Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stop the Verify Email Address Web Form Stupidity!!

I'm not sure when this trend started to put a second field on a web form to "verify" your email address the same way you type in a password twice, but it is moronic. It is CLEAR TEXT. The person filling out the form can READ what they've entered to confirm it is correct. There is absolutely no improvement to reliability achieved by forcing the same clear text information to be entered twice.

Passwords are different. Someone entering a password into a field that is masked with asterisk characters cannot see what they have typed. Entering a password a second time reduces the possibility that something incorrect was typed into the first password field, BECAUSE the person typing it CANNOT SEE WHAT THEY'VE TYPED!!

Perhaps the same idiots who think it is useful to type in an email address twice should consider forcing the user to enter every element of the form twice, just to be sure. It wouldn't help any more than typing the email address two times, but it would sure increase the annoy-the-user factor, which is the only plausible reason for requiring an email address the second time. Soon we should see forms with fields for First name:, Verify first name (that you just typed in clear text):, Last name:, Verify last name (that you just typed in clear text), etc. etc.

Maybe someone thinks there is something magical about having an '@' symbol and one or two '.' characters in something that is typed in clear text into a form. I guess someone must have a nutty theory that all those other fields on a form must be easier to visually review in a single entry box because they don't have any "special" characters in them. What if someone had an accent mark in their name somewhere? Wouldn't that be just as likely to be typed in incorrectly? Shouldn't that be entered twice too?

I'm sure somewhere, someone is making the excuse that the email address is more important because it must be correct in order for an actual electronic communication to succeed. I'd answer that with, "Sure it does, BUT YOU CAN STILL SEE WHAT YOU'VE ENTERED!!" If it's wrong, it's wrong twice. If it's right, it's right. If it's wrong and the form hasn't been submitted yet, the user CAN SEE THAT IT'S WRONG and correct it in ONE FIELD.

As much as this useless technique seems to be used on web forms, I'd bet there is a book or two in print that suggests this irritating web-form feature serves some purpose. And I'd bet there is a group of people who would defend it with all kinds of fabricated statistics from some ill-conceived usability study involving web aware howler-monkeys and internet-users over the age of 87. But really, I hope web form designers everywhere will finally get a clue and stop doing this.

I guess until sensible behavior is re-introduced into the world of web forms, I'll just enter my email address once, LOOK AT WHAT I'VE TYPED, select what I've typed, copy, click the other email field, and paste. I'll also try to convince myself that someone in an over-authorized marketing department somewhere forced an otherwise reasonable person to include the "Confirm email:" field on the form.

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