It’s been a long year. After teaching an interface design class for two quarters (spring and fall), I’ve reinforced some of my biases, added others, and altered a few. And after trying to write this two times a month — with teaching and assorted personal life trials — I’ve come to realize that once a month is far more realistic.
I’m closing the year with a few random thoughts on design and customer courtesy.
The Goal: “always open for business”
One of my personal gripes is with Ticketmaster — which (still) insists on closing its doors for eight hours each day. Invariably, since I’m on the west coast, and am a night person, they close when I want to buy tickets.
I was surprised to find that my Internet Presence Provider, Pair Networks in Pittsburgh, does the same thing.
I don’t begrudge them the desire to take the service offline — but 48 hours for a backup?
Preserve me from pop-ups
I know that the advertisers are ecstatic about pop-ups and pop-unders and over-sized inline ads. As a consumer of web sites, I’m not. As a communications practitioner, I would be hard-pressed to advise a client to buy them.
Why? They are intrusive. It’s as though someone came up to you in the hall, in the elevator, at a cocktail party … stuck their face in your “space” and starting yelling at you. Bah. Anyone who thinks that the newspaper model of advertising (ratio of ads to content is about 70-30) is going to work on the web better get a clue. And the rank-and-file public (almost) universally dislikes the two most intrusive ads — telemarketing and TV commercials. Get a clue and figure out another revenue model.
I’ve never understood the logic behind buying URLs that are “common misspellings” of major brand names. For example, I was trying to get to the American Express web site to make an online payment, when I encountered this mess:
Why in the world would I stay here? I was typing the URL because I was in “task mode” … and they think I’ll hang around at americanexpess to find a cheaper long distance provider? Think again.
Would some philanthropist please make a donation to Alan Cooper — and have copies of About Face delivered to every programmer in America? Mac ones included? I suppose this one belongs in the Interface Hall of Shame as an excellent example of an error message that is exceedingly unusable.
My patience, never available in great quantities, seems to grow more thin the longer I work with computers and the WWW. Admission: I’m starting my fourth decade (ack!), having toyed with Fortran my senior year at the University of Georgia in the late 70s. If my experience (and attitude) are at all representative, customer service on the Web had best improve exponentially.