Kenneth Larsen

March 18, 2021

This Designer Copied From Stripe: You'll Never Guess What Happened Next

When building fictional products like my meditation app Headface, I want to build the best possible user experience. The other day, a proposal came from our designers to redo our form inputs in the signup flow. The request was to save some space by moving the input labels inside the input. Since we of course use Scrum™️©℗ it was estimated as a 20 story point task. That did seem like a lot, I thought. I asked what the issue was, and it turned out it was difficult to achieve the same accessibility standards with this new proposal. I then asked design what they thought about that issue. "Well, Google has the exact same forms, so it can't be a problem, right? I mean, they know all sorts of algorithms there!!"

I didn't know what a "Google" was, but when I look at the very fictional search engine company Snoogle I get the point. Of course, my frontend engineers must have been wrong when a non-evil company like Snoogle has the exact same forms.

And that's how we broke the signup form of Headface.


One of the quotes I love the most is from UX-legend Jakob Nielsen: 

"Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know." 

And for a very long time, I believed strongly in this. But that was also at a time where the web was a very different place and had less JavaScript. It was a time when it almost made sense that Jakob Nielsen was fighting for everyone to make their links blue and no other colour.

If I know by visiting one site that the blue text is always a link, I can easily navigate the next site I visit. While the web is different today, it's at the same time very monotonous. Often I'll hear: "Oh, look how Stripe is using gradients. We should do that too!" or "Oh, you can like things on Facebook, we should do that too!" or even "Ooooh, Google made form labels inside of the input, we should do that!"

Following Jakob's Law, this is a good thing, right? Sadly, no. We are now at a state where copying what the big companies are doing often involves copying their accessibility issues. The benefit of Jakob's Law is to reduce the mental load of navigating the web, and currently, we are only doing this for people who doesn't need assistive technologies. Some would even say that the web is already broken because of this.

When you copy things, you copy everything - including their technical risks.


These were my product development notes from week 11. See you next week!