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Starting Again

For anyone who cares, I’ve started the website again. Web security is hard, so I’m not going to try and do it myself anymore. Who has the time? I’ll be getting the old posts up here soon.

Things you should be reading

Here’s a list of websites and publications that I read at least once a week. They’re quite useful and I thought I’d share!

Web D & D (Design and Development)

Smashing Magazine

Smashing Magazine is a daily webzine on the technology and business of Web Development. It never disappoints and the quality of the content they produce is simply astounding! Check them out today!

A List Apart

The New Yorker of Web Design and Development publications, A List Apart is the source for groundbreaking ideas in our industry.

JavaScript Weekly

A free, once–weekly e-mail round-up of JavaScript news and articles. JavaScript Weekly contains a plethora of JavaScript related news, info, and general awesomeness! Click the link to subscribe

Hacker Newsletter

A weekly newsletter of the best articles on startups, technology, programming, and more. All links are curated by hand from the popular Hacker News site. Hacker Newsletter contains all the tech news that should be on every hacker’s radar.

Intellectual Pursuits

Brain Pickings Weekly

A once-weekly, Sunday Morning, newsletter on a variety of topics: writing, design, creativity, science, philosophy, medicine, et. al. Brain Pickings is a curated list of articles that is sure to arouse every part of your brain!

Poor User Experience isn’t limited to the web

I recently took a road trip and found myself needing fuel (like you do). So I had a great idea to stop and gas up…little did I know that it would turn out to be more difficult than I originally imagined.

I pulled into the Marathon service station in Elizabethtown, KY and proceeded to initiate a transaction at the pump. I inserted and removed my card and was asked whether I wanted to use credit or debit. There was a row of buttons on the left side of the LCD and on the right side, and the arrows that pointed to the left side of the LCD screen did not match up with the buttons. I had intended to select debit…I missed.

After that I was greeted with a screen that simply read “ZIP CODE”. I assumed that to mean enter my zip code, which I attempted to do – 3 times. The reason I had to do it 3 times was because the screen did not show the digits as I pressed them, rather it substituted stars. This was not a password, PIN or other such ‘protected’ information … it was my zip code! There was also no auditory feedback as the buttons were pressed.

After I was finally able to successfully enter my zip code, I was then instructed to lift the lever and begin pumping. The only problem with that is that there was no lever. And there were no large yellow buttons either. I finally found a small, black, membrane switch near each octane rating sticker that simply read ‘Select’. Grrr…

After I was finally able to pump my gas, the time came to get my receipt. This time I was ready for the little arrows to not line up with the buttons… But I didn’t see them! The reason was this time the screen was asking me to push the buttons on the right side of the LCD, where it had previously been the left side! I was utterly flummoxed at how no design methodology was apparent in any stage of my transaction.

Pumping gas and paying at the pump is a ubiquitous transaction nowadays. So how is it that this company got it completely wrong? Because it’s so ubiquitous! Everyone knows how to do it, so no one tries to design it well. If I had been from a different country, or a new driver, or an amnesia patient – I would probably still be standing at that pump. The entire transaction was filled with inadequate information, contradictions and misdirections. Something that should have been simple was instead made complicated.

I had originally wanted to go in and grab some snacks after pumping my gas, but after such a dismal point-of-sale experience at the pump, I no longer had the time or energy to venture inside.

Maybe I’m the only one who has ever had this problem, but it seems like simple things should be, I don’t know – simple?

So, I talked to Google

You didn’t misread that title. I actually spoke to Google, on the phone no less!

A couple of weeks ago, I received a report that Google searches for “my employer, the city we are in, state” (names of employers and cities changed to protect the innocent) returned a Google Local result that had an incorrect phone number. The phone number belonged to our organization, but it was a phone number that went to straight to a voicemail. And anytime a voicemail was left for that number, a pager went off. And this was happening dozens of times a day. Not optimal, right?

So I Googled the problem, and the general consensus was that we’d have to claim that Google Local listing, wait to confirm (which requires about a week or two wait) and only THEN could we change the number. Again, not optimal. So I did something unorthodox, crazy really – I clicked the ‘HELP’ button! Shocking, I know. When I clicked the help button, there was an option on the right side of that popup to initiate a phone call. I thought “What the heck?” and clicked the button.

I was not disappointed.

After filling in my contact info, I was greeted by a ringing phone in less than a minute and began a conversation with a very nice young man named Sawyer. Sawyer took note of my problem and offered a resolution rather quickly: provide him with a published phone number on our company website that could be independently verified and he would be able to change the number. He sent me an initial message from a transactional email server, I replied, and then in less than 10 minutes the change showed up! I was absolutely delighted!

Here’s a little secret…Google is HUGE! But two weeks ago, they acted like a small business and interacted with me on the phone to solve a problem in 15 minutes that would have otherwise taken what (I’m sure) would have seemed an eternity to the person answering those phantom pages. Three cheers, Google!