Mystery Solved

We recently (well, last summer) launched Aquabrowser as our main library catalogue. We provided a feedback link for people to comment on the new interface, as we were keen to pick up on functionality it lacked or issues we may not have thought off. You can see the feedback link on the green bar on the right, it asks the user to login, and then provides a feedback form to leave a message.


We started to get a lot of feedback. We have feedback links on most web services we run and normally would get no more than one a year. What’s more many left one word responses, sometimes gibberish.

This was strange. The link was quite discrete. Why would people follow the link, sign-in and then just leave a few words, if any? why click the link in the first place. Even stranger, some left short cryptic messages along the lines that they were asked/forced to do it. Why? And by Whom?!

Still they came in, not huge amount but one or two a day. We even ask a few people why they left a message of random characters but got no answer.

Perhaps there was a link elsewhere on the web? We added something to the feedback form so that it tried to include the email it sent us the Referring page URL. This only semi worked as the authentication page (outside of our control) was in the middle, but didn’t throw up any clues.

It was frustrating, clearly something was making people follow this link, and continue to complete the page. Why?

It was during another batch of emails coming though in in January that again I tried asking people out of interest why they provided us with feedback. At last someone answered; they were just trying to renew their books and it came up.

This didn’t make sense. The few links to ‘My Account’ were clearly labelled and they were no where near to the feedback link. These were normal static links, no special code of javascript. They are on different servers and systems. How could a large number of people end up at our feedback page?

I thanked the user for her response, and then asked if they could explain a bit more. They confirmed they just clicked on the My Account link on the top left of the screen. Impossible!

I can’t quite explain the next line of thought, but it was something to do with the links being far away from each other. I tried resizing my browser. This happened:


It’s hard to spot. The two links on the far right have wrapped around on the green bar, they are almost unseen.

Just underneath the ‘My Account’ link you can see the tops of the tall letters for the Feedback link. The penny drops! It seems so obvious now. It quickly became clear that due to the html/css (imperfect) design of the page clicking on parts of the word ‘My Account’ would actually use the feedback link, and so take users to the Feedback page. They quite reasonably thought that they had to fill out the form before they could renew their books.

I can now sleep soundly at night. Mystery Solved.