Sunday, December 13, 2009

Why is the Back Button not used?

One of the worst practices I see in developer-land is the need to reinvent the wheel. It costs money to create a duplicate of existing functionality, and it costs even more money to maintain that code.

Browsers are equipped with a Back button. This button has a known function.

MOS designers have created a system that is not compatible with this basic functionality. As a result, they need to implement a duplicate of that functionality all over the place in F-MOS. They decided to use a link and Bread Crumbs, rather than a button.

Unfortunately, the Back link is not on all pages or regions. So far the 'back' link is only visible in My Oracle Support Communities, and then only inconsistently.

Numerous examples abound. Too many to count. So I'll limit myself to one per tab.

1) Dashboard: Site Alert region: "Migration of Classic MetaLink Users to My Oracle Support: Top Frequently Asked Questions"

Click on the link, and we go to a new region "Dashboard > Alert Detail".

No 'Back' functionality. No 'Back' link. Browser 'Back' button does something but the result is not a change in display.

User is forced to use the Bread Crumbs to go back.

(There are two additional failures in implementation with this as wall:

  1. Useless detail, it tells you to click on another link to get to a document;
  2. Page title is 'PAGE_TITLE_NEWS' which is neither accurate nor useful.
But these failures will be discussed in more detail elsewhere.)

2) Knowledge Home: Knowledge Articles (Filtered for Oracle Internet Directory): Recently Updated: (first article)

Click on the article title, the 'Articles' region snaps to take over the page to provide
  • a scrollable 'article titles' area (30% of the screen, not re-sizable) and
  • the current article are (70%)
No 'go back' link. Browser 'Back' button does something but the result is not a change in display. User is forced to use the Bread Crumbs to go back.

(Three big 'Thank You' notes to the development team:
  1. The region snaps to the new configuration. Very crisp and very much appreciated;
  2. Page title gives the article number; and
  3. Ability to open the article in a new browser page/tab after it is displayed.
So there are some positives, in spite of all of my grumbling.)

3) Service Requests Home: Service Request: click on any request

While you can move to next/previous SR and even select from a cute pop-up 'select list', you can not move back to the previous page/region/window.

(Inconsistently, it is not possible to open the current SR in a new browser window/tab; the SR page is very 'busy'; and the current SR # is not displayed in the browser title bar.)

All you can do is use the Bread Crumbs to go back to the SR Home.

4) Patches and Updates tab

Once you set up a search, you go to a 'list of patches' page with no Back capability. Selecting a patch causes the page to slither to a new shape (as compared to the crisp 'snap' in the Knowedge Browser articles) and again you need to use the Bread Crumbs to to back to the Patch home.

5) Community tab

Let's just say this us a wasted tab. No need for a Back button, because you don't go anywhere.

Click on the tab and you get to a static page with a button and some text which tells you to click on the button (and promises that the button will bring you to the Nirvana of moderated community support.) Click on the button and you get a new browser window/tab anyway. So 'Back' is not required.

6) More ...

The More > Systems 'tab' is a duplicate of the regions I suppressed on the Dashboard.

The More > Certifications 'tab' (should be where the Community 'tab' resides) is worthy of it's own discussion.

The More > Reports 'tab' is probably useful in a larger organization. The reports do not have 'back' functionality other than Bread Crumbs.

The More > Collector 'tab' is a functional duplicate of the Nag screen advertisement I finally got suppressed on the Dashboard. It invites me to download the collector and learn all about it. (Why this is not relegated to a Help topic, or Knowledge Article remains a mystery.)

The More > Settings 'tab' is designed is a way that it does not need the Back functionality. This is the first case in the entire system that seems to have been thought out from that perspective.

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Why do I care? Because this lack of functionality is costing me AND Oracle money both now and in the future.

Me - because it uses a non-standard technique that requires me to stop and think about the peculiar variant for each screen. Time is money.

Oracle - because each peculiar variant needed to be designed and coded, and needs to be maintained. And eventually that will cut into the profits (and share price), or will be passed on to the customer (me) in increased Support fees.

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