I get quite a bit of email, and deal with quite a few automated systems, banks, credit card companies, the cable company, etc. I’m tired of automated systems forcing me to ask myself a question to figure out what’s happening.

Here’s the first email I found with the word “if” in it:
We wanted to let you know that your order has shipped. If you ordered multiple items, you may receive separate shipments with no additional shipping charges.

My problem is that the email contains an “if”. There’s no reason for it. The computer that sent the email either does have access, or should have access, to my order. It knows that I only ordered a single product, so there’s no point in wasting my time with any other information.

My bank does something even more confusing:
A fee of $1.50 will be charged in the currency of the account for each cheque viewed. The fee will be debited from your account by the next business day. You may view a cheque as many times as you wish during your current EasyWeb session.
For personal chequing accounts the View Cheque service is free for customers who havePaperless or Online Only record keeping.

I have no idea what kind of account type I have. I push “Checking” to get money out of the ATM, but that doesn’t seem to be what it’s asking for. I opened this account when I was 16 years old, at a branch and bank that no longer exists. Do I have “Paperless” or “Online Only” record keeping? I’m not sure. Not knowing may cost me $1.50, but the computer running the bank most certainly knows what options I have on my account. That’s how it will know to charge me if I’ve got the wrong kind of account. Yet, I’m faced with the question.

Seeing these issues reminds me of an article I read back in 2004: Ten most persistent design bugs in particular “let you save me some time.”

In both these cases the developer decided to let me save him or her some time. They didn’t complicate their page or email template with an if structure, and instead presented one to me. Every Single person who interacts with that page, or gets that email is now forced to determine which case applies to them, all an effort to save some work on the part of one developer/designer some time ago.

It’s a stupid waste, and I wish it would stop.

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Hi, I’m Paul Reinheimer, a developer working on the web.

I co-founded WonderProxy which provides access to over 200 proxies around the world to enable testing of geoip sensitive applications. We've since expanded to offer more granular tooling through Where's it Up

My hobbies are cycling, photography, travel, and engaging Allison Moore in intelligent discourse. I frequently write about PHP and other related technologies.