Categories / Trends

5 Old-School Web Features that (Sadly) Still Exist

Daniel Schwarz March 31, 2021 · 4 min read
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I adore how the web evolves on a daily basis. New design trends appear all the time and fresh color ideas swing into fashion as the seasons change. So why is it that some web concepts still exist after more than a decade of annoying their users? I can’t answer that, sadly, but I can identify the worst culprits so that we never try to implement them, ever again!

Let’s start with debit card forms.

1. Long Payment Forms

Bank cards have a lot of information on them: card number, card type, sort code, security code, issue number, start date, expiry date, and name on card. Back in the day, all of this information was requested by legacy systems and Stripe was one of the first to minimize the design of debit card forms. Currently, most of the information isn’t required at all. Instead, websites can infer the data rather than trouble the user for it.

Indeed, the extra information does help to reduce fraud cases but it’s overkill in most situations, and as you may have realized, user experience (sadly) wasn’t a huge concern once upon a time.

Dribbble’s Stripe Integration

2. Newsletter Unsubscribe and Redirect

Ahh, waking up and finding 2,845,376 unread emails from newsletters we don’t even remember subscribing to – yep, we’ve all felt that shred of regret. Pretty much all newsletters offer an unsubscribe link, but for some websites it certainly doesn’t end there. Nope, some websites can make it really difficult.

If you’re not forcibly redirected to their homepage, you’re forcibly asked to confirm your decision to unsubscribe, and what’s worse is that they send you an email telling you they won’t send you any more emails. We’ve come so far in understanding user flows, yet user experiences like these still exist.

Mailchimp may be the best example of how to handle unsubscribers. First you click “unsubscribe”, then you close the window. Simple!

3. Full-Screen Invasions

Most websites track users with cookies, so when you visit for the first time, the website knows you’re visiting for the first time, but decides to invasively ask you to subscribe, like or follow the website anyway. You don’t know if you’ll enjoy the content yet, or if the user experience isn’t all that brilliant, so why on earth would you want to commit to their service? Let the user evaluate their experience first, and then ask to connect.

As for full-screen ads, well that’s simply a no-no.

4. Default Email Client

If you’re running a small website and you’re not expecting very many enquiries, fair enough, maybe a “contact us” form isn’t quite necessary. Instead, offer a customer support email address and let users copy it into their email client. What you shouldn’t do is have a link that appears to navigate to a contact us and instead try to open the users default desktop mail client.

We have so many mail clients available to us now (most of which we access via the web), so assuming the visitor uses either Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail is a terrible, terrible idea.

5. Old-School Icons

For a long time after floppy disks became obsolete, the floppy disk icon was still used to represent a “save to” action. For a while this actually made sense because users were familiar with the icon, but now, kids are learning the ways of the internet as young as three and they have no idea what a floppy disk is.

Modern websites use a hard drive icon, but the floppy disk isn’t exactly hanging on for dear life. Come on guys, let’s ditch it!

Conclusion

In the last decade we’ve become much more educated about user interfaces, and as new trends appear on our favorite websites, our knowledge of website interaction only increases. Not so long ago we were debating the clarity of the hamburger menu, but while we were arguing about it, everyday internet users began to find its existence relatively normal, and now it’s here to stay.

I can’t answer the question of why some old-school concepts still exist. Perhaps it’s a result of lazy designing? Just like Stripe reinvented transaction forms, and the way that somebody introduced the hamburger menu, designers of all types should also be looking to reinvent existing concepts to accommodate the ever-changing needs of internet users.

Have a UX pet-peeve? Mention it in the comments below!

Daniel Schwarz is a full-time design writer and digital nomad. He’s the founder of Airwalk Studios, a company that recently switched their interests from freelance design to content creation. Now they’re working on writing books and magazines for design enthusiasts. Daniel is 25 years of age, originally from London.

