On Swearing and UX Antipaterns

For the last few months, I've been curating a Tumblr of a very specific annoyance. I'll let Aral Balkan take credit for inspiring me.

First, a quick definition:

In software engineering, an anti-pattern (or antipattern) is a pattern used in social or business operations or software engineering that may be commonly used but is ineffective and/or counterproductive in practice.
Antipattern on Wikipedia

My tumblr is simply called "I Don't Want Your Fucking App".

It chronicles all those websites which - despite having a mobile web experience - are just desperate to get you to download their app. So desperate that they're willing to slam the door in your face.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are in a mall and decided to walk into a shoe shop. The assistant comes up to you and says "Good morning! Would you like to visit our website? It's so much better than our shop!"
How ridiculous would that be? And yet, that's what these websites do. They tell you to piss off and go elsewhere.

DoorSlam Collection

How It Should Work

Ideally, when a user visits your website, you should deliver the content to them in the most appropriate format. That's it.

If they're using Internet Explorer, you serve them up the correct CSS and JavaScript. If they're on a mobile device, serve them up the mobile or responsive version of the page.

If you do have an app, by all means let the user know - but don't take over the whole damn screen!

It really is that simple.

Apple have created an excellent way to create dismiss-able banners to promote your app.

When you throw up an interstitial, you're not only giving a terrible impression, you're also forcing the user to do more work than is necessary to get to the content they want.

The F-Bomb

Interestingly, the discussion on HackerNews focused mostly on the issue of swearing. Although I'm not usually one to swear for dramatic effect, I thought it would be amusing to have an over-the-top rant which over-uses swearing to the point of banality. It is, if you like, an exercise in over-reaction.

My sweary blog posts do seem to get the most attention. I wonder if it's because people are becoming too corporate. So worried about causing offence that their language becomes reduced to bland words that are calculated to be as emotionally neutral as possible.

I disagree with that mode of acting. I think it's perfectly acceptable be passionate and to let your language reflect that passion. Sure, the level of swearing that I've used is ridiculous - but it is employed to drive home the point. That's how I feel. That's how millions of us feel when we're confronted with repeated petty annoyances in our daily lives.

Swearing. It's not big, it's not clever, but it is authentic.

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3 thoughts on “On Swearing and UX Antipaterns”

  1. says:

    Hi Terence,

    On judicious swearing & folks getting upset about it:

    I think it is a combo of the tech/internet world going away from the share&share-a-like/hippy/hacker ethos to the VC ruled corporate ethos, plus add in world/economy/life anxiety that is making folks slightly prissy or leaking out as prissiness.

    Also, I think it is formal vs. informal culture clash as well. I have found that my Brit & Euro followers don't mind if I swear on Twitter, but my Indian and East Asian followers will make comments if I use a swear word without adding euphemistic punctuation... f*^<


  2. Rob Waring says:

    Hi Terence,

    Are IPC still flogging their apps with interstitials? Just a thought 😉


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