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To me, style is consistency. — Adam Ant

BY: reedfisher0 COMMENTS CATEGORY: Consistency

I was once asked to analyze an app with the purpose of telling the owners why everyone in the company hated it so much — not an unusual request by the way.

Reason number one was the app was as ugly as any app I have ever seen, and that fact had to figure into the intense dislike expressed by its users. It was developed on an ugly gray background with thoughtless and spurious colors, and to multiply its woes, when the window was resized, all the text and all the fields expanded or contracted to fill the new space, often resulting in extremely ugly, blocky text and text fields.

The second reason was only a little harder to find; inconsistent everything! I found about 40 UI objects in the app, and there were over 70 different names for those 40 objects — a real user-turn-off in my opinion. Sometimes the differences were minor, like inconsistent capitalization, and in other cases the differences were stark as in a button labeled “DELETE” in one location where in another location, with the very same action, the button was labeled “REMOVE.” There were also semantic issues with control placement and other glaring errors.

This was an app used only by the company and not exposed to thousands or even hundreds of users. But what about ubiquitous apps used by millions of people? It’s amazing but there are glaring inconsistencies in some, especially between web and app versions.

A prime example is Gmail! The web version provides a good user experience as does the mobile version. Requirements of screens types dictate some differences like separating of emails into tabs, “Primary,” “Social,” and “Promotions” and allow the user to add more tabs if we want; sweet! The mobile version just doesn’t have the space for this luxury, but does include all the user-created folders, another great feature.

The inconsistency? Different names for spam emails! In the web version spam emails are dumped into the “Spam” folder, while in the app version they end up in the “Junk” folder. It seems to be a trivial difference, but it is annoying as I find myself doing a double-take when switching from one to the other.

There is also another inconsistency, probably the domain of Apple Mail for iOS, that is much more annoying and that is how deletions are handled between the desktop and app versions — deletions are allowed in any tab or folder in the browser version, which is appropriate and useful. In the app version, though, there is no “Delete” in the Inbox folder, Drafts folder, Sent folder Junk folder, Trash folder, or user-defined folder, and to trash an email requires a (careful!) swipe, a touch to expose the “More” menu, then a “Move Message…” then a touch on “Trash” — did you count the steps required? …four steps to do one of the most common actions! Pathetic! Only the “All Mail” folder has a “Delete” control. It is also the only folder that allows “Delete” with a left swipe, where the other folders left-swipe action provide provide only “More,” “Flag,” and “Archive.”

Another problem here is that there is no “Archive” folder! Where the hell do “archived” emails go? And, how can I get them back to the inbox when they are “archived” by mistake?

What more can you expect from a free app? Sorry, I want consistency!

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