I had an interesting experience this afternoon helping an older woman navigate through the ngoevents.org website I had developed a few months ago. I was reminded that you can never tell where people will get tripped up by your site design.
This is particularly true for a site being accessed by folks with various degrees of experience on the web. In this case, it had to do with logging into the site.
NGOevents.org is a public, interactive calendar site for the UN NGO community to use to share their events with each other. In order to submit events, I wanted to make it as easy as possible to submit information on any conferences, forums or meetings being planned by NGOs of relevance to the United Nations. I designed a one-click system so that someone could go into the site, fill out a few basic form fields, hit the “submit” button, and be done with it.
However I found it necessary to build a log-in system into the submit function, since at some point we may wish to offer accounts to only officially accredited NGOs at the UN, or special paid accounts for those who support the site.
We aren’t ready to fully deploy an account system, since it involves verifying that someone is actually representing an accredited organization. Instead I just put in a “guest” account that anyone can use to log-in to the site and input their event information.
The woman I met with was confused by the whole log-in process, which I found perplexing since I had explained it to her several times over email and had provided information all over the site on how to log-in.
The part that confused her was that the site asked for her “name” and “password” on the log-in page. The page clearly states:
In the future we plan on allowing NGOs to create their own accounts on this site, but for now please log in as “guest” with password “guest”
And in the “user name” field it says “type ‘guest’.”
Nevertheless, she told me that when she saw the field called “name” she just typed her own name, and then was puzzled that the site wouldn’t let her in.
I took a deep breath and explained that where it says “user name” she should type “guest.” She noted this down on a piece of paper carefully.
I’m reminded that as carefully as we design out sites, there is always going to be someone out there in internet-land who doesn’t get it.
My girlfriend tells me that in twenty years we’ll probably be the ones sitting perplexed before a new computer that asks you to mentally visualize your password to log in.