Standard Layouts and The Art of Deception

Consistency and standards:

Good going:

One thing that has become fairly standardized is the layout of web browsers. I decided to look at one I had never seen before and see how it adheres to browser standards and user intuition based on past experience with other browsers. Vivaldi preserves the main layout of having the address bar at the top with tabs above it, navigation and refresh buttons on the top left, and a search bar/other menus on the right. Like Chrome, it also has a home screen which stores favorite sites.

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Problem Child:

When you see the following image, what are some conclusions that come to mind?

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If you said this is a charging laptop, BINGO, you are wrong. The light indicator might have led you astray, as this has become a common convention for displaying system status in charging laptops. In this example, the blue light turns on to show that the cable is plugged into the wall and is receiving power. You can see this below as the cable is unplugged from the computer but is still lit up because it’s plugged into the wall.

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This may not be a huge problem normally, but it was in this case where my roommate’s cable shown here was faulty. Even when it was plugged into the computer in the first picture, the computer was not being charged because of the loose/broken connection. This quickly became a pain to debug, as there was no way to tell when the laptop was getting juice besides spamming the power button and hoping it would turn on. The design violates the standard of charging lights, and deceives the user, as convention implies the laptop in the first photo is charging.


There is a solution here which is clearer to the user and makes it easier to pinpoint problems. The light in the example is horribly placed and should be moved to the brick to check if it is getting power from the wall. Then, another light should be added on the computer near the plug to show whether the computer itself is charging. This solution makes it much easier to debug technical problems and allow the user to easily identify the specific broken piece.

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Something completely different:

I saw this interesting elevator today at WeWork South Station in Boston (745 Atlantic Ave). The following display is outside the elevator and you call it by choosing the floor you want to go to.

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Once you enter the elevator, there are no floor buttons inside (only open/close door/emergency buttons) and there is a digital display showing the current floor number.

When my elevator arrived, it wasn’t clear to me by display where it was going. It is possible there was some indicator of its destination floor but I did not notice it and got on anyway. This may be pretty unnerving for riders and could cause a great deal of confusion if multiple people are calling multiple elevators at once to go to different floors.

I also question the usefulness of this system. I don’t immediately see any benefit from doing it this way and it only confuses the user by deviating from the expected standard. It could get crowded if 10 people enter an elevator and are all trying to press their floor button, but this solution seems to be more disorienting than helpful, at least from how I experienced it.

About the author: chrisrodowicz

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