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I need a case against the use of Pop ups for critical user functionality

P: n/a
I am not sure if this was the proper group to post this, but here is
my question:

I am a Java consultant. I have new client I am working for to make a
web based application similar to an ecommerce site. We aren't selling
anything but we have a notion of a cart where you add schedule items.
You can perform actions such as add/edit/remove schedule items to a
schedule. This is an over simplifcation but you get the idea.

I am not a usuability/UI expert, I am usually on the server side, not
working with the UI too much- but I am wearing all hats on this
project and at least know enough to know pop ups aren't a good idea
generally. However, my client is big on them because he is stuck on
the fact that users complained they did not want to have to leave the
schedule page to perform schedule operations. The argument being they
need to make decisions about what modifications they want to do to
their schedule and be able to look at the schedule at the same time
(hence not leave the schedule page, hence a pop up). Where for an
ecommerce application, this is a not as critical because the user is
not managing something where conflicts may arise, or decisions have to
be made in the context of other items, etc..

So, my client wants me to add a menu bar to each page, and the menu
bar would have drop down options that reflect the operations. When you
select an operation you get a pop up (Edit->Add schedule item->pop up
dialog). This is a very Windows-like a approach but we all know that
dialog boxes are better suited for this than pop ups on the web.
Usuability articles I have read say pop ups should be avoided and not
used for functionality because the pop up may be dismissed or it may
lose its context if the user goes to another page and leave the pop up
open. Plus I know from experience that pop ups can be tricky
especially when you want the parent window to react to what is being
done in the pop up, something my client brought up that he wanted as
well.

It all just sounds hackish to me. I am totally against this menu
bar/pop up solution, it doesn't feel right. Its not standard. Plus, I
believe what the users asks for isn't always what they should get
because sometimes they don't realize what they ask for might introduce
new problems they did not think of.

I prefer the classic style where buttons are used and where the users
leaves the page briefly to perform the operation and then returns to
the page when the operation is completed. This simplifies code, and
provides a more standard web interface. However, I have yet to find an
article or posting that truly gets into the details of the cons for
using pop ups for critical user functions and why this is a bad idea.
I would like to support my argument with the opinion of usability
experts because right now my client is hanging on tight to what the
users said. I want to lead my client properly and if I have enough
arguments to support my case he will eventually bend.

I did get a Jakob Nielson book but again he does not address this
particular use of pop ups and why it is not a good idea.
Anyway, I am asking for opinions, white papers, anything!

Please help!

Nancy
Jul 23 '05 #1
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4 Replies


P: n/a
"nsr93" <ns****@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:85**************************@posting.google.c om...
I am not sure if this was the proper group to post this, but here is
my question:

I am a Java consultant. I have new client I am working for to make a
web based application similar to an ecommerce site. We aren't selling
anything but we have a notion of a cart where you add schedule items.
You can perform actions such as add/edit/remove schedule items to a
schedule. This is an over simplifcation but you get the idea.

I am not a usuability/UI expert, I am usually on the server side, not
working with the UI too much- but I am wearing all hats on this
project and at least know enough to know pop ups aren't a good idea
generally. However, my client is big on them because he is stuck on
the fact that users complained they did not want to have to leave the
schedule page to perform schedule operations. The argument being they
need to make decisions about what modifications they want to do to
their schedule and be able to look at the schedule at the same time
(hence not leave the schedule page, hence a pop up). Where for an
ecommerce application, this is a not as critical because the user is
not managing something where conflicts may arise, or decisions have to
be made in the context of other items, etc..

So, my client wants me to add a menu bar to each page, and the menu
bar would have drop down options that reflect the operations. When you
select an operation you get a pop up (Edit->Add schedule item->pop up
dialog). This is a very Windows-like a approach but we all know that
dialog boxes are better suited for this than pop ups on the web.
Usuability articles I have read say pop ups should be avoided and not
used for functionality because the pop up may be dismissed or it may
lose its context if the user goes to another page and leave the pop up
open. Plus I know from experience that pop ups can be tricky
especially when you want the parent window to react to what is being
done in the pop up, something my client brought up that he wanted as
well.

