Archive for April, 2008

While making some configuration changes in, I ran into a truly puzzling set of buttons. At the bottom of the page I was editing, I saw the usual buttons for “Save” and “Cancel” — plus another button for “Quick Save”. I don’t have a clue how you can save something faster than normal, and […]

There are many anecdotes that teach us to be wary of unusually low prices. In my experience, this is especially relevant when you’re buying something that involves an ongoing or recurring relationship with the seller. Regardless of how you scored the deal — whether by taking advantage of a novice sales rep or using questionable […]

Elevator logic


From what I’ve read, modern elevator design generally focuses on how to make elevators more efficient. In other words, engineers try to group passengers by their destination floor, reducing average wait times. With that said, I came across a design blunder in Chicago’s John Hancock Center that makes me wonder if elevator designers have really […]

Most people have a difficult time explaining problems with their computer or any other piece of technology. Instead of providing useful details like what they were doing when the problem took place or what sort of error they received, the typical person just reverts to saying “It’s broken.” To make things easier on customers and […]

Sugar coating


I received a package from a reputable mail order company yesterday. Inside, in addition to the products I purchased and a packing slip, was an envelope entitled “Special offers for our most valued customers.” From the title, I would have expected to find a collection of highly-targeted, exclusive offers inside. Instead, what I got was […]

The way you end your error messages can have a big impact on how the user perceives them. Here’s a quick overview of what each type of punctuation says to the reader: – Period or no punctuation: Simple and direct, the message comes across without any specific tone. – Question mark: Polite and unintrusive, this […]

Insider lingo


The other day, I heard a radio ad for the season premier of a popular TV series. I didn’t catch the name of the show, but the ad promised “the biggest reveal ever”. I’m not very familiar with the TV business, but somehow I know that a “reveal” is when they disclose a fairly shocking […]

I read today that United Airlines is increasing its change fee to $150 per ticket. In other words, if you book a flight and need to change your plans later, they charge you $150 for the transaction. They also bill you the difference between the old fare and the new fare, which is standard procedure […]

I’m always amused when I see a field service manual that tells the reader how to behave. In such cases, the text instructs the field technician to do things like “dress properly” and “treat people at the site with respect”. I don’t know what planet the writers are from, but my experience has shown that […]

When designing software, it’s common practice to relegate some of the more obscure settings into an “advanced” tab. Personally, I don’t understand the attraction. Adding another tab to your settings window creates yet another thing for the user to worry about, and doesn’t really provide any benefit. Sure, you might be able to shorten the […]