Disable Snap

From Blork, a great follow-up to my complaints about Snap.com the other day: How To Disable Snap Shots on Blogs. Step-by-step instructions about how to spare your readers from this annoying “feature”.

An open message

Dear users of Snap.com,

Please stop!

It is annoying, provides me (your reader) with no benefit, and in fact makes it radically less likely that I will read your post – the stupid pop-up windows obscure your text and make it difficult to read the pearls of wisdom you are trying to communicate.

Best,
Michael

Distribution > Destination

Avenue A | Razorfish’s Garrick Schmitt has written a great post in the Digital Design Blog that riffs on information from their Digital Outlook report: Does the Home Page Still Matter?: Why Distribution Trumps Destination Online. Most of the web folks that I know have been working on this basis for some time now, but it remains important to underline that the old “get people in through the homepage” model is broken (and likely always was, it was just harder to figure out before).

Trying to force people into a specific usage pattern is a recipe for failure – trumped only by the mistake of trying to predict where users will come from in the first place. What does this mean in practice? Many things (and the conclusions in the post are right on), but two immediate things spring to mind:

  • Deep links have to provide context within the URL itself (i.e., be readable)
  • Don’t hide content in non-machine-readable formats that people can’t link to directly (and that Google can’t grok)

Unreadable URLs are bad

Scott Rosenberg takes up the case in his post, Terror of tinyurl.

From the earliest days of the Web to the present, there’s been a fundamental split between people who get the value of “human-readable URLs” and people who don’t.[...]
Today, though, we’re taking a step backwards, or at least sideways, in the cause of human readability, thanks to the growing popularity of the “tinyurl.”

I have had this discussion (arguing for human-readable URLs) with well-intentioned but clueless developers so many times it borders on the absurd. In fact, Nadia and I were just discussing it last night! Like Rosenberg, I understand why it’s important in the twitterverse, but outside of that relatively limited context, tinyurl is a user-hostile pain in the backside.

State of the art, 2006:

Matt Haughey describes the difficulties he encountered when trying to give himself the ability to encrypt email: It’s the user experience, stupid. Very early on in my internet life I started using PGP and, as Haughey does, I periodically revisit the subject and assess how far things have progressed. As he reports, however, things haven’t progressed very far.

My most recent foray into encryption and such occurred a few weeks ago when I downloaded and tried the free GPG system. I found that not only could I not use my old key pair (though I still know my old password) but I couldn’t easily find out why, nor could I figure out a way to address the issue. So now there is a public key out there in the wild – a key of long standing and signed by several other people – with my name on it but with totally out-of-date email addresses attached to it and nothing I can do about that.

Adaptive Path,

the user experience agency, has always been in the “Web 2.0″ mix, and last week Brandon Schauer published an interesting article, “experience attributes: crucial dna of web 2.0“. It’s a pretty good piece, but I always wonder – what about the fact that there was a TON of very “Web 2.0″ stuff going on well before anyone actually wanted to live South of Market St.? The WELL? Very Web 2.0. The original HotWired? Very 2.0. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Steadman owns Plastic, which is clearly a proto-2.0 space. For almost everyone who was involved – professionally or not – in the WWW back then knows that Web 2.0 is really simply things getting back on the course we set 12-15 years ago.

I wonder why everyone seems to ignore this?

I’ve been trying out

the new version of Firefox that was released the other day, and I note with displeasure that the close icon is still not on the tab you want to close itself, but over on the right-hand side. Otherwise it’s fine, though I’m not likely to move from Safari, which I switched to a few months ago.

The other day,

Tim Bray noted many problems with the Dell online buying experience: Shopping, Dell vs. Apple and today noted that he got a flurry of responses suggesting that his Dell experience was not out of the ordinary at all. I agree – after reading about Boris’ experiences with his monitor I went right over to the Dell site to see if it might be time to pick one up for myself, and I was shocked to see how difficult it was to find the information.

Peter Merholz asked

the rhetorical question, “Is Lab Usability Dead?” in peterme.com yesterday. I think he makes an important point – computer usage is anything but sterile and disconnected these days (and this has been true for a while). Studying usage habits and patterns must not assume a single-task model in a pristine environment if it is to be useful.

They’ve just released

the beta of Google Reader, their entry in the RSS/syndication feed reader sweepstakes. It looks fabulous, but it’s pretty blah overall. It offers no new features or innovations of any kind, that I can tell, and the usability is crap. Pretty much UNusable, overall. They break the browser and force you to use their crap navigation just so you can see their supposedly tasty Ajax goodness. Give me a nice interface, but don’t break my scroll wheel! What is it, 1996?