UI: Use It or Lose It

Part of my conversation with the guys from Wesabe (now going on two weeks ago because I haven’t been feeling the urge to write much lately) revolved around their search feature. There’s been much ado about search in the Wesabe groups lately and rightfully so. It’s one of the mistakes that I think they made.

The gist of the aforementioned ado was that the search box simply didn’t work. The search box existed in the site header which I understood to mean that I could search the entire site, or at least the site’s public data and my own private data. No matter what I tried to search for, though, no results were ever found. And, to be clear, I wasn’t searching for “portuguese fur trade” or “yachting”. I was searching for content that I knew existed.

My biggest issue with the lack of a useful search feature, however, wasn’t so much the fact that it didn’t work, but rather the fact that the search box existed at all. If I can’t use it effectively, then its very existence does nothing but taunt me. It begs me to search and then just frustrates me when I find that my effort (as minimal as it may be) has been wasted.

If I can’t use it (effectively), then lose it. At least then there’s no ambiguity. In any application, the lack of a feature is much preferred to the existence of a half-baked feature. In my experience (as a developer and a user), users would much rather request a new feature – even if it’s a fundamental feature like search – than have to report bugs against it. Most customers understand that software evolves, but there’s a psychological difference – one I’m not qualified to diagnose – between entering a feature request and entering a bug. Much more patience is granted to the former than to the latter.

I should note that sometime after our conversation Wesabe did remove their search input. I make no claim that my conversation with them was any sort of catalyst, but I was certainly a voice in the crowd. In the time since our conversation, search has been rebuilt, but is being rebuilt incrementally. The new search works and has come in handy several times already. I’m happy to see Wesabe listening to the peanut gallery and applying some grease to this particular squeaky wheel.

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