Archive for March, 2008

While reading restaurant reviews online, I noticed something about how I evaluate other people’s opinions of a business. Specifically, I would much rather go to a restaurant or other establishment that consistently rates four out of five stars, rather than one that gets equal numbers of threes and fives. In other words, when comparing places […]

One of my coworkers asked me to look over the contract from a coffee service that we’re considering. We’ve actually had this sort of thing for years, where they lease you the machine and you pay for the coffee that gets delivered every few weeks. But our old provider nearly tripled their delivery fees in […]

Word choices


If you want to communicate effectively, it’s generally a good idea to use the same words that your customers do. This rule applies whether you’re creating a website, writing a user’s guide, or designing navigational signage. I’ve seen this recommendation many times before, yet companies still get it wrong all the time. Here’s my most […]

Funny noises


I almost made a fool of myself while joining a conference call yesterday. Things started off normally: the automated prompt asked me to enter the number assigned to my call, and then it asked me to say my name after the tone. But instead of the usual “beep” or “ding”, it played a bizarre, almost […]

Ever send someone an email and get a canned reply saying they aren’t there? I receive these quite often, but I don’t understand why the response time is so inconsistent. Presumably, you configure your email program to send the response automatically whenever an email comes in during the period you’re out. If the whole thing […]

Here are some of the dumbest places that a manufacturer or repair center can place a sticker: – Directly on the screen, so they can spoil the elegant user interface by making you view it through a layer of sticky residue. – Right on the battery cover or access door and stretching onto the neighboring […]

Whenever I talk to someone who has only been speaking English for a few years, I’m pleasantly surprised at how clearly they communicate. Sure, they’re often self-conscious about their speech, but their limited knowledge of fancy words and sentence structure tends to make them very easy to understand. I think this phenomenon has useful implications […]

All lowercase


I understand the use of lowercase names for certain companies and products. Sometimes, it just looks better that way. But extending this practice to the buttons and navigation on a website or application puzzles me. Since we use capital letters for more than just decoration, adopting an “uppercase is bad” mentality threatens to reduce usability […]



It’s nice that many companies have created programs to benefit non-profits, such as matching the donations made by their employees or holding events where the proceeds go to charity. But sometimes the fundraising tactics can get out of hand. Here’s a few signs that you’ve gone too far: – You added a line to your […]

On the average, I would say that writing a truly clear document takes 2-4 times as long as making a mediocre one. In other words, the difference between “good enough” and “really great” is 100% to 300% more time invested. Is it worth it? I think so. But when I think about the crap that […]