User Interfaces are not “Where is Charlie ?” games

User Interface are not “Who is Charlie Game”

Psst… what is the performance of your sight…
because for some #UI you need to have 12/10 for each eye !!

The Story

Yesterday I was with my wife on @Google #Gmail tool, a power tool and she asked me to help her to find some old mails…
“no problem I thought I’m a Geek !!”

I said yes no problem you just have to type the words of your search here…

And she said to me …”ho yes I know that…nonetheless… I want to specify the sender and the date…”

Aouch !! After around 15 years using Google Gmail, my wife, a none Geek lady (I am not sure after several years with me she is not infected…) made me discovered a new feature in Gmail !!…the Advanced Gmail Form Search

The Problem

The problem is simple…

First when you begin to type a word, there is a auto-completion which is a #GoodUI no thing to say…

Google Gmail Input Search

And this auto-complete automatically deploys the list of possible values…which is good again…

Gmail Autocompletion List

And you didn’t see but with this automatic feature and automatic display, your users lost a ancestral behavior

They will never clic on the triangle icon on the right of the list to open the list because right now she opens by itself !!!

And the problem is here….hmm not so far and not easy to see…

I explain…

When you decide to clic on the icon you have a different screen than the list of the possible values of the completion, yes trust me and look…

Gmail Original Search Form

And I just discover while I typed this post, there is the possibility to record each complex filter which is a good feature.. I will see later…

I never used the advanced search, because I don’t know it, 
and I don’t know because I never saw it !!! and I have 10/10 for each eye.

My point of view

I think there is several mistakes which bring to #BadUX.


Users develop habits from years to years and from tools to tools and from apps to apps…and they develop Mental model. If you change that you break the communication.

It is as strong as changing the definition of a world, if break the communication between two persons.

In this case we can speak about Functional #Consistency and External Consistency. Consistency is a base principle of UX Design, don’t hesitate to read Design principles of consistency to see what we earn and what we lose with and without consistency.


If a feature is not used there are two major possible reasons :

- it is not good, it doesn’t answer the need of the users.
- it is not known, it is not reachable.

If the user can’t use it, it doesn’t work — Susan Dray

The only one ways to answer this question is to make User Research, User Interview and A/B Testing.

In this case you add a complexity. More an more apps enlarge the touchable, clickable area in order to help the user to reach the objet, to improve usability.

That is why more an more lists of values enlarge the clic from the icon to all the input area.

So if you click on the input zone or on the icon you will have the same behavior, which is good to answer the Fitts Law ergonomic rule.

My proposal

In this case I will propose a very simple answer.

First I go back to Fitts laws by having the same behavior by clicking in the input area or on the icon.

In a second time I expose “Advanced search Charlie Form”, I don’t play with users, I propose to display this access not to far from the completion.

Gmail Advanced Search Access Proposal

If you want to play Charlie game, draw Charlie game, there is users who love to play Charlie game…

Don’t forget

Your users don’t want to play “Where is Charlie” game with your interfaces.

and as Susan Dray says

If the user can’t use it, it doesn’t work