August 15, 2002

Pop-Up Warfare: Is Peace Possible?
Clickz is a great site, and two recent articles on popup ads show why:

In Ad Policies or Ad Hoc?, Rebecca Lieb asks what standards publishers have for popups and what guidelines do they have in regards to user experience and interaction:

"An iVillage survey found 92.5 percent of its users thought pop-ups were the most irritating thing about the Web and the ads damaged advertisers' brands. Similarly, an AOL study recently found user satisfaction increased in inverse proportion to the number of pop-ups visitors saw. This prompted the company to cut back on the format."..."iVillage and AOL's decisions to nix (or reduce) usage of an ad format calls a larger issue into question: Have online publishers drafted formal policies or guidelines related to user experience?"..."an industrywide lack of policies and guidelines indicates publishers' approach to advertisers and users is ad hoc and reactive."

In Pop-Up Warfare: Is Peace Possible?, Tessa Wegert seeks some middle ground:
"Publishers share liability for letting the situation get this far by not insisting on better targeting and demanding frequency caps. As one of ClickZ's coeditors pointed out recently, it's about giving more thought to the user experience. The solution isn't to eschew ad formats users might find frustrating. Rather, it's to standardize the use of advertising in a way users will approve of. What better way to mollify visitors and still bring in the revenues pop-ups provide?"

Targeted ads are less intrusive - Google has proven this well. Popups and popunders generally suck, but if they were targeted more and didn't assault you from every page on a site, and if they would let you leave a site without one last parting plug, then they'd be much more tolerable.

Related posts:
- Pop-up ads are viruses
- Why I love pop-up ads
- Don't let your web site fall out of the window

Related elsewhere:
- Top five frustrations experienced by Web shoppers - by Luc Carton of LucDesk fame
- Net Mechanic - Pop-Up Windows And Accessibility
- UI Access - On Spawned Windows (accessibility considerations)

August 13, 2002

Our search is broken and we're broke
Sounds like the name of a blues song written by a geek band, but it's just the title of this post...don't dwell on it too much. The Intranet Journal has a couple of good articles on search. They cover problems with poor quality search, metadata, taxonomies, and meta-taggin' tools:

The Search isn't Broken - We're Broken
The Search isn't Broken - Part II

Note: the Grown Men site's great illustrations (like the Jimi-esque one on the home page ) are done by none other than Berkeley Breathed - the demented creator of Bloom County and other comic strips. The guy wrawks...much like heavy-metal rockin' DeathTongue would.

Blues Lyric of the Day:
"I'm so broke I can't even spend the night."
- Buddy Guy
That's what the web is for

The children's version of David Weinberger's book Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web is incredible - great text and (crayon) illustrations. Works well as a summary of the book (far as I can tell). Made me want to go buy the "adult" version (sounds a bit dirty, eh?)...

Here's an excerpt that struck me as simple yet profound:

"This is a most peculiar thing. The Web is a web because of hyperlinks that connect the pages. But every hyperlink expresses someone's interests and recommendations. If you were to make a map of the Web, showing all the sites and all the links, you would be making a map of things the 500 million people on the Web find interesting.

"That's a lot different than a map of the real world that shows where the mountains are and where the oceans end and land begins. The real world map shows what we humans have been given to work with. The Web shows what we have chosen to care about.

"And that's exactly what's so special about the Web place. It is made not out of mountains, oceans, deserts and forests. It is made out of humans caring about things together."
A report on the UPA 2002 Conference
Just out: a new article I co-authored for Boxes and Arrows: UPA 2002 - Humanizing Design

"Three attendees from the UPA-MN chapter in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota area, Katie Ware, Lyle Kantrovich and Debbie McConnell, cover some of the sessions they found most notable during the 5-day conference."

Note: I love the part of Debbie's bio that reads: "Debbie specializes in working with clients on the brink of committing to usable products."
The 101 Dumbest Moments in Business2.0
From Business 2.0

"In a perfect world, a list like this would not exist. In a perfect world, businesses would be run with the utmost integrity and competence. But ours is, alas, an imperfect world, and if we must live in one where Enron, Geraldo Rivera, and Cottonelle Fresh Rollwipes exist, the least we can do is catalog the absurdities."

They left out the 102nd Dumbest Moment: putting 101 dumb things online in 10-thing bites. Here's the "printable" version - which most sites should just call "the version without all the extra crap you usually don't want anyway, the version that you can print or read waaaaay easier than the other marketing-centric version -- a.k.a. the more usable version."

My favorites:
16. "No one will deny that Sony is a world-class hardware company, and no one would deny that Microsoft is a world-class software company. Nintendo aspires to be neither one of those things." -- Peter Main, a Nintendo marketing executive, to the San Francisco Chronicle

20. The Gartner Group issues trading cards featuring its analysts.

33. "We've been doubling sales every 18 months. However, when you start from zero, it takes a long while." -- Stephen Yeo, a marketing director at Windows-terminal manufacturer Wyse, explaining his company's less-than-meteoric rise, to ZDNet UK

40. The Newspaper Association of America names Kmart its "Retailer of the Year" on Jan. 21, 2002, one day before the company files for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11.

71. Why You Still Don't Have Broadband, Part 3: "There will always be crybaby boobies who are unhappy with any company." -- Martha Sessums, spokeswoman for DSL provider Covad, illustrating in an interview with the customer-service strategy that helped her company plummet into bankruptcy
AOL Uses Netscape for Mac OS X
Looks like AOL is trying to use some usability improvements to get a leg up on Microsoft. While the "browser war" might be as interesting as a fight between a rottweiler and a rawhide bone, personally I think the way AOL is pitching the new version is of more interest -- they are pointing to usability improvements as reasons to switch:

- AOL for Mac OS X uses the Apple operating system's Aqua interface -- Calling the new offering a response to "what our members who use Macs want," David Gang, executive vice president of AOL's product marketing group, hailed the new service as easy to use and "more fully integrated into the Mac environment." (consistency, integration with OS)
- Users can see at a glance (at the OS X dock) how many new e-mail messages and instant messages they have and a single click from the service's new welcome screen will take them directly to their e-mail accounts (accelerators)
- A new AOL Search service uses Google technology to help users conduct searches (integration with web and user's favorite search - Google provides better search usability)

Will these enhancements be enough to make OS X users switch to Netscape? Time will tell. Point here is this: usability improvements can be used to create competitive advantage and to distinguish a product in marketing. Second point: competition breeds innovation.