07 August 2011 ~ 1 Comment

Slip ‘N Slide

A common practice in product development is assuming that a successful execution can be dropped into an unrelated context.

Take the iOS sliders as an example:

These work well with a touch-based OS, as you ‘grab’ the raised portion of the component and literally slide it from left to right (or vice versa).  You’re moving the component from one location to another and the completion of that movement correlates with the value being modified.

Take a look at the American Express communication preferences:

I haven’t seen a control like this on a web site, though I assume the analogue is the iOS slider control, so here’s me attempting to grab and slide it:

What we have here is a component that relocates when you click it.  This is different than the iOS slide where you take responsibility for the relocation.

These are on/off options and our vocabulary is for those is well-understood – checkboxes!  Spend less time on this sort of thing please :)

24 July 2011 ~ 2 Comments


A few weeks back I was in Youngstown, Ohio.  Figuring Verizon’s reception would be better than the wireless in the hotel, I picked up some GBs on the run (a little over 1000) and signed up for the iPad data plan.  As it turns out, wireless contention isn’t an issue in rural Youngstown hotels.  Regardless :) I’d like to cancel the recurring 3G data plan so here we go.

Which one of these will help me cancel my plan?

  1. I’d like to think the button labelled Cancel next to Cellular Data Account would do the trick.  Unfortunately that just closes the window.  Given that this is a status window, “Cancel” isn’t appropriate – you aren’t “cancelling” any action in progress or pending.  E.g. if this were a dialog that said “Printing… 1 of 3… 2 of 3…”, an option to cancel would be appropriate.
  2. Hmm… well I don’t want to change my plan.  I want to get rid of it.  In some wacky way, a “cancel” is a form of “change” so this is also a candidate.
  3. This is viable as well – perhaps I have to delete my account to cancel and sign up each time?

If you guessed (2), you’re the lucky winner!

How about some slight changes to remove ambiguity and conform with iPad standards?

Notice the replacement of the Cancel button with a Back button, positioned as one would expect on the iPad.  All plan changes (including cancelling) are clearly indicated on the first option.  This isn’t a grand redesign, just a slight tweak :)

11 June 2011 ~ 0 Comments

How Not to Write an Error Message

Or “How Not to Re-launch Your Website.”

AT&T recently unveiled their new and improved customer portal.  I’ve only been able to experience the front page though, so I’ll have to ask around as to what the rest of the experience is like.

Here’s a screenshot of my failed login attempt:

A few points of question:

  1. This error message seems to indicate that there’s a transient error with AT&T’s system.  I would like it to tell me whether or not this is a maintenance window or when I could expect to be able to login again.
  2. This error message seems to contradict the first error message.  Is there a system error as described in (1) or did I enter my password incorrectly?
  3. Which “drop down menu” should I be choosing on this page?

I’m going to guess that the people designing the site are not the people writing the error messages… that the team responsible for internationalization and localization (i.e. translating the error messages, etc.) were working off of a different specification of what the ultimate site would look like and hence the confusing language.

If this is indeed systemic, I would expect alarm bells to be going off in AT&T’s call centers for fielding more calls because the portal is busto.

Then again, years of substandard reception, dropped calls and poor call quality for their iPhone users didn’t prompt them to do anything so I’m not surprised :) (but also :( since I’m a paying subscriber!).


22 March 2011 ~ 2 Comments

How Often Do You Watch Assassinations?

After returning The American, Netflix prompts me for some information that will help it make better suggestions.

This seems like such an interesting preference to have.

“Why yes, I love movies about assassination! I enjoy seeing people getting what’s coming to them… in the most extreme and final way possible.”

19 March 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Is It Nice This Time of Year?

Being offered this choice at the Asus home page reminded me…

Asus Home Page

I’ve always wanted to visit Latin Spanish. I wonder what it’s like in March?

13 February 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Did You Get All That?

In order to understand what you’re buying at GoDaddy, a course in early Egyptian hierogplyhs is required.

I don’t even know how to type those characters :)

30 December 2010 ~ 1 Comment

Netflix, I’m Dying To Know

What did I watch?! :)

28 December 2010 ~ 1 Comment

Prominently Placed

I found this image from a Borders mailer interesting.  Note what’s adjacent the arrow.

I believe that’s a progress bar.

Would not be my first choice for a product shot :)

26 December 2010 ~ 0 Comments

A Fighting Chance

Pokin and I are frequent users of Priceline.  Being 45 minutes from LA and a bit over an hour from Seattle, we head down (and up) a few times a year.  We’re savvy enough travelers that we can get Priceline to give us decent deals in great locations.  After each stay, we receive an email from Priceline asking us to rate the  hotel.  That link takes you to a page that looks like this:

The first visible page of the form contains 92 radio buttons.  Across the three screen-fulls of this form there are a total of 125 controls for 25 questions.

When faced with a wall of controls like this, I feel overwhelmed.  I mentally switch off for a few reasons:

  • There’s a disconnect between when I expected and what I received when I followed the link.  When I click that link I’m expecting a tight query for my thoughts on the Hotel Andra.  Instead there is (for example) a question about whether or not I’d recommend Priceline.

Take this feedback form from OpenTable.  Note the use of background contrast to indicate which section is important/requred.

Back to Priceline:

  • They’re asking for questions that make their lives easier, yet have nothing to do with my desire to giving feedback.  These questions are so that my input can more easily fit into the various slots on the Priceline website where it’s likely to appear.  In addition to asking for my time to make their website more valuable, they’re asking me for additional time to make it easier for them to do so.  For example:
    • “Tell us something you liked about this hotel in 20 words or less.”
    • “Tell us something you did not like about this hotel in 20 words or less.”
  • I  notice that the “on a scale of 1 to 10…” style of rating, which is far too granular.  How can I choose between 6 and 7?  Or 2 and 3?  It’s easier (and faster) for me to make gross assessments like the difference between a 5 and a 10.  They’ve decreased the chances they’ll get anything because of analysis paralysis – there’s too many notches on that scale.

If Priceline wants to increase the chance that I’ll fill this out, how about a bit of progressive disclosure?

Progressive disclosure is an interaction design technique that sequences information and actions across several screens in order to reduce feelings of overwhelm for the user. By disclosing information progressively, you reveal only the essentials and help the user manage the complexity of feature-rich sites or applications.

There are two questions here worth answering, or at least the two that I’d like to answer:

  • Rate your overall experience at the hotel
  • Write a short review

How about starting with those, and giving me a reason to keep going?  Here’s a quick suggestion:

By prompting with the shorter version to start, you increase the chance you’ll get any feedback at all and you’re giving people a reason to continue.  Instead of monetary incentives, you can use social prompting as well, e.g. “The more you tell us, the more you help other travelers like yourself!”

If Priceline’s desire is to capture as much feedback as possible, I suggest they start small and stick with sound principles to decrease abandonment and give their users (and themselves) a fighting chance when faced with such a daunting form.

25 December 2010 ~ 1 Comment

How do we do it? Volume!

Price alert from Amazon.  Finally, I can pull the trigger!