Oatmeal is great. If you have never saw his comics, you are missing out. Today’s comic on “what I want from a restaurant” is another classic. All web designers should show this to their clients. It argues clearly for “functional website“. Visually pretty website is nice, but do not trade it for function.
- Answer the most important question: What information does your website visitors want?
- Give them the information — your website is not sticky if the visitor leaves immediately instead of trying to find the information buried somewhere
- Do not get in their way — putting text in images, no matter how pretty, prevent people to copy and paste the text.
Reserve the Oatmeal book
You can watchMatthew Inman talks about his comic in this Ignite presentation:
What happened at the South End BSC (Boston Sports Club) blew my mind. Let me tell you the story first, then give you my analysis.
I teach private tai chi classes. One of my student is a member of this BSC. When the weather is not nice, we do our weekly class there. I belong to a different club already, so I do not have a great reason to join this one, as my student is either paying the guest fee, or we take advantage of sometimes a “free guest” day to do our class at the gym.
However I do live and work blocks away from this gym. So I decided to save my student some money, and also get a secondary gym that I can use, and join this club today.
After our class I sat down with the manager at the gym and about to sign up for a membership with an annual commitment worth $828 to them. Instead the manager very successfully annoyed my student/friend and me. I am not joining, and I think my friend, who has two memberships (husband and wife) at the gym is thinking about leaving.
Why? As my friend was listening to the membership cost, she realized that she has an older plan which is more expensive and has less feature. She of course ask the manager if she could switch to the new plan. The manager said “sure, but there is a $59 upgrade fee. “Surely you must be joking” we said, plus this member just gotten you a new member. The manager was less than helpful at the situation. She told my friend to take it or leave it.
That is not all. I knew there was a “one time joining fee” for the membership, of $58, which is pretty common for healthclub to get some additional revenues. I asked the manager if she would waive it. I would expect there is a 50/50 chance of her doing something, or offering something to “sweaten the deal”. Instead she said “no” pretty straight out. When I explained
that it is cheaper actually for us to pay the occassional guest fee so she is going to loose a membership sale because of this, she told me”well it is your choice”.
So we both walked out. It is not the money that is the issue. It is the way the manager responded to both situation. Even if the manager was a little bit more apologetic about
my friend’s situation, or offer a token gestures to my new members, maybe a coupon for a class (which I probably will never use), I would have joined. Instead she gave us a pretty definite “I don’t care” message.
For me, a healthclub a service oriented business. Sending a “we do not care” message is just plain dumb.
The healthclub business is a high fixed cost business — the lease, the equipment capital cost, utilities, staff etc. They make money by over selling memberships to get “utility” out of the fixed expenses. Adding member is the only way to make money. So face with the
situation of either not making the $828 + $59 fee, or just making the $828 membership, why would they not take the $828?
On the membership upgrade, it is worth potentially loosing two existing members
(a perpetual $160 / month ) over not making an extra $59 upgrade fee? It does not make any business sense.
Looking at Town Sports International (CLUB)’s financials, they are not doing so well. They finally made zero earnings per share last quarter, up from a loss of 7 cents per share same quarter last year. That is they were loosing 7 cents per a 3 dollar share. If they are doing so badly, why would they not empowered their employee to bring in more business, and retain
their membership base? Or maybe this is why the manager do not care, and why they are loosing money? Which is the chicken? Which is the egg?
Paypal is at the top of my bad vendor list (for business use). I setup a donation account for Esplanade Playspace, one of the non-profits that I am involved with. I know they want to verify that the organization is real. That is a good thing. But when I upload a document that relates to our 501c3 status, they tell me I cannot put more than three numbers in the file name? This is not even the actual file name, just the title field.
Our process for developing a website is to help the client express their brand and customer base, to help our designers come up with a consistent and effective design. Often, as a project picks up attention, the client committee size grows, or new people take charge, and they started “contributing” to the visual design over and over.
This is one respond I wrote today:
Sorry to be direct, but we are heading down the wrong path and time is precious:
It is not productive to spend time on the look. Designing by a revolving committee will never get us anywhere. Trust us on the current look—it’s a synthesis of ideas that has a lot of consistency to it.
In fact, the content management system is designed to discourage any visual tweaking by the content writer. Can you imagine all the New York Times reporting wanting to specify what font and colors for their articles when they are writing? We just need the content, and leave the visuals to the graphics designers.
So let’s get the content written, approved, and entered. And we are good.
The battery in my 8 month old Mac Book Pro seems to be broken. I scheduled a late night appointment at the only Retail store in Boston, near my loft. 25 minutes later, I walked away with a replacement battery and a smile on my face. Those Apple guys and women are oh so nice. They are courteous, professional, passionate, and fun. The Apple Genius handled my MBP with more care then me. The counter staff were friendly and helpful. On my way home one of the staff was heading back to the store, recognized me and said good night.
If you were a parent, and your teenager grows up and behave with such manners, professionalism, and people skills, wouldn’t you be proud?
Disclaimer — I have been to other suburb Apple store within a mall and the staff there are definitely not as good. Perhaps it’s a urban twenty-something thing here at the flagship store. So at least make those the role models.
True story, metaphorically speaking:
Client: Our customers expect us to meet them in San Francisco to run a in person workshop with all of us in a week.
Me: Great. I looked and found a great cheap flight for all of us. Let’s work on what gear to bring and get there one day before to setup.
Their Developer: Wait, I have never been on an airplane.
Me: Really? It will be fun to fly for the first time. I can pick you up at your house and show you around the airport.
Developer: No. I do not want to fly.
Me: Ok. I’ll rent a big SUV and let’s do a road trip. We can work on the presentation on the way.
Developer: No. I am riding my bicycle.
Me: Bicycling from Boston to San Francisco in one week? I don’t think we are that fit.
Developer: I haven’t ridden a bike since I was a kid. But I see people riding bicycles all the time to work.
Me: Yes. Commuting to work is great, exercise and good for the environment.
Developer: See? Let’s go buy some bikes.
Me: Do you really want to tell your customers that you will be there in one week by
riding your bike from Boston to San Francisco?
Me: Ok. I’ll rent a SUV. I’ll make sure it as a GPS. Let’s pack up and leave first thing tomorrow.
Developer: No. We need to buy maps.
Me: GPS is easier.
Developer: I have never seen a GPS. Can you explain how they work?
Me: Sure. There are satellites in the sky, and the GPS receiver takes multiple signals…. Wait. We
don’t have time for this. You can google it and read about it on the way.
Developer: I don’t trust GPS if I don’t know how it works.
Me: GPS has been around for a long time. I’ll let you play with it once we get started.
Developer: I want to get a GPS for my bicycle first to try. Maybe we can just mail them a picture
of us on our bicycles instead?