Usable interfaces just take a little thought

Thursday, 16 Feb 2006

Jeremy Zawodny complains about an onerous password change screen:

The screen shows a message in red that reads “Your password must contain a number, an upper and lower case character, and a special character. Passworts cannot contain more than 3 of the following properties: repeating characters, incremented or decremented numeric or alphabetic strings. Please try again.” Additionally, there’s a long list of requirements in a bar on the left side.

This is another case of a programmer-friendly interface: the programmers were too lazy to make the computer do anything at all to help the user fulfill the complex requirements placed upon her. The omission is particularly regrettable in this instance, as it would have been very straightforward to make the interface helpful:

This way, the user could whittle down constraints one or two at a time while the interface shows her which ones she still has to satisfy. She would also immediately know about it as soon as she accidentally violated a constraint. There would be no need for her to keep all the rules in her head at once and then hit the “I’m feeling lucky” button to see if she passed the test. Granted, choosing a password would still be an onerous process with so many rules, but it would be a lot less nerve-grating.