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How CRUD Is Your Design?

Feb 8, 2011 In Process By Daniel Ritzenthaler

If you’re a software developer or know one well, the acronym CRUD — Create, Read, Update and Delete — is burned into your vocabulary. These are some of the foundational elements of good software development, and each provides ways to keep your audience engaged.

When you take any one of these elements away from your users, there’s a good chance you’ll diminish the value of their experience. Here’s why.

Create

When your audience isn’t allowed or doesn’t know how to contribute, they become passive bystanders. Your website or application no longer provides an interaction or dialogue and it probably won’t lead to a meaningful user experience.

The more you treat your audience as equals, the better. If you’re a news community like Newsvine, invite your users to create news. If you’re a information community like Wikipedia, invite your audience to create information. If you sell products like Amazon, make ratings and reviews an important part of the interface.

Read

Confidence erodes when people can’t see data they’ve added to a website or application. They scratch their heads, wondering: Did it work? Did I do it right?

When uncertainty creeps in,people tend to blame themselves or the tool they’re using. Both scenarios are problematic,so show users where their data goes and how they can get back to it in the future.

Update

"There are just some things you can’t take back." This philosophy applies in the real world, but it should be avoided in a website or application.

People get nervous when they think an error they’ve made will become a permanent part of the system. So be liberal with your editing tools, and don’t hide them behind drop-downs, roll-overs or tool-tips.

Delete

People don’t like screwing up, especially in public. The ability to remove data will bring a serious dose of confidence to anyone creating content within a system. If you show them they can’t make a mistake, they’ll be much more likely to participate and give even more data.

CRUD As A Measure Of Control

There are scenarios where CRUD isn’t relevant: activity streams, automated recommendations, etc. These types of content can be interesting, exciting and even addictive, but be careful not to let them take over your website or application. Once your audience’s threshold of perceived control is lost, they’ll loose interest and move on.

So… How do you keep your audience engaged? How do you encourage them to participate? Remember, the amount of data that can be created, read, updated or deleted on your website is directly related to how in-control your audience will feel.

Leave a comment below to discuss how CRUD can make our designs more effective.

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25 comments so far. You should leave one, too.

mark mark said on Feb 8, 2011

Blinking and turning my tv on.

gregc said on Feb 9, 2011

What?? This looks like some random phrases joined together.

Trevor Trevor said on Feb 9, 2011

Applying CRUD to entities and relationships in a system can be a useful tool for estimating development effort. However relationship complexity (many-to-many) should be weighted to account for more complex UI interactions when implementing CRUD functionality

Michael Kingsford Gray said on Feb 9, 2011

I abandoned CRUD a long time ago in favour of Temporal Databases.
No "delete".
Just temporal obsolescence.
Everything is retained.
In these days of free mass storage, "deletes" are inexcusable.

Volunteer south africa Volunteer south africa said on Feb 9, 2011

I use Yii which has a built in CRUD

Chris F Carroll Chris F Carroll said on Feb 9, 2011

Spot on!
PS Ignore the comments who don''t know what you''re talking about, but bear in mind that using techy jargon (crud) means only the techies get the point.

Tiklu Tiklu said on Feb 9, 2011

Nice way of describing CRUD. Cool

MarrySunny said on Feb 9, 2011

Well, I agree with your theory, but implementation is another thing.

G369 G369 said on Feb 9, 2011

You''re talking about interaction.
When that''s possible, web interaction increase the user satisfaction.. Actives users learns more and will better remembers your words!

Chris Chris said on Feb 9, 2011

An Article on CRUD where there''s a sentence in the Delete paragraph that (accidentally) contradicts everything else you are writing about and also there''s not way to edit and delete your comments once you''ve made them. Nice!

Kyle said on Feb 9, 2011

Obviously this cannot be applied to every design. Even if I had a site I could apply this to, I would be very nervous. Allow people open acccess like this is trouble if it is not caught and filtered.

Semorad Semorad said on Feb 9, 2011

Nice to find, that someone have a look on the user instead on a machine :-)

mirdones said on Feb 9, 2011

Not all SW development are web based.

I can''t see any embedded SW using this kind of thing.

Just remember there isn''t just the web.

Almost everything now has a SW in it, and most of it is embedded and, if you does not perceive it, I am doing my job right.

Mark Mark said on Feb 9, 2011

A user friendly way of looking at CRUD :) CRUD and transaction based CRUD is used for service level descriptions of actions on data. What you have drawn out in the above blog post may have more to do with UX issues in interfaces. Interesting post :)

Randall Sexton Randall Sexton said on Feb 9, 2011

@Michael Kingsford: I understand your comment, but it is somewhat mistaken. You can use a temporal database design while still implementing CRUD functionality. You simply don''t work with (i.e. display to a user) records which are logically deleted. The ''delete'' is actually just marking a record as deleted (usually with a datetimestamp).

Your comment is completely off-track of what the author is trying to get across. Is it possible you missed the point?

sheepsimulator said on Feb 9, 2011

CRUD is acronym I''m familiar with to describe database code that does the basic jobs of creating/reading/updating/deleting.

I''ve never thought about CRUD from a user experience perspective... those are helpful guidelines.

Dan Ritz Dan Ritz said on Feb 9, 2011

Wow. Interesting comments so far...

@ Chris F Carroll - I think you nailed it. It''s a very techie acronym and means something slightly different to real software developers. It was a risky analogy!

@ Kyle - If your website audience is meant to be bystandards taking in info, then there is some danger to letting people create/edit/delete stuff. Applications where interaction is a core part of the strategy should try and do as much create/read/edit/delete as safely possible.

There''s a lot of websites that present themselves a being very interactive, but you can''t actually do anything. People sniff this out quickly and move on!

Bob said on Feb 10, 2011

CRUD is the poor, retarded cousin of task-based UI.

Dan Ritz Dan Ritz said on Feb 15, 2011

@ Bob - CRUD and task-based UI aren''t two apposing things. You can do both at the same time... So I''m not sure why you''re implying one is better than the other.

Task-based UI people really love their wizards, so that might be the problem. Can''t do anything except go through wizards. Which for a lot of people, wizards are a little piece of hell-on-earth.

Serp said on Feb 17, 2011

Indeed a bunch of over-generalized sentences. A funny read. Also, somehow most of the comments have grammatical errors. Also, your picture is outright scary - like someone photographed in prison, against a blank wall with a shadow from the flash, all flushed in a red tones, asymmetrical, and not sharp. Sorry.

Ibrahim Bright said on Mar 8, 2011

Personally i think CRUD sounds good.

iDCx said on Apr 18, 2011

CRUD me up... something i am playing with atm... all be it with macros and excel, but heck - i like enjoyed the post al the same.... cruddy thing...

creating/reading/updating/deleting - CRUD

nice post, ta.

iDCx

Ola said on Apr 28, 2011

hm Dan, I see you have a (unwarranted) tough crowd on your hands. It''s not a manual, but some great points for navigating the user experience.

Will definitely take a look at your other articles!

Brandon said on May 25, 2011

This article is going in my forever favorites. Making things usable has long been a frustration for developers moonlighting as designers, and I am no exception.

Designer said on May 9, 2012

Extremely helpful article for all of us who work in design!

Thank you!