A flaw in the system

Hey, Starz Originals’ utterly mediocre gangsta drama Power is back! Bit of a surprise there because the first season wasn’t really anything to write home about, but I guess it’s still less a surprise than the return of The Last Ship.

Anyway, in episode 2 we can find a classic example of bad mockup UI design. Angela Valdez, everyone’s favorite AUSA slash gangsta whore, is using the DOJ’s system to look up stuff on her friends. Because she has been kicked out of the task force she’s trying to break into the system using her former boyfriend’s account. I doubt he’ll appreciate that.

(c) Starz
(c) Starz

She’s having a bit of trouble figuring out the password, but after a few tries, she manages to get in using the woefully unsafe “grace”, the name of Gregory’s dog. Oh dear.

At least she’s in the system now and is greeted by this rather odd looking screen:

(c) Starz
(c) Starz

As evident from the Windows Explorer icon at the bottom of the screen, the operating system used is likely Windows 7. However, there’s no Start button and nothing else, not even a task icon for the foreground application, which looks kind of strange.

The app itself has likely been thrown together in Visual Studio and is supposed to be a case database. A little quiz here: how would you query a federal case database?

By entering the …

a) case number
b) case name (e.g. “United States vs. Bad Guy”)
c) defendant’s name and date of birth
d) your own name

If you answered b) you are likely on the team responsible for this mess of a mockup, because that’s exactly what Angela does: she queries the database by entering “United States vs. Felipe Lobos”, as if there was no way there’s two or more cases with the exact same name. Admittedly, in this case the name’s rather unique – for example, whitepages.com lists only one Felipe Lobos – but how would that work for “United States vs. Peter Muller“? Since checking on the wrong man would be kind of pointless and could also turn rather unpleasant for the poor sod, a real database would require some kind of secondary identification to pinpoint that exact person or case.

The database also contains audio files, which is handy since Angela wants to listen to a certain recording in order to hopefully identify that “Ghost” guy. She opens the recording and suddenly, the screen is all zoomed in and the app window doesn’t even fit anymore. The top left input field is empty …

(c) Starz
(c) Starz

or is it? Suddenly, the text has reappeared in the input field.

(c) Starz
(c) Starz

Listening to the audio file jogs her memory: it’s Tommy! She quickly conducts a background check on him, which is done via the window aptly titled Background Check. Not that there’s any visible way to even reach that window, but maybe she used a keyboard shortcut, who knows. Odd design nevertheless.

She queries the database for “Thomas Patrick Egan”, which happens to be Tommy’s real name:

(c) Starz
(c) Starz

Again, it would be a really bad idea to check on the wrong person, but Angela isn’t to blame here as the database app doesn’t even allow filtering by anything else than the name – not even a date of birth or social security number! And to add insult to injury, there’s no way to enter the first, middle and last name separately – designing a database used by law enforcement to work like that would not just be incredibly inefficient, but also extraordinarily stupid and dangerous.

2 comments

  1. Garbage review. Only an idiot would nitpick the finer details of a television show and not enjoy a show for what it is. Why does everything need to be so damm perfect. It’s not reality. Your a sad sad individual.

    1. There’s just one small problem: my post isn’t a review. And unless you happen to be 50 Cent in disguise, there’s absolutely no reason to throw ad hominem at me simply because I wrote a critical article about a mediocre TV show.

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