Bad Dialog UI from E Text Editor

I started using the E Text Editor. Today I wanted to change the font to try something new. (I’m not a huge fan of Courier) Anyway, I get into the theme editing dialog (because that is where the font is stored, even though the font seems to be for all themes). It turns out that you can only get out of the theme editing dialog by clicking the close box at the top of the dialog, there is no “Ok” button. I’m smart enough to figure this out, but the interface is not intuitive.

Here’s a screenshot:

Suggestions for Building a Successful Business Website

Per usual, I’ve been surfing the web. Here are some frustrations I have with some business sites:

  • Items Are Out of Date. Sometimes when browsing a site I will see information about events that have long since expired. This information is not pertinent, and tells the user that you don’t keep your information up to date. What does that say about your business? If you aren’t detail oriented in your website, how are you when it comes to making your products or fulfilling your services? It might also be harder to see upcoming events if there are bunch of past events in the way. I don’t care about the last six months of wine tastings, I care about the next three weeks.
  • Your site is missing information. Quick! I need your phone number! Wait, I’m driving to your office, but I forget your exact address. You’d be surprised how many times I have looked for the address of business and been unable to find on their website. Sometimes Google Maps will be able to help me, but not always. The most important and common questions should be the easiest to find. If you are a consumer facing business, you should have your address and phone number in the footer of every page on your site. You should also have a contact page, containing the same information.
  • You assume a level of interest/knowledge I don’t possess. You are most successful Fencing gym in the bay area when it comes to split match foil saber fighting. One problem, I’m new to fencing, and I just want to learn. I have no idea what split match foil saber fighting is (t’s made up for the purpose of this post). Yeah, it’s nice that you are the best at it, but what I really want to know is how to get started. What classes are appropriate for me? Your claim is a little like boasting, and not relevant to me. If you HAVE to use technical vocabulary put references to the terms so I can understand it. Along those lines:
  • Relevant information is hidden. When putting together your web site, spend some time considering the user classes that will visit your site. If you are looking for new business, listing your products and services and how people can buy them should be the first thing on your page. If you are creating a site for people that are already a part of your business, then maybe technical terms are okay. If you are trying to get both, optimize for new people coming to your business. Once people are convinced you are amazing, they will spend the time click another link to get to their content.
  • There are still pages under construction. One of my favorite companies is guilty of this. I swear by my Field Notes, but their website has a page called “The Sheet Team” which has been in a state of non-completion for as long as the site has been up. If the page isn’t ready, don’t post it. Don’t put in a place holder, don’t leave more clutter on the site. You might get one chance at your users’ attention, capitalize on it.

This isn’t the end all list to designing a business website, but is a list of some concerns I have with a lot of sites I visit. Even if you are successful with your website, you might be more successful by fixing the problems above. Remember, your competitors are always trying to improve, you should too. In this world where technology is only expanding, making sure your website is up to snuff is an important part of running a successful business.

Best Payment Form I’ve Seen

I purchased the MacHeist bundle today. If you’re not familiar with it, its a collection of Mac Apps that this group puts together and sells rediculously cheap. I spent 20 bucks, only for one app that I really wanted (Flow by Extend Mac).

Regardless, this post is not about that bundle. It’s about my checkout experience. It was amazing. Textbook UI for checkout. Here’s a screenshot of the payment section:

Lets talk about what they did right here. Firstly, they allow you to pick between Credit Card and Paypal. Note, they don’t make you select which type of credit card you are using. They only support Visa and Mastercard, and they can use the digits of the card to determine which you are using, so they don’t need you to provide that information.

Next two fields are standard, “Name on Card” is easy is enough to figure out and if you don’t you know where to find your credit card number, you’ve got bigger problems.

Next is the expiration date. Lets talk about what makes this field so great. Firstly, they list both the month number and the name. This is very clear. It shows you that you are talking about months and displays the context in relation to the month number. The key here is that they number is first. This means that if your browser supports it, you can start typing with the field selected and get straight to the month number. Also note how this field is a two digit number? Add clarity as the numbers will align in the pull down.

Next is the security code, they have a little credit card graphic to indicate where to find your code. Very helpful.

Next you move on to the address information. There is a clear separation between the Credit Card info and the address info. Breaking forms up makes them easier to parse. None of this information is overly hard, but large blocks of form fields can be intimidating.

All in all, this is the best online checkout experience I’ve had for some time.

Mozy Site Redesign, bad blue text

Mozy is a solution for personal and professional computing backup. They will install some software on your PC to back up your machine using their remote location. I’ve had Mozy for nearly two years, and honestly, I hate it. There software brings my machine to a crawl. The backups take forever. They presets for backups don’t cover everything I want. Not to mention their desktop software just randomly stopped working. When I try to remove and reinstall it, it sill doesn’t show up. I’m sure I could spend more time looking into what is going on with the install and fix it, but honestly, I pay for this service and it should just work. I haven’t done anything crazy.

Yesterday, I got an email about Mozy redesigning their website. When I first went to check it out, the site was unavailable. Not just the page they sent me to, but the entire site, was down. That is a real good sign from someone you trust with your data. I mean it’s not a security concern so much as a reliability concern.

