NASCAR problem

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The NASCAR problem is when there is a jumble of branding icons in a user interface, like 3rd party sign-in/login options or sharing buttons on websites, that is visually busy and often noisy, distracting, and overwhelming.

Why

It is dubbed the NASCAR problem because of these clusters of 3rd party icons/brands on websites resembles the collages of sponsorship decals covering NASCAR racing cars.

It's a problem because such clusters of icons/brands cause both visual noise and people to be confused (see Paradox of choice), overwhelmed or unlikely to remember individual icons, especially as the clusters seem to grow with the introduction of new 3rd party identity/profile/social sites and services.

Examples

Sign-in UI

A modern example of a NASCAR sign-in UI without OpenID:

Six 'sign in with' buttons for Google, Facebook, Twitter, Github, email, phone methods
Screenshot from the article The Decline of OpenID)

Payments

A modern example of a payment UI in Japan:

A massive mixed array of logos for various payment options

Origins

The phrase was originally coined by Daniel Burka of Digg to describe the user interface for signing in to websites that support third-party authentication protocols like OpenID.(date/time/source citation needed, from Chris Messina who made this assertion, likely mid-2000s though). Example of an OpenID sign-in UI with the NASCAR problem of a screen overwhelmed by brands:

  • 2009 screenshot of Stack Overflow sign-in UI as a (past) real-world example:

3417905877_24b4744046.jpg

  • 2006-05-11 concept: Jeff Atwood appears to be first to have made the comparison between brand/icon links to 3rd party social sites and NASCAR in his 2006-05-11 blog post Excess Blog Flair and analogy to NASCAR:
    Why do people want their blogs to look like NASCAR vehicles?

References

Press mentions

See Also