It all just sounds hackish to me. I am totally against this menu
bar/pop up solution, it doesn't feel right. Its not standard. Plus, I
believe what the users asks for isn't always what they should get
because sometimes they don't realize what they ask for might introduce
new problems they did not think of.

I prefer the classic style where buttons are used and where the users
leaves the page briefly to perform the operation and then returns to
the page when the operation is completed. This simplifies code, and
provides a more standard web interface. However, I have yet to find an
article or posting that truly gets into the details of the cons for
using pop ups for critical user functions and why this is a bad idea.
I would like to support my argument with the opinion of usability
experts because right now my client is hanging on tight to what the
users said. I want to lead my client properly and if I have enough
arguments to support my case he will eventually bend.

I did get a Jakob Nielson book but again he does not address this
particular use of pop ups and why it is not a good idea.
Anyway, I am asking for opinions, white papers, anything!

Please help!

Nancy


Is this for an Intranet? If so, then IMO popups might be okay.
The following was found via a Google search on:
"user interface" standards popups

AGS/RHIC User Interface Guidelines
http://www.agsrhichome.bnl.gov/Contr...uidelines.html

"A popup is a window that becomes visible to get a specific set of
information from the user. Most of the time the popup disappears after the
information has been entered."

Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design
http://www.tomax7.com/html/toptwentymistakes.htm
Web Standards: User Interface Makeovers
http://www.userfocus.co.uk/articles/makeovers.html

"Q. Pop-up windows tend to be derided by people in the accessibility
community, but there are certain situations where they enhance usability:
for example, when they are used like a dialog box in a desktop application,
or if they are used to provide some procedural 'Help' steps. What's your
opinion on pop-up windows? "

Accessible Pop-up Links
http://www.alistapart.com/articles/popuplinks/

"Sometimes we have to use pop-ups - so we might as well do them right. This
article will show you how to make them more accessible and reliable while
simplifying their implementation."
Jul 23 '05 #2

P: n/a
In article <85**************************@posting.google.com >, nsr_93
@yahoo.com enlightened us with...

I am a Java consultant. I have new client I am working for to make a
web based application similar to an ecommerce site. We aren't selling
anything but we have a notion of a cart where you add schedule items.
You can perform actions such as add/edit/remove schedule items to a
schedule. This is an over simplifcation but you get the idea.

Is this for known customers, or general internet use?
For known customers, including intranet applications, popups are usually
fine. They're very bad for internet apps because you don't know your users.
Your users might have popup blocking and get confused. They might be disabled
and need better functionality. They might be using a user agent you haven't
tested with. None of these issues arises if you know your customers (except
perhaps the accessibility issue, but it can be worked around).
However, my client is big on them because he is stuck on
the fact that users complained they did not want to have to leave the
schedule page to perform schedule operations.
This sounds like a customer request from known customers. If so, I say
satisfy your customers.
Of course, the user can easily control links and make them open in a new
window (or tab) if they want to and you coded normal links (not javascript).
You could also have a drop-down with a little checkbox that asked which they
wanted. All kinds of options.
Usuability articles I have read say pop ups should be avoided and not
used for functionality because the pop up may be dismissed or it may
lose its context if the user goes to another page and leave the pop up
open.
Yes, the windows are not modal. The user can easily put focus somewhere else.
If this is for IE only, however, it DOES support modal windows.
Plus I know from experience that pop ups can be tricky
especially when you want the parent window to react to what is being
done in the pop up, something my client brought up that he wanted as
well.
That's not tricky. Just a bit of a pain.
I do it all the time for my intranet app.
But you can't interact between different windows at all if the user opened
the link in the new window herself, so a popup would actually be necessary
here.