When the site finally did come up, I was putt off by parts of it. One part in particular and that is what I want to talk about now. Lets talk about blue text.

Before I get ahead of myself, here’s a screen shot of the entire site.

At first, not bad. Nothing that I think is radical about it. It wouldn’t make my list of top sites, but it is clean simple and clear. Looks like they have a good message and they are using imagery to convince me this is a personal company that wants to help.

My eye got drawn the gray box in the center of the page.

This was again, okay, because they want want me to sign up, and that is where the sign up link is. Alright. Now, I see “Mozy has a plan just for your size.” in blue text. Yes, there is a clear “Learn More”, but I see blue (highlighted) text and and I want to click on it. Granted I’m picky, but I believe if you have blue text it should be a link. Especially if you have content related to that text.

Take a second and look back at the main image. You will notice that in the boxes below, blue text does represent a link. In the “Sign up for Mozy” button, blue text is a link. In the “View the Mozy intro video” graphic in the top box, blue text is used for a link.

In this one case, blue text is just that, text. The link is right below it. This is confusing, and frustrating. I got upset and ended up not even clicking on the “Learn More”.

Why is blue text bad? Honestly, it’s legacy reasons. When the web was first recreated, links were highlighted in blue and underlined. With the introduction of CSS, many sites have switched away from blue text as a link.

Aside from legacy reasons, there is notion of consistency throughout the site. If you are going to use blue to highlight links, do it throughout the site.

Facebook Is Losing It’s Fun

Today I decided to create a Facebook account as woodside’s cheerleading coach. The benefit of this account is that it keeps its distance from my personal Facebook network, but still allows me to create events and groups for Woodside cheerleading. Anyway, I wanted my name to “Coach Zack”. Facebook rejected the name. So I tried to create ‘Zachary “Coach” Cohen’, again, Facebook automatically rejected it.

Now I have been a big Facebook fan in the past, but of recent, I’m more dissapointed with them. I feel like they have started to remove the “fun” aspect of the application. Facebook used to be more about the network, and it is has turned into almost a twitter status message board. I’ve gone from checking Facebook twice a day, to checkign it once a week, if I get an email.

Please Facebook, bring the fun back.


Apple’s iLife is TOO Good

In an amazing post on Daring Fireball John Gruber quotes the technology directory for a public school in Massachusetts:

However, even iLife has its drawbacks in an educational setting. It simply hands so much to the students that they struggle with software (whether Windows, Linux, or even pro-level software on the Mac) that isn’t so brilliantly plug and play. Yes, iLife rocks in many ways, but the level of spoonfeeding it encourages actually makes me think twice about using it widely, especially at the high school level.

To which Gruber responds

So the problem with Apple’s iLife apps is that they’re too good, and kids never learn that they need to struggle with technical issues before using software to express themselves creatively.

I agree with Gruber. However, I don’t think we should limit the discussion to just creative Apps. Modern day software is built on complexity. A consultant at my company once said that if we made the software too easy to use, then the consultants would be out of work; our product wouldn’t sell because it would to be too easy to use. I don’t necessarily agree with the argument, but the fear is common, and not unique to my current company.

Would easier software put people out of work?

I don’t think so. I think it would change the focus. If we started designing our software with a greater attention to user experience, the access time could be spent on further improving that experience, instead of support calls. Apple’s iLife wasn’t easy to create. Each of the apps has had millions of reviews, UI meetings, discussions, arguments and refinements. This wondrous amount of work has lead to an incredibly intuitive suite of tools. It would be fantastic if we could switch our focus (as an industry), from simply providing more tools, to providing better tools. Perhaps than our software will “too easy” for them to teach in school.

No Photo Today

I’ve been trying very hard to post a new photo every week day to the Photo of the Day category. It’s not always easy deciding what I want to post, so sometimes I miss it. Today I spent about 30 minutes looking through my photos trying to decide where I wanted to go today. I finally found a photo, went to upload it, and boom: SmugMug is Down. While this post is dated yesterday, I can only assume that this is the issue still persisting.

Very not cool. I pay for this service, and while I don’t depend on Flickr for hosting images, I haven’t seen my hosting over there go down. While I’m happy that SmugMug is trying to preserve my data, if I were a professional photographer who used their site for my material, I would probably be pretty frustrated if I couldn’t upload a bunch of images. On top of which, if you are going to be down, post more updates to your status blog. Keep the users informed. I know you are busy trying to fix it, but let me know what is going on, more information == happier customer.

Chop Sticks and Their Effects on the Food I Eat

This is just a brief aside, but it occurred to me today that often times I will pick which restaurant I like based on the quality of the chopsticks they offer. Safeway, for example, gives out really bad chopsticks that never break cleanly. I end up with one huge nob at the end of one stick, and the other stick is a mini stick. The chinese food restaurant, on the other hand, gives out great chop sticks. They always break cleanly and are of good solid build that feel comfortable in your hands. Many of the Japanese restaurants also have good chop sticks.

I think it funny, yet sad, that I will enjoy a restaurant more based on their selection of chop sticks, but really, can you imagine eating a Michael Jordan’s steakhouse rib eye with a plastic fork and knife? I choose the place with better chopsticks.