NYT reference search: Stain on an otherwise decent site

While I’m reading an article online, I highlight words and paragraphs and click randomly around the page.

I don’t know why. It’s weird.

I read the New York Times. A lot. Recently, they came up with a so-called feature that lets you highlight a word and double-click it to get a popup window with related reference information. So imagine a caffeinated random-clicker like me trying to read NYT – more pop-ups than a GD porn site, and for stupid things like the word “the.”

But apparently I’m not the only one in the world that does this. In fact, there’s a small movement to get this feature removed, or at least provide a way to opt-out. There’s even a little button and everything. Yes!

Aside from weirdos exhibiting random-click behavior, here’s some other reasons why this feature sucks:

  • Violation of user expectations: 99.9% of Web sites don’t behave this way. Surprising users with unexpected behavior is a core usability violation. Most annoying is that this behavior is triggered anywhere you double-click on the page. ANYWHERE!
  • Popups!: Users hate them. Regardless of any good intent, years of popup abuse have now instilled an associated feeling of dread. In the Web 2.0 world, there are surely more slick and unobtrusive solutions.
  • Feature overload: It’s just too much. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Less is more. Etc etc etc.