You are visiting the High Monkey blog archive. Posts prior to 2016 may not meet accessibility standards. Please visit our current blog area at to view accessibility compliant blog posts published since January 1, 2016.

Stupid Usability #86 

GoGo to Connected Confusion

Written By: High Monkey
Posted: 1/26/2015

From the mind of Virgil Carroll, Principal Human Solution Architect at High Monkey:

Its been a while since I have posted a Stupid Usability, so I wanted to make sure this one was around something of increasing significance. As we live in a world where we have a need to stay more and more constantly connected, I am finding that need to stay connected expand across all modes of travel.  With this growth in popularity I thought I would talk about one of the fastest growing internet segments, airplane wireless.

I was sitting recently on a plane flight to Denver where I was chatting with the gentleman next to me.  He and I both travel a lot and have the GoGo In-flight Wifi subscriptions. Where many might think "why do you need internet on a plane," for me…and many others…I have found the 2-4 hours on a plane to be a very productive time to get some of my smaller tasks that pile up done. Anyway, we were chatting as I was logging onto my laptop and discussing the quality of the GoGo wireless service. He stated he really liked it (albeit its not very fast) except for what a pain in the neck it is to logon from his cell phone.

Now I will pause here for a second to say I was quite surprised he logged into the wireless from his cell phone, as I have always seen internet on the plane as a productivity tool for myself, not for surfing Facebook or checking my LinkedIn account.

Well, when I explained to him I’d never done this, he proceeded to share with me his frustrations.  After he showed me (which prompted this post), I remembered one of the cardinal rules we often forget in usability…modern user interfaces don’t always make sense to everyone. Just like with the advent of computers, mobile systems are constantly changing and trying to do things in a new, cooler way, which may look nice, but not for all is it easy to understand. So this post is to point out some of the common things many of us take for granted, but there are still many others who just don’t understand.

First, lets look at the initial login screen (I took these pictures from my iPhone as I went through the login for the first time). My seat neighbor started by explaining to me how frustrated he was when he first went to look for the sign-in button, which he thought should be right at the top of the screen. As I scrolled through the page, I realized he was correct that the sign-in button (or link) was nowhere to be found). He then proceeded to show me where it was, which was in the menu at the top left corner.

Where this may be common place for navigation, this confused him because it’s one of the primary functions of account holders, yet hidden behind a menu that he didn’t readily see. (As a side note, he asked me the significance of mobile menus having the 3 lines … I told him as far as I know there is none, it just became the standard)

After clicking the sign-in link in the menu, I was taken to a screen to enter my username (email) and password. Where this seemed straight forward to me, he explained that it’s frustrating because you have to scroll down the page to click the sign in button.

He was correct, as there is a big message about not being able to stream movies right below the user fields, which drops the button way below the fold. I asked him why he scrolled and pressed the button vs. just hitting the Go button on the keyboard.  This is where he had an epiphany and bluntly stated "I’ve never noticed that button and did not know you could do that." Yet another good example of a common practice that is not always apparent to all users. Many still think of even the mobile process and just another website, therefore they press the button with their mouse on the desktop screen, so they should do it on the mobile screen as well.

We proceeded to the last screen of the sign-in process, something that equally annoys me, the captcha at 35,000. Captcha has been around for a long time to help keep automatic registrations, form submissions and such in check. Where I have seen it as part of those processes, I have yet to see another instance of this with a logon process.

So another side note, I had actually had a conversation with the folks behind the GoGo internet user interface at the Information Architecture Institute last spring. When I raised my frustration, it was explained to me this was mandated by Homeland Security and they did not have an option. Guess they are thinking automated hacking at 35,000…I will leave it up to you whether this is tax dollars well spent or not.

Well as we wrapped up the logon process, he had to mention he’d been frustrated with the button being below the fold here as well, but now that he knew about the Go button on the keyboard, he didn’t think it would matter too much in the future.

So the moral of this tale is to remind us that what some may see as easy, others may find as hard and not do. This is a cardinal rule in usability and one of the reasons we always should understand our core audiences and how to best provide UIs that meet their needs.

As a last side note, and something I see a lot, instead of him being frustrated the user interface not having the button above the fold.  Once he learned about the Go button, he felt really embarrassed, stating he was not very good on these ‘things.' This is a common thing we see and something you should always keep in mind. Just because you made a bad interface design (and I am not saying GoGo is really bad, just making a point) doesn’t mean a user will always blame you and let you know.  Instead often times they will blame themselves, keep quiet and helping propel the bad user patterns forward.


Chad's Bio Coming Soon!

More About Virgil

Virgil Carroll is the owner and president of High Monkey – based in Minneapolis Minnesota. Virgil also wears the multiple ‘hats’ of Principle Human Solutions Architect and SharePoint Architect.

Virgil is one of those rare individuals who can dive deep into technical topics while speaking clearly to the business owners of a project and never forgetting that the end user experience has the highest priority. He calls it using both sides of his brain. Virgil is passionate about leveraging technologies ‘out of the box’ as much as possible with a focus on the strategic use of content to create websites that deliver the right content to the right audience on the right device at the right time. Virgil brings high energy, an ironic wit, and a sense of grounded perspective whenever he speaks to an audience. Virgil regularly speaks at conferences and user groups throughout the United States and occasionally in Europe.

Posted: 1/26/2015 12:00:00 AM by Brian Haukos | with 0 comments