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26 Comments
  • So what is Your idea for "save file" icon??? floppy - no, hard drive? I would say same as floppy - the youngs also probably dont know how it looks - cause we got internal drives, external, flash, ssd, PCE etc... It aint easy 7 years ago
  • Not sure I agree with 4. I don't see what's wrong with mailto links, as long as they don't look like links to a contact page (and I think any good contact page should feature a mailto link as an alternative to a form, unless you're actively wanting to discourage spurious enquiries). I think most people still use email client software rather than webmail for most purposes (and all smartphones have a mail app built in). Maybe the author of the piece should think of setting up Outlook, Mail or Thunderbird so they can make use of all those handy mailto links web desingers have been leaving about the place. 7 years ago
  • @Piotr Zakrzewski A downward pointing arrow is what I generally see as the new universal download/save icon. 7 years ago
  • You can also set your browser to open mailto links in Gmail, and presumably other similar webmail services. Instructions are here: http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/set-gmail-as-browser-default-email-client-ht Sure, designers need to be aware that not everyone will have their computer set up efficiently, but there comes a point where the designer has to say they've done their best, that they have led the horse to water, and it's up to the horse to set their computer up properly to drink it. 7 years ago
  • @Brad Dawson I think that "arrow down" is great for "save file" as per download it. But its different if You want to "save file" as per save changes in dsome file (online spreadsheet, photo etc) its completly two different acrtions 7 years ago
  • Excellent article, all on point. The email client link (No.4) is one I find annoying, I personally don't think it's that hard to create a contact form and would avoid excluding anyone who either doesn't have an email address (those people do exist, I believe!) or they can't remember it, thus losing a potential customer/enquiry. To add to No.2, the worst example of unsubscribe I've recently found is when they ask you to log in to your account to 'update your preferences'..... I don't even remember having an account, just take me off your damn list....! 7 years ago
  • I personally hate when there is no "mailto" href specified. I want to click and mail, especcialy on phone. if someone doesnt use mail app (on mobile I really doubt that?) jus select and copy. I also hate websites with phone number in JPG. I have popular taxi service here and it is plain stupid not to be able to click and phone on mobile. 7 years ago
  • @Piotr Zakrzewski That's a great point you make about mobile devices, I'm sure that most mobile devices detect the email address without the "mailto" specified, certainly Android does with Chrome browser. I definitely agree with you about the Phone Number as a JPG, which is also a hate of mine and should be avoided - so many sites probably still have this though! 7 years ago
  • Great article, great points. 7 years ago
  • @Piotr Zakrzewski I would say that it depends on the audience and wether or not they're tech-savvy. 7 years ago
  • [@DÃ¥ve Hall](user:471313) When I spoke about mailto, I meant that they shouldn't be used as an alternative to contact forms, which is still surprisingly common (and lazy). 7 years ago
  • Some really awesome insights there guys @Drew Burrows @Piotr Zakrzewski, the cell number and "update" ones are super annoying. 7 years ago
  • I'm with you there, @Drew Burrows. When I am forced to log in to a site to unsubscribe it makes me never, ever, ever want to do business with them again. Sometimes they don't even take you to the unsubscribe page and you are forced to log in from the homepage and then click around their (usually poorly designed) site until you figure out where they have concealed the mail list "preferences" page. It's too bad they never have a checkbox for "I would like to cast you, your emails, and your entire website into a fiery abyss," because at that point, that would be my preference. 6 years ago
  • @Anne Pushkal fiery abyss! :p 6 years ago
  • I think the floppy icon is here to stay. Kids these days maybe have never seen one, but they understand what the icon means. 6 years ago
  • I think the mailto link has its place. There are plenty of people who use a single email client still and it works well on most mobile platforms. 6 years ago
  • Anonymous
    Only yesterday, was with my partner, using our local ATM to do a small withdrawal. Haven't done that in years, and nothing much has changed, in fact, maybe worse. Huge physical buttons, that lead the eye to also-huge, digitally rendered buttons, huge text, loud beeps! And after the transaction was complete, and the cash was being prepared, a huge, animated graphic of a glass egg timer, rotating top-to-bottom. They couldn't even be bothered to animate the sand falling through the glass! 6 years ago
  • While I concur with most of your observations, I'm not sure that replacing the old floppy disk with a just about as old hard-drive icon is much of an improvement. Couldn't agree with you more about the email unsubscribe experience though. Thanks for the insightful article. 6 years ago
