Written by HouHou

14th September 2020

5 minute read

Today is more of a personal gripe


It’s about a tool that I use regularly to do the job I do (that’s testing stuff to make sure it’s not broken, in case you’d not twigged). A lot of the URLs I need to visit are loooooooooooooooooooooong – this is because they’re usually hosted on some staging site somewhere, or have additional parameters on the URL for me to be able to preview something, such as a particular variation on an A/B test. If you’re familiar with any A/B testing platforms, you’ll know this to be true. Copying and pasting a URL string is fine, there is no room for messing up here, so often I can merrily be on my way and get to the URL I want with relative ease – but it’s not always the case that I can CTRL C and CTRL V a URL from one place into a browser URL bar. Let me give you an example: Nearly all of the testing and QA work I carry out is done on a physical device – not on a cloud service like browserstack or crossbrowsertesting.

The reasons for this would need another blog post (which I will get around to soon enough) but in my experience, testing stuff on a device in your hand is always the way to go. Imagine now, that you are testing something that is sat on a URL with 30 or 40 characters in it… am I going to spend my time painfully typing that in on a virtual keyboard? Nope, probably not. The error rate is too high, and to be frank, trying to fix an invalid URL with fat fingers on a touch screen is enough to drive anyone mad.

There are of course a couple of solutions around this – I could email the URL to myself on the device for example – but I don’t have email set up on the many testing devices that litter my desk on a daily basis. Another solution is to use a URL shortener, such as or tinyurl. At least then I’ve only have say 10 characters to type in. This is a great solution, but today I realised there is a fundamental flaw in the product, for the way that I (and I assume others) may be using it.

It’s to do with fonts. And in particular how characters such as 0 (zero), 1 (one), O (capital o), I (capital i) and l (lowercase L) are displayed depending on the font you are displaying the text in. Lets take a look:

Can you tell what is a 0 or an O or a 1 or an I or a l? No me either… and after several attempts at trying to get this URL correctly typed in a browser bar, I gave up. So where was I going wrong? The only way to find out was to copy and paste the shortened URL into good old Notepad, which, not too unlike Houdini, revealed I was getting the characters mixed up. 

So what I assumed was a capital O was in fact a 0, and what I thought was a 1 was an I. No wonder I kept getting a “oh dear, you broke the internet page” when I tried to load the page. The point of this post? Make sure you font choices are suitable for the task a user is performing – if someone needs to know if a 0 is 0 or an O is an O or a 1 is a 1 or an I is an I, or a l is a l and they don’t have the luxury of CTRL C or CTRL V – choose a font that doesn’t make it necessary for them to copy and paste something into notepad to figure out what characters are. </end moan>

You Might Also Like…

Not supported? Not interested!

Not supported? Not interested!

Nothing in this life irks me more than the sheer volume of tripe I get in my inbox every day. So much so in fact, the...

Chunky Monkey

Chunky Monkey

Embracing Chunk It seems to me there is an ongoing plethera of mess ups when it comes to data entry. Especially when...