Hint for the day: if, after soaping up your hands when washing them, you rinse for an additional 15 seconds longer than normal, you will get a better hand washing with less soapy residue and will generally feel better about the entire experience.

What’s wrong with PEIauto.com?

In an earlier piece I commented briefly on the PEIauto.com website, and mentioned that I felt that it had some usability problems. In reaction to that piece, the people behind the site asked what I meant. So here goes:

1. Don’t change the colour of my scroll bar. It might be all cool and everything, but when you screw around with my browser you confuse me rather than help. I don’t consider my scroll bar a part of my screen real estate that you should modify.

2. The Big Useful Thing about your website is that you have a good database of used cars for sale. You make a point of this yourself: you say “largest vehicle database on PEI” in bold type. But then you go and make it hard to find out how to actually search. Big Useful Things should be easy to find, not hidden under a small “Search” link in the sidebar or below the fold under “Features of the Site.”

3. While it might be nice to imagine that one can buy an Alfa Romeo on PEI, this isn’t actually the case, at least right now. So why is Alfa Romeo one of the choices in your “Make” pull-down list? A good search engine dynamically limits search options to only those things that actually exist; the existing setup is frustrating because many searches produce no results at all (Alfa Romeo, Triumph, Suzuki, etc.).

4. Isn’t one of the Great Things about the malleable Internet that you can take “sold” cars out of the listings once they’ve, well, sold. If there’s some compelling reason for leaving these listings in the search results, then at least give me the option of leaving them out when I set up my search.

5. When you depart from a cardinal convention of the web like “you can click on anything that’s blue and underlined” there should be a really, really good reason. I can’t see what this reason is with your site: you make it more difficult to navigate the site by reinventing the hyperlinked indicator.

6. The fidelity of the photos attached to listings could use some improvement. Many photos are too dark, making it hard to get a good impression of the vehicle in question.

That’s about it, in my eyes. As I said in my original piece, and want to reinforce here, PEIauto.com is generally solid, especially given that you’ve got enough of an inventory to make the site worth spending some time with. But if you correct some of the problems I’ve outlined above it could be even better.

Airlines killer redux…

I note for the record, in light of my earlier comments about how airlines that I fly tend to go out of business, that I have been an occasional customer of Canada 3000 (which stopped flying today), and I once thought about flying SwissAir (which is still flying, but which stopped flying for a couple of days recently when they hit a financial wall).

Naked Stamps

Stamp One of the examples of “high touch” that John Naisbitt mentioned in his keynote speech at Pop!Tech was Canada Post’s Picture Postage service. He really seemed quite taken with the idea.

The service works like this: you take a picture, send it to Canada Post with $24.95, and they send you back 25 stamps — real, legal, stick-on-a-letter stamps — with the picture printed on them.

Actually, as I found out today when I called for more information, what they really send you is 25 little pictures and 25 frames. To make the stamps, you peel of the pictures and stick them in the frames.

Given that this all works out to about a dollar a stamp, I wondered if I could just purchase the stamp frames themselves, and print my own little pictures.

I cannot.

The reason I was given for this is that Canada Post wants to monitor what images I’m using on my custom stamps. Presumably this is where clause #5 of their agreement comes in: “We reserve the right to refuse, for any reason, the photograph you have submitted. In such a case you will be refunded.”

I guess they’re trying to protect us from naked stamps.

NOTE: Image of stamp above isn’t a real stamp. The pretend stamp uses the work Nude by artist Alex Cree. Inclusion of this image shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement by Canada Post of this artist, or of nakedness or nudity in general, nor by the artist of Canada Post.

It’s easy to switch…

Earlier in this space I commented about my impending switch for domain name services from Network Solutions to Trinic.

Just want to report that the entire process went smoothly, and I’ve got five domains transferred over. If you’ve ever held off switching from Network Solutions to another provider, either for pricing or service issues, I can reassure you, at least based on my experiences this week, that the switch is easy and painless.

What’s more, it was an easy way to update my address information, something I’d been trying to do, in vain, for a year with the other guys.

Those wacky CBC arts people and their incredible flying machine

CBC’s new Arts Canada website debuted today. This is what you see instead of the old InfoCulture website if you go to cbc.ca and click on Entertainment in the sidebar.

I don’t mean to be crass, but this new effort sucks, pure and simple.

One of the important things about the web — one of the things that made its rapid adoption by millions of people in such a short time period possible — is that it is based on standards. To fill out a form on the web, you pretty well do the same thing whether you’re applying for a Visa card or hunting license or signing up for intelligent sex. Sites are rich and wonderful and different, but a scroll bar still scrolls, and you still click that’s blue ‘cause that means it’s a hyperlink.

For the CBC this standard old regular web world is obviously just too darn restrictive a medium to deliver arts-related information to we Canadians. They have to go ahead and develop an entirely new set of metaphors for us to learn if we want to use their site. Their scroll bars work differently. Their hyperlinks look different. In their self-described “rich media portal,” the web doesn’t work the way the web works. It works the way some guys in Toronto think they would like the web to work.

That might be cool and sexy for them, and they might have convinced the CBC that this somehow makes the web work more “like TV.” But from my humble consumer’s perspective, it seems akin to designing a car where the steering wheel turns the other way, the turn signal is under the seat, and the radio gurgles every time you hit it to turn it on.

Why not concentrate on your strengths: solid arts reporting, presented from a trusted, reliable, known source, rather than investing untold gazillions in stupid flashy stuff which obscures rather than enlivens content.


Clean your glasses

I don’t think that there’s anything you can do right now, if you’re someone who wears eyeglasses to read at your computer, that will give you more immediate satisfaction, than stopping right now to clean your glasses. Of course perhaps I live a sheltered life.