X doesn’t mark the spot

I hate many, many things that web designers do. From layouts that break when you bump the font up to a readable size to menus that spill out over the content when your mouse happens to drift over a link, they seem determined to make their sites difficult to use. One of the stupidest web designer tricks is the close box that doesn’t close.

I’m sure you’ve seen it. A pseudo-window appears in front of a web page’s content, with either an ad or a request to subscribe blocking your view. In one of the pseudo-window’s corners is an X (or a box with an X in it or a circle with an X in it) with the word Close next to it. Here’s one from Salon:

Your long experience with real windows in your operating system leads you to flick your mouse up to the X and click it to make the damned ad go away.

And nothing happens.

Maybe you try again with the same non-result. Maybe you notice that your onscreen pointer doesn’t change into a hand when it’s over the X, which means the X isn’t a button, even though it looks for all the world like one.

No, you come to realize, the X is just a decoration, it’s the word Close next to the X that’s the real button.

There’s no reason the X can’t be part of the button. Or a button of its own, for that matter. But the same usability wizards who insist that you enter credit card numbers without spaces because they’re too lazy to code up a simple regex filter have decided it’s just too hard to make a Close button that works the way every Close button for the last 25 years has worked.