Matthew Bischoff on Software Paper Cuts
A great piece from Matthew Bischoff from Lickability covering “Software Papercuts”, those little annoyances that cause usuability regressions but are also within reach to fix:
Running up against a paper cut bug feels a little bit like getting a physical one: not the end of the world, but certainly unpleasant. These types of tiny annoyances accrete over time, especially when no one is paying attention to them. In a single day of using my phone, I encounter dozens of these minor bugs that each annoy me just a little bit, making the task I’m trying to accomplish just a little bit more complicated.
I often refer to these issues as “jank”, and you know them when you see them. Half of the time, my first thought isn’t so much that the issue is a bug, it makes me think the app isn’t native. Little hitches when scrolling or controls that don’t look quite right all add up to create the holistic experience of an app.
Matthew’s list of paper cut issues to look out for is worth the read alone, but here are some of my favorites:
- Flashes & Blinks: When things load from the network or disk, they flash or blink into place, or the content of the screen jumps around to accommodate them.
- Missing States: Buttons and list items don’t look any different when they’re touched, hovered over, or disabled, so it’s hard to know what state they’re in.
- Where Was I?: The app forgets where I was when I reopen it or clears my selection when I go to the background.
The issue with these kinds of things is that they start as paper cuts, sure. But they don’t end that way. A few here and there will inevitably add up over the years to something much worse. You go from paper cuts to a laceration, and then a straight gaping hole in your app.
What follows? The refactor. The ground up rewrite. That’s why engineers love doing those - you cover up past paper cuts which have become full blown issues in one go. But you can avoid that, take some time to find and fix your paper cuts today.
Until next time ✌️.