Interface rage

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Interface rage is a name for the strong frustration felt by users when dealing with unresponsive or inscrutable computer software, or with a large and complex organization they must interact with that is controlled by complex rules. The rage is aimed at these systems' apparent design flaws and inefficiencies, and the resulting lack of usability.

As such, it is a subset of computer rage (which, other than by defective software interfaces, can also be triggered by electrical or electronic glitches, malfunctioning peripherals, and under-powered hardware). However, interface rage also includes the frustration felt when dealing with a large organization or service that is supposed to help someone, but instead appears to throw up almost impenetrable barriers.


While bureaucracies are known for Red Tape (as embodied in the Iron Cage concept), and software has many known difficulties,[1] the problem is not the amount of effort needed to achieve a result, but not knowing what type of effort will be required, while wasting time following false leads. There is also uncertainty whether the goal is achievable at all.[2] This is primarily a problem of interface design.

Software interfaces

In computer engineering, the user interface is vastly less intelligent than the human user who must adapt to it.

A primary frustration is discovering how to use an interface to carry out a desired action. Many programs have steep learning curves. Even after many years of use, most program functions may remain obscure.[3]

A second frustration may be a well-understood but needlessly elaborate interface function, where it takes a long time to finish a simple task, with no way to simplify the procedure. The interface may also be intrusive, as when a Modal window or dialog box suddenly appears on the screen.

A third frustration may be an unreliable interface. Many programs have poor responsiveness. They will often appear to freeze or hang, without even a progress indicator to show if the program is still working or has crashed. The above represent failures of responsive web design.[4]


Bad software interface design is said to cause its designers to lose money.[5] However, critics of Microsoft claim the software giant has benefited from Microsoft Windows interface flaws through its alleged embrace, extend, and extinguish strategy. Windows users would not feel rage at the strategy itself, but at the flaws[6] of allegedly prematurely released software designed to quickly gain market share at the expense of usability. More recently, critics have claimed Windows 8 had many frustrating flaws in part because the operating system was released to help Microsoft quickly integrate the tablet and PC markets.[7][8][9]


The pathetic fallacy is imbuing inanimate objects with human agency and intentions. Reification is the fallacy of seeing such agency in abstract or non-material things.[10]

However, a sufferer from interface rage might feel that the programmers of the uncooperative software are evil, not the object they programmed.[11]

Larger interfaces

On a larger scale, interface rage appears when dealing with so-called confusopolies. However, most such frustrations are not the result of a deliberate effort to confuse customers, but to restrict their behavior to predefined options.[12][13] The rage should then be directed at the organization's inefficiency and indifference.[14]

Frequently listed examples of frustrating bureaucracies include the Indian civil service[15] and the organization of much of Russian society.[16] Many companies are also criticized for frustrating user experiences, including cable/satellite providers and banks.[17]

Another example is tech support rage. Many users of complex products become highly frustrated by the difficulty and time required to get them to work, and by being put on hold when they call the manufacturer's helpline. They often take out this anger on the customer service representative on the phone. To an extent, this frustration is deliberately designed to save money for the company, by discouraging calls and answering them with the fewest possible representatives. Part of the frustration occurs when a representative follows a script that ignores the user's comments and questions.[18] Usually, the customer isn't really angry at the representative, but at the product's unusable interface.[19]


  1. Jan Odvarko blog (retrieved Mar 10 2017)
  2. Stacy Shaw, "The Psychology of Computer Rage" (Dec 27, 2015)
  3. Jonathan Lazar, Adam Jones, Mary Hackley; "Severity and Impact of Computer User Frustration: A Comparison of Student and Workplace Users" (Dec 23, 2004) "Interacting with Computers" submission.
  4. Scott Berkun (Sep 2005)
  5. Jakob Nielsen (Apr 14 2008)
  6. (retrieved Mar 10 2017) "The user interface of Microsoft products is occasionally criticized for its inconsistency and complexity, requiring interactive wizards to function as an extra layer between the user and the interface."
  7. Brad Reed (Feb 10 2014)
  8. Brooke Crothers (May 10 2013)
  9. Some examples of rage (retrieved Mar 10 2017)
  10. Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, comments thread "Inanimate objects and anger"; (Jan 6, 2011)
  11. Computer Rage Survey, Laboratory for Automation Psychology and Decision Processes, University of Maryland, College Park; (2005); "Computer Rage: Reported Acts of Rage Against Computers" ; "Computer Rage: Types of Frustration"
  12. Christopher M. Barlow (retrieved Mar 10 2017) Levels of Bureaucracy
  14. examples listed in Jane Gilmore column "Rage and Bureaucracy" (Nov 27 2013)
  18. "Tech support rage" is described in the article (Jul 3, 2016)
  19. "Tech Support Little Help With End User Rage" (Apr 28, 2002)