my chosen username and password (booking.com)

        This is far more inconvenient than having to type the email address twice.

        We could fetch the gravatar on blur (as gosquared does it), but that only works if the email has a gravatar attached to it.

        - We can replace the captcha with honeypots, that’s fair.

        - We do need to get in their faces when it comes to Ts and Cs. A subtext of “by clicking this we assume you are aware and consent to our Ts and Cs” is as much a dark pattern as a cleverly worded checkbox thing that signs us up to a mailing list.

        - We can’t circumvent laws and technical requisites for 3rd party providers (banks, payment gateways). We can employ an autocomplete search field instead of a dropdown, but that has accessibility issues.

        Maybe I’m missing the point of this article. I would really like to get the weight of stuff off from the users too, but sometimes I just can’t. :/ Yes, these points are painful, and will get a ton of “omg so true!!!” reactions, but when you think about it, they are actually needed.

        Like when in the case of timezones (of which there are 548), someone says “if my (obscure) timezone is not on the list, I’m not signing up”.

        Or maybe we should restrict our products and services to the 5-10 countries that make up 80% of the traffic.

        • http://boagworld.com/ Paul Boag

          I wish I had the time to get into this in detail but I don’t. I don’t disagree with you but equally I think this is an area we should be making more of an effort over.

          To be honest this wasn’t meant to be a post that explores these areas in detail. I posted it as a fill in while I was on holiday. I am obviously going to have to write about this more in future. – - -
          About me and this email
          http://boagworld.com/email/

        • ImINaBAR

          The confirm your password pattern is broken, I have seen several testers doing copy-paste on the second email, so if they made a mistake the first time they are confirming the mistake. Thought it’s been a while since I had to type my whole email address, usually just two strokes show me the emails I usually use.
          For the odd case where the customer mistypes their email (which I’ve yet to see). What you do is give a transaction number in a confirmation screen that the customer can print or save. You can also get hold of other contact information just in case. In most cases you don’t even need the customer’s email.

          Ts and Cs. In many cases you are not actually required to ask the customer to actively agree to the Ts and Cs, it is implied, just like the “All rights reserved”. Some other cases you need active consent, but again, I’ve yet to encounter the case where it’s required by law, and I have built online stores in several countries, and no payment gateway has ever required for a terms and conditions checkbox.

          It can be easier, we just have to wrangle some stubborn people on the way.

  • Chuck Killorin

    Oh jeez, the non-check, check, check, no-check, check-tick box. I feel a little dirty now.

  • http://www.gosquared.com/ James Gill

    Just came across this and so happy to see a post that combines one of my favourite comedians with UX! Most of these issues do not need to be issues.

    I tend to look up to companies like Stripe when I think about reducing the pain points, bureaucracy, and challenges of things like accepting credit card payments online. Stripe have solved so many of these issues with their Checkout product – not just by applying some neat styling, but by going deep into the fundamental issues at an industry level, and trying to figure these problems out far deeper down than just HTML and CSS.

  • Malcolm Maclean

    I think it’s great to get a different a nice light-hearted different viewpoint on some usability issues we all face and take for granted it has to be that way (some people need to get a sense of humour in these comments) – UX testing by comedians – could be a new service?! Certainly would get the point across to a business owner – be great for a re-design pitch too , mmmm

    • ImINaBAR

      I agree, this video could go a long way with clients with odd ideas about ecommerce.

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