Editor, Daily Nexus,

I have been teaching at UCSB for 14 years, yet I never had any reason to look at our registration system until my older son enrolled as a freshman this past fall. Having witnessed my son use the Web-based registration system twice, I am appalled by how it violates numerous rules of good user interface design that we routinely teach in our computer science and engineering courses.

To sign up for a chemistry lab that has tens of sections, a student must enter the enrollment code for each section in turn, until she or he finds one that is open. The one that is open may conflict with a previously chosen course, leading to the need for several iterations, all of these while worrying about the connection timing out. Imagine a person wanting to fly from Los Angeles to New York being required to look up flight codes in a book and then given a limited time to enter dozens of flight codes, one by one, until an open flight is found!

Why can’t a student enter the course number and his or her preferred times, with the computerized system listing all open sections in order of proximity to the desired time? One can go even further and expect that the student be able to enter a list of courses needed, with the machine generating feasible full or partial schedules and presenting them in graphical form.

It seems that the requirement for entering enrollment codes is a leftover from the days of registration by telephone when the user interface consisted of the very limited keypad input and voice output. Next time my students come up with awkward user interfaces in their assignments or projects, I will be less inclined to judge them harshly; after all, students do learn by example!