UI Tomfoolery

Brevity is the soul of wit, or so we’re told, though BP Oil wasn’t listening when crafting the user interface for their gasoline pumps. I’m put of mind of Joel Spolsky’s article about the umpteen different ways that one can instruct Windows Vista to “sleep”.

While not quite so prolific as this, BP’s pumps still manage to offer the user a bewilderingly non-orthogonal set of “OK” buttons. These include such ambiguously different options as “Enter”, “Start”, and “Yes”. You’re expected to hit “Enter” after entering your credit card number’s zip code. After you’ve lifted the nozzle for the desired grade you must press “Start”. If you desire a receipt at the end of the transaction, the “Yes” button is your friend.

Invariably I manage to use the wrong button at every step. More infuriatingly still, pressing the wrong “OK” button or pressing the right button with insufficient pressure yield indistinguishable results. A little bit of tactile and/or audio feedback go a long way.

For the love of god, Don’t Make Me Think. I want a big, fat, obvious “Go” button at every step. I want to unthinkingly jam a button that clearly means “I’m done entering my zip code”, “I have selected my gasoline grade”, or “give me a receipt”. Either give me a single physical “Proceed” button or dynamically render a more descriptive “Go” button at every step without leaving other ambiguous options available. Don’t make my distracted brain struggle to ascertain which of three “Just Do It” buttons is the correct one to get what I want. Never mind that these three buttons are scattered all over the damn place, perhaps in a crude attempt to hide that they are really all the same button…

Updated 09/06/2010 to include new sighting on the same machine…

Also, thanks for trashing the Gulf Coast, BP… You guys rock! I’m semi-embarrassed to buy gas at your station but you’re the only one in my neighborhood for some reason.

— AWG

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