Avoiding Over-Engineering the US Navy Way

At the hospital, we (the web team) are often asked to create a web-based this or that, such as a form or some kind of app. In the majority of cases such requests represent a huge amount of over-engineering based on the user requirements of the form or tool and the amount of use it is likely to get.
For example, creating a web-based form involves a fair amount of work for the developer and a not inconsiderable development time as there things to include like emailing a copy to the person completing the form and making sure it prints properly. It usually takes several iterations to get right.

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“Help” Is a Waste of Time

My wife recently took back a cordless phone because it didn’t work. She had left it in its charger over night like she was supposed to but the thing just wouldn’t produce a dial tone. I looked at it briefly, pushed a few of the buttons and agreed that the thing was dead out of the box.
Back she comes with a new phone, and as I’m opening it, what do I see on the back of the phone but a large sticker with large words to the effect “Before doing anything plug in the battery!” Oops. Somehow, my wife had managed to remove the sticker on the previous phone without reading it and thus realising that this simple but essential first step was required to make the thing work.
Which just goes to show that people don’t read instructions. Actually, I do, but only as a result of painful experience. By the way, I don’t know what the manufacturer could have done to make their instructions any more obvious–I guess they’re just screwed.

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Make Internal Links Scroll Smoothly with JavaScript

There’s an interesting article over at Sitepoint about using Javascript to enable jump links to scroll you smoothly down the page to another location. According to the author, the reasoning behind this is that:

When they’re navigating through a long document, users often are confused or disoriented when they click a link that jumps to another location in that same document.

Are they? Based on what evidence? In all the usability testing I have done, never once has a user complained to me that having a link take them to another location on a page is confusing.

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Bloated Home Pages Increase Travel Site Load Times

Optimizationweek.com has a great speed comparison of three leading travel sites and comes up with some interesting findings. Plus it has a catchy title–Overweight Travel Sites Delay Holiday Travelers–although from an SEO standpoint it would benefit from being a little less cute and a bit more obvious as to what it’s about.
Anway, the fact that the sites’ home pages average about 150kb is pretty scary–don’t they care about dial-up users? I’d never heard of the term “HTTP Compression” before reading this article either–there’s a useful technology that more sites should be using. Maybe they are and I’m just late to the table?