Some people might deduce from my posts this past month that either I have abandoned livejournal or that nothing happened during June. The latter is not true, and I don't think
that the former is either, but I still can't get into the regular blogging habit.
So now for something completely different; namely, a rant about a particular instance of idiocy common as dirt on the web:
Dear web page designers:See all the hits this search generates
? Almost without exception, every result there is either telling you how to do something that's a bad idea or asking about details of how to implement a bad idea. What I'm talking about is this: most of the time when you need to type in actual physical address online, there will be a text box for your name, one for your street address, one for your city, one for your zipcode, and a drop-down box
for your state.
Now, every state has this convenient little two-letter abbreviation, and anyone typing in an address in a particular state already has the abbreviation quite literally at their fingertips. Why is it that I can't type "NJ" into the state box? Why do I need to type in "NNNN" or "NNNNN" or "NNNNNN" to get my state? (Depending on whether the creator of the box has included Canadian provinces in the drop-down or not, and on whether they sorted the options in the dropdown by abbreviation or by state/province name) I can't even get a standard bunch of keypresses memorized to type my state!
This is not a new issue; there was a use-it.com article
about this in 2000
. The big boys (aka amazon) do this correctly, with a text box. And yet still, you'll find advice like this
(from a page supposedly made in 2005):
Sometimes you may want to replace text fields with drop-down menus. This might be because selecting from a menu is easier than typing. But it could also be because the script that handles the form can't interpret just any text entry.
For example, you will often be asked to choose your state from a drop-down menu. This might be because picking it from the menu is easier than typing the name of the state.
Along the same line, you may often asked to enter the 2 letter initials of your state from a drop-down menu as well.
This could prevent confusion for the script that handles the form input. If, say, the script was programmed to only accept capital letters, then a drop-down menu would secure that no invalid entries were made.
Look, if the script on the back end blows up when given input like that, then fix the script
. Or make a wrapper around it to validate data first, representing the form to the user if they type in a bad state abbreviation. (Since for security reasons, you need to do that already anyway
, and you know it)
Don't make me guess how many "N"s to press, and don't make me jump back to the mouse, especially when you lay out your form like a standard US postal address so that I'm jumping back to the keyboard for the zipcode anyway.
Is this a small annoyance? Absolutely. It's trivial in the grand scheme of things, and even fairly small in the world of web-based annoyances. But it's totally
unnecessary. In fact, implementing the drop-down is probably more work than putting another text box there. Please - go play an extra minute or so solitaire instead of making yet another state drop-down box. Your time will be better spent.