  • Nice article. Mailto is an annoying feature, especially on the phone. In regards to the old school floppy disk icon, have you considered that most kids know nothing until its explained to them. Just because the physical floppy disk is obsolete doesn't mean it's image has stopped representing its purpose to Save; does it? As designers we shouldn’t just change something because 1/4 of the age groups of western humanity (people under 25?) might not instantly know what it is - what about the other 3/4 who do know. By redesigning, we could end up confusing that 3/4 in an attempt to satisfy the 1/4. The whole purpose of icons is to have recognisable longevity in communications. I’ve worked with older generations, teaching them technology. Most of them don’t know what a lot of modern icons are, but we don’t take that as a queue to re-design them; we simply teach. I don't think its lazy designing either. Why change something if there is no purpose. The hamburger icon, for example (as mentioned in the conclusion) didn't come from no where. It was the first real universal menu icon that could well be a mix of the obscure shapes on devices (like the 90's Nokia or the first iphone), which were usually either a square or one line. It seems the hamburger was a natural progression; mixing those two concepts. This is just my initial thought when I read that post. The older generations (me included) will tell tails of the struggles of saving games like DOOM on 50+ reused, scribbled labeled, floppy disks! (while our kids play it in HD on the iphone). The Floppy Disk is literally iconic! Thanks for sharing. Stay Creative! ;) 6 years ago
  • I know tons of Millennials who have NO idea WTF is the hamburger icon on their phones. So it's here to stay ... but saying everyone knows what it is or how to use it is a HUGE fallacy. Get away from hard core techies and out into average ppl land. They are clueless. Understandably. No one told THEM to click on it to see a menu. Ppl who keep saying it's not an issue need to get into the REAL world. Seriously. I'm around recent college grads, smart, creative ppl, as well as older folks like myself. CLUELESS. They don't even pay ANY attention to those three lines. Never curious to click on them. 6 years ago
  • I am so confused. You are saying we shouldn't use the mailto anymore? And every time ppl see "write me" in my various posts, pages, etc, I should use a link to my contact page instead? Really? I've not heard that in any high end web design group ... who makes up these rules and how are ppl supposed to find out? Cos way too many web designers and DIY still use xx@xx.com. On the site. For everyone to see. Not even mailto. Hmmmm 6 years ago
  • I disagree with contact forms. An actual email address is so much more transparent and trustworthy. 6 years ago
  • Trustworthy?? Ppl use my contact form ALL the time!! Even though I put mailto within most every blog post, often many times. I am frankly stunned that most use my contact form. WHY? Cos it's easy to find, easy to use. No one ever said they had a hard time contacting me. Ever. Ppl find me from ALL over the world. Ppl KNOW me. They can see my CV/resume, they read my FB posts, they read my blogs. Whether I use a form or mailto has NOTHING to do with trustworthiness. For example, we had a primary today. Other than one candidate, I find ALL the others not trustworthy. I don't care what they use on their site. NOTHING will ever convince me they are trustworthy. Ever. That goes for the candidate I love. Nothing he does will turn me against him. Has nothing to do with how I contact his campaign. As I wrote before: design for HOW ppl use the net. Simple as that. Not the way YOU want them to, but how they use it. Cos after teaching ppl how to use programs for many years, and dealing with SO many personalities, ages, nationalities, etc online (believe me, I deal with A TON of ppl!!) one thing is clear: ppl will do what they wanna do. So make it EASY! Use mailto, use the contact form. Use the word MENU instead of those 3 hamburger lines. Or both. Give ppl choices. As for downward arrow instead of floppy, that would drive me nuts. Downloading is totally different than saving something. Again, MEET PPL WHERE THEY ARE. Not where YOU are, but WHERE THEY ARE. THEY pay your bills. YOU decide on design, with client approval. BUT put in the features PPL UNDERSTAND. Cos so many are clueless. Young or old, tech confuses ppl. STABILITY and CONSISTENCY is KEY. Whether you like it or not. I'm done. Have great lives, much success and all that jazz. I only wish you all well. 6 years ago
  • Does not matter if you use a contact form or mailto. What DOES matter is IF you reply and HOW you reply. I cannot tell you how many businesses have sites, on social media, and never ever never respond to ANY email or online inquiry. That is a HUGE issue. Let's focus on that. Response time and manner is far more vital than how you provide contact info. So throw in a form, include mailto in posts and elsewhere. Cos no one will ever win on this. Ppl will do what they do, ya know? My best to all!! Have fun with CM clip art, photos, fonts! That's MY focus!! Not silly icons or how to contact ppl. Make it FUN and PRETTY or POWERFUL. The rest will never be resolved. I dunno how ppl can be so serious over these silly things. Look at the art and go from there. Guaranteed to put a smile on yr faces. Go fight BIG things, not pass judgment about old school vs new school. Look at art! 6 years ago
  • Let the kids learn some history :) 6 years ago
  • Excellent post! All true. 5 years ago