User Experience

3 Things Poor Interfaces and Zombies Have in Common

Published February 1, 2015 ⚡ Updated on October 2, 2023 by Markus Pirker

poor user interface
User interfaces are a lot like zombies. They’re both grumpy, they’re both slow, and they both have a tendency to eat your brains.

Okay, maybe that last one is a bit of a stretch. But the point still stands: poor interfaces can be just as frustrating as the undead.

Here are three ways in which poor interfaces and zombies are similar:

1. They don’t respond to any external stimuli

According to the Zombie Apocalypse wiki this is especially true for zombie type 0, which although undead, fortunately only represents a moderate risk. Zombie type 0 does not react to any external stimuli whatsoever, neither to light nor to any kind of sound.

It stumbles around and is… simply undead. It decays slowly, attacks no one or has an irrepressible hunger, something which is also a characteristic of other types of zombies. They make no sounds either, except for scuffing or squelching (depending on their degree of putrefaction).Zombie Apocalypse wiki

Poor interfaces show a behaviour similar to zombie type 0. They are in a kind of “undead mode”. Nothing gets a response: neither good-intentioned coaxing nor touching or clicking. The absence of any feedback often leads users to show symptoms of fatigue or aggression, leading to total resignation when facing technology.

Recommended action

If you give a wide berth to this type of zombie or interface and avoid any contact with it, there is no risk for yourself. However, in this case the question remains of whether the psychological impact on survivors is not the strongest.

2. They leave chaos behind them.

Zombies are not known either for their excellent taste in the interior design of the summer house or for having a green thumb. On the contrary, usually no grass grows any more in those places they dwell in.

Thus, after extensive research (American scientists were involved, of course), the renowned Zombie Research Society proves something which we have already suspected for years.

Though Fredrick’s theory is a bold one, it can no more be confirmed or denied than any other. As of today, there is still no generally accepted explanation for why one of the most culturally advanced civilizations on the planet was wiped out in an impossibly short span of time. Was it the first zombie apocalypse, or even just one in a long string of unrecognized outbreaks throughout human history? No one knows for sure.Zombie Research Society

Zombies are therefore considered responsible for the destruction of an entire civilization. What can poor interfaces boast of, compared to this? Well, it could be the crash of an Airbus, a radiotherapy device that kills people, instead of healing them and the death of John Denver.

Among the less deadly, but no less devastating effects of poor interfaces, the output of an entire US election might also be included.

zombie electionPat Buchanan held the lead in this election against Al Gore. Is it surprising?

Recommended Action

Correct expectations are the basic prerequisites for a good interaction. In our own interest, we should not allow undead and poor interfaces to perform sensitive tasks.

3. They are no masters of articulation.

So far it is mostly unclear whether the groans of zombies serve as a means of communicating or only represent a simple (uncontrollable) reflex. Either way, the vocabulary available to them is very limited.

According to the “Urban Dead Zombie Lexicon” highly respected by American experts, the sounds uttered by zombies are limited to the following:

  • Graagh. – The standard zombie sound. Without any deeper meaning whatsoever.
  • Graaaagh! – An exclamation. Beware! This is the way a zombie in attack stage usually sounds. Distinguishing the subtle difference in intonation and timbre between this sound and the above may be vital for your survival.
  • Grrrh. – Another sound, habitually also without any specific meaning.
  • Grh. – A common greeting between zombies. Corresponds approximately to a friendly “Hi there!”
  • Mrh? – The most common pronouncement of a zombie. It represents almost all moods, but the desire for a quick kill is usually in the foreground.

A clear and understandable language is a rarity, not only among the undead, but unfortunately also among interfaces.

An unreadable error message

Interfaces should actually communicate with users in an understandable manner, using natural wording and avoiding “system language”. Unfortunately, interfaces fall all too often into zombie gibberish…

Recommended action

Due to their minimal vocabulary, communication with both kinds of interlocutor is very difficult. Experts therefore advise looking elsewhere for contacts to satisfy the desire for social interaction.

Poor interfaces are a lot like zombies: they’re slow, they’re grumpy, and they eat up your time. If you want to avoid the frustration of dealing with a poorly designed interface, take the time to design it well from the start. Your users will thank you for it!

Have you met any Zombie Interfaces lately? Tell us in the comments!

P.S: If you don’t want your interface to behave like an undead, we recommend making usability testing a habit. Graagh.

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