This is a story on phone menus, though it applies to anything where the user interface can change. I phoned in a refill on a prescription this morning. The phone system lets you choose when you plan on picking it up, presumably so that the pharmacy can prioritize people who are coming in sooner. Generally, it asks you to enter the hour, then #, then 1 for AM or 2 for PM.
I wanted to swing by around noon, so I entered 12, then #, and then without listening for the option, I hit 2. I wanted to pick it up around 12:00 pm.
So I was surprised to hear, “We’re sorry, the pharmacy is not open at midnight.” I flashed back to elementary school, when I was out on the field trying to explain to my friends why noon was 12 PM and not 12 AM as they insisted. Had someone managed to get into a programming position, without clearing that up?
As I re-entered the time, I listened for the options. It turns out that they had anticipated just such confusion, as after I chose 12, the option was, “Please enter 1 for noon, or 2 for midnight.” That works great for people who are using the system for the first time, whether they know noon is PM or not. Unfortunately, for people who have been using it for years and (normally) don’t need to listen to the options, it switches the buttons around. It’s like those WinZip registration dialog boxes that would rearrange the buttons every time, so that you couldn’t just click through, you’d have to pay at least some attention to it.
Of course, then there’s the question of why it even gives you the option for midnight…