Apple Discussions forums user interface

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
May 4th, 2010 • 10:41 am

Is it just me, or is the user interface for the Apple Discussions forums on the web pretty lousy?

I typically keep the threads I am currently reading or involved in open in Safari. I am also automatically subscribed to the threads that I start, so that I get e-mail notifications whenever someone posts a reply. So when I get an e-mail notification I tend to go back to the thread in Safari and reload it to see the new reply.

But because user sessions on the web at Apple Discussions tend to expire pretty quickly, I often find myself having to log in again if I want to add to the thread that I am currently participating in.

And that’s where all hell breaks loose.

If I try to reply to a post and my session has expired, Apple’s site takes me to a page asking me to log in. But when I do that and log in, I am taken back… to the Apple Discussions home page, instead of the specific thread that I had in my window before I was asked to log in again!

It is quite irritating to have to navigate back to the thread each time you have to log in again.

It gets worse. As a way to work around this problem, I thought I would just keep the basic sign-in page in a separate tab in Safari. My idea was that, whenever I wanted to make sure that I was logged in before trying to post a reply, I would just go to that tab, log in, and then go back to the tab with my current thread and reload it, which would then refresh it in a way that would make sure that it knew I was logged in and would let me post a reply.

Unfortunately, that does not work either, because… the sign-in page itself expires! Yes, even if you are not logged in, if you have the sign-in page loaded in a tab in Safari, you have to use it within a certain time frame to log in. If you do not and you wait too long, Apple’s servers reject your attempt to log in, saying that your session has expired.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that session expiration issues should only affect people who are logged in, not people who are not logged in! Why does the sign-in page itself have a time limit for its use? It’s ridiculous. I should be able to load the sign-in page in a Safari tab or window, and leave it open for days before I click on the “Sign In” button to sign in. It is just a basic web form for logging in. It should not be time-sensitive, because it does not use any resources on the server side! (At least it should not.)

Maybe there are security issues that are beyond my comprehension here that force Apple to open a session that expires even before you have actually logged in. But if so, the entire user interface needs to be rethought, because it’s far from obvious, from a user’s perspective, that even web browsing actions done before logging in are time-sensitive.

And that’s not all. When I encounter all these maddening issues in the Apple Discussions forums, I also frequently find that, if I try to click on the “Logout” or “Log in” link on the right-hand side of the web page, in the “Welcome, Pierre Igot” box, I get a blank web page with this:

An Internal Server Error Has Occurred.

Ironically, it seems to be a Safari-specific issue, because I cannot reproduce it either with Firefox or with Camino, both of which allow me to continue trying to work through the maze of logging in and logging out issues with Apple Discussions, even when Safari gives up on me and tells me that my actions are now causing “internal server errors.”

So to me it looks like the Apple Discussions forums actually work better with a browser other than Apple’s own Safari.

It is all very frustrating and very annoying. I can live with sessions expiring, but:

  1. The sign-in page itself should not expire (since I am not logged in yet).
  2. If I have a discussion thread open and I try to reply and Apple Discussions needs me to log in again, after I have logged in it should take me right back to the very discussion thread that I was trying to reply to, and not to the Apple Discussions home page.
  3. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that Apple’s own web site work properly in Apple’s own web browser, i.e. Safari, without throwing “internal server errors” at the user.

I will continue to use Apple Discussions, because its forums are valuable, but the user interface sure needs work.

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