It all just sounds hackish to me. I am totally against this menu
bar/pop up solution, it doesn't feel right. Its not standard.
Do you care about standard? This isn't a server-side J2EE app that has to be
deployed on multiple servers.
If this is for an intranet with users who all have IE, this is very typical,
thus, nearly standard.
If for the general web, it's awful. ;)

believe what the users asks for isn't always what they should get
because sometimes they don't realize what they ask for might introduce
new problems they did not think of.
That's what a case study is for. *g*
What do they really want and why? The "why" being just as important, if not
more so, than the "what". Because sometimes they really want something else,
but you don't know that until you see what they're trying to do.

I prefer the classic style where buttons are used and where the users
leaves the page briefly to perform the operation and then returns to
the page when the operation is completed.
That's nice.
What do your USERS want? :p
This simplifies code, and
provides a more standard web interface. However, I have yet to find an
article or posting that truly gets into the details of the cons for
using pop ups for critical user functions and why this is a bad idea.


The only reason popups are bad is popup blockers, accessibility, and the fact
that users must have javascript. All these make them bad for internet
applications. Nothing wrong with them if a client asks for them for an
intranet app.

It sounds to me more like you have a problem with needing to write all that
javascript. ;)

--
--
~kaeli~
A man's home is his castle..., in a manor of speaking.
http://www.ipwebdesign.net/wildAtHeart
http://www.ipwebdesign.net/kaelisSpace

Jul 23 '05 #3

P: n/a
On 26 Oct 2004 06:32:52 -0700, nsr93 wrote:
but I am wearing all hats on this
project and at least know enough to know pop ups aren't a good idea
generally. ...
Too right, the introduction of SP2 to IE recently, and the
ever increasing prevalence of plug-ins that suppress pop-ups,
makes this an ever sillier idea.
...However, my client is big on them because he is stuck on
the fact that users complained they did not want to have to leave the
schedule page to perform schedule operations.


Especially on a site intended to do business on the World (Wild) Web.

Ask the client if he is prepared to lose 15%+ business and
suffer a tripling of support costs, in order to cater to those
clients who want pop-ups.. As opposed to making the app.
based in single windows, and offering an option for (or
instructions on how to get) new or pop-up windows.

This is possibly the worst time (in history) to start
a web-project that needs pop-ups, they are doomed for
internet use.

--
Andrew Thompson
http://www.PhySci.org/codes/ Web & IT Help
http://www.PhySci.org/ Open-source software suite
http://www.1point1C.org/ Science & Technology
http://www.LensEscapes.com/ Images that escape the mundane
Jul 23 '05 #4

P: n/a
Thanks for the feedback. However I did forget to mention this is an
internal application for a University- just the student population,
just to give you some context. Either way I am still against the use
of pop ups.

However I am still looking for white papers, articles on this that
supports my case so that its not just my opinion I am bringing ot the
table.

Andrew Thompson <Se********@www.invalid> wrote in message news:<1n*****************************@40tude.net>. ..
On 26 Oct 2004 06:32:52 -0700, nsr93 wrote:
but I am wearing all hats on this
project and at least know enough to know pop ups aren't a good idea
generally. ...


Too right, the introduction of SP2 to IE recently, and the
ever increasing prevalence of plug-ins that suppress pop-ups,
makes this an ever sillier idea.
...However, my client is big on them because he is stuck on
the fact that users complained they did not want to have to leave the
schedule page to perform schedule operations.


Especially on a site intended to do business on the World (Wild) Web.

Ask the client if he is prepared to lose 15%+ business and
suffer a tripling of support costs, in order to cater to those
clients who want pop-ups.. As opposed to making the app.
based in single windows, and offering an option for (or
instructions on how to get) new or pop-up windows.

This is possibly the worst time (in history) to start
a web-project that needs pop-ups, they are doomed for
internet use.

Jul 23 '05 #5

This discussion thread is closed

Replies have been disabled for this discussion.