Brian Armstrong

A Good Example of Bad User Interface Design

Check out Time Magazine’s web page for the top 100 most influential people of 2009.

Lots of people on this list are emailing around saying “hey I’m at #25 right now, vote for me please!”

So when you click to their individual page on the website, you move the little slider over to #1 (you want them to be #1 right?) and click submit.

Unfortunately, you have just ranked them as “least influential” which is subtly labeled.


They have two competing paradigms going on here - is #1 the best or 100 the highest score? Consistency is important here. There is no telling how many people have actually voted the opposite of what they intended on these pages.

It reminds of the butterfly ballots that caused all the fuss with Al Gore, or on airlines when they say “now boarding rows 10 and higher” - the rows closer to the front of the plane are certainly higher in that they are better and closer to #1, but what they mean is “numbers greater than 10” or perhaps more clearly “rows 10 to 30”.

Further confusing things on the Time site, there is a number in the top right saying “34 of 204”. Is this their current ranking or just the next one in the list?

Not to mention…the whole idea of a slider with values from 1 to 100 is not correct for something like this. It’s an artificial level of accuracy to say “I think this person is the 29th most influential”. Most people won’t know who everyone on the list is - they just want to either vote yes or no.

Good user interface design is important and worth studying. I think it’s responsible for much more of a products success than people give it credit for.