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User Inyerface makes you appreciate good web design by making you suffer the worst

It is often said that good design is invisible. In the context of user interface (UI) design, good design is not something that the average user looks at and says “wow, that’s a good design!” Rather, a well-designed user interface is so easy to interact with, read and navigate that the user doesn’t have to think about the interface at all – as if it’s not even there.

This is achieved by using universally understood design rules that are considered “best practice” and that provide visual cues toward function. For example, underlined text usually indicates a link, three dots or horizontal lines at the top indicate a menu, and a button of a certain colour, shape or size will indicate a specific state or perform a specific task.

Three horizontal bars on the top-left of the YouTube website indicate a menu that can be expanded
Three horizontal bars on the top-left of the YouTube website indicate a menu that can be expanded

Whether we’re watching videos, ordering food, or checking email, we are guided by these and countless other visual cues that have been established from years of work and analysis by interface designers. It’s a language we’ve unconsciously learned, and without it, we’d be forced to sit through a tutorial for every new interface.

So what happens when an interface throws good design practice out the window? Meet User Inyerface, a hilariously and intentionally difficult-to-use website created to show just how much we rely on our instincts and design conventions to interact with the modern web.

User Inyerface
User Inyerface starting screen

Developed by Antwerp-based design firm Bagaar, User Inyerface is a game that asks you to complete a series of forms as quickly as possible. However, the game takes your expectations and assumptions about interface elements and manipulates them to trip you up.

Even starting the game is an exercise in frustration. The only element that appears to be interactive on the starting screen is a big green button labelled “NO”. Clicking it does nothing. The line underneath it is filled with further clever misdirections. You will laugh in bitter frustration when you eventually find the true way to proceed – by clicking on the word “HERE”, which doesn’t trigger the hand pointer to appear when hovered over.

Bows, bows and bows – User Inyerface's frustrating image identification CAPTCHA
Bows, bows and bows – User Inyerface’s frustrating image identification CAPTCHA

What follows is a gauntlet of almost impossible-to-resolve interactions that are as amusing as they are enraging. Among them are complicated password rules, form fields that don’t clear placeholder text, annoying pop-up windows and, to top it all off, an image identification CAPTCHA from hell. Even if you’re a regular internet user, chances are something here will trip you up. (Not even the Tab key will cooperate with these forms!) And to add to the pressure, User Inyerface also has a timer clocking how long it takes you to complete the game.

While there is surely nothing on the internet quite as horrifying as User Inyerface, it gives you an idea of the hard work that goes into making your online browsing and transactions as smooth as possible. When done well, the experience is seamless. But, as User Inyerface shows, bad design decisions can be more than just bumps in the road – they can cause you to descend into madness.