Don’t type in the search box

Let’s get this out of the way early, I’m not a power user. You know those nerds who do everything via the keyboard? That’s not me, I just haven’t been able to settle into that style, more often than not I reach for my mouse even if I know the keyboard shortcut. I blame laziness despite the fact I’m actually doing more work.

I say this to establish I’m not really picky when it comes to normal interaction with applications. Sure, I wish things were simpler or more streamlined but for the most part, I suck it up and go about my day. My workplace is still on Windows XP which may play a role but I don’t think I use Windows 7 or OS X to their full potential either. I know a few keyboard shortcuts here and there but I seem to reach for the mouse more often than not. I’m a pretty normal computer user who’s about to complain a lot about a tiny UI issue in an app I use daily.

For the past 10 years, all instant message communication in my workplace has been via Yahoo IM. I’m serious, we used that horrible program all day, every day. Naturally our security department wasn’t thrilled but they didn’t have a viable replacement until we upgraded our phone system to VOIP. Now we use Cisco Jabber which ties into our phones and email systems and is pretty cool except one small thing that drives me bat-bleep crazy. Imagine you’re at work and someone sends you an IM. This is a situation we’re all familiar with, the IM window pops up, you read their message and you type a response. Easy-peasy except in Cisco Jabber, the default cursor position is in a search box and not the reply field. Can you guess what happens every time I receive an IM?

What should I search for?
What should I search for?

This image is of the search box at the top left corner of the IM window, it allows you to search your contacts but that functionality already exists in the contact window. I guess there’s some utility in this function but why focus the cursor in that field when I obviously want to reply to the IM I just received?

OK, let’s think this through rationally, maybe I just need to hit TAB? Nope, it takes nine presses of the TAB key to get to the reply field.

The compose field, a natural place to start.
The compose field, a natural place to start.

It’s crazy to think about but someone — or several someones — declared this software fit to ship. One or more people tested this product and didn’t see a problem with this behavior. You have to wonder how thorough the testing process was to let this slip through. What if it wasn’t a mistake? What if this is their intended behavior? Someone help me, I’m scared!

If you’re curious, shift-tab takes you to the compose field. That’s bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

Very often it’s the little things in your product that will drive your users crazy. That insignificant item you overlooked or thought wasn’t a big deal will make someone want to rip their hair out every time they use your software. In my case, every time I receive a new IM, I start responding and realize I’m typing in a search box. Will I eventually learn? Probably. Should I have to? No! This is a crap product shipped by a company that should know better.

Attention to detail is very important. I don’t think I can stress that enough.