Design Flaws

Gibberish application messages... by Cory

I updated my copy of Adium instant messenger today, and after it installs, it presents me with this message: adiumchange.jpg

After reading it, i had no idea what to do. The question starts out "Do you want to allow access..." and the action buttons are "change/dont change". I knew that one button would probably grant the new version access to my IM account passwords, while the other would deny it. I ended up picking a random option and it happened to be the right one (no whammys!)

IAs could put CPAs out of business by Cory

taxes.gifOver the past year I've dived head first into starting my own business, doing my own accounting, and the most recently frustrating, doing my own taxes. The IRS has done a great job of making it as complicated as possible to figure out taxes on your own so that tax professionals can exist and in turn generate more tax money for the government. (That's my interpretation anyways :)

I am lucky enough to have a close relative who is a CPA and has helped me though this painful process, but without them I would be forced to hire one...and that is lame.

Taxes are not as complicated as the IRS makes them and it doesn't have to feel like your going to the dentist to get teeth pulled!

There is a better way.

It is clear to me that if the IRS hired a rock-star team of information architects and designers to come in and organize the tax worksheets, publications, and god forbid make them smart working online applications, there would be no need for anyone to hire a tax professional.

Imagine that after receiving a reminder email, you log-in to your user-kind IRS website, it tells you which documents need to be filed (and when), you input some numbers into some form fields, which instantly does some math and auto-populates other related fields for you, then...woops, theres an error with some data you entered, not to worry, the application is smart enough to diagnose the problem and help you fix it with ease. You type in your name at the bottom, enter your CC# or bank routing info, and hit submit.

Ahhh, now wasn't that easy?

Maybe next year ae? (in government time that is 10 years BTW)

Dont forget about your repeat visitors by Cory

200.jpgI recently had a frustrating yet enlightening experience at the grocery store. I pretty much hate flossing, and have found 1 product that makes it not so bad...and it's the G.U.M. brand of disposable mini flosssers. They're 5x more durable, and have twice the surface area of the other brands. Anyways, the grocery store I've been going to appeared to have stopped carrying this brand of flossers. It was no longer in the place I normally found it (by the other floss). I devastatingly stopped buying floss for quite a while until I just recently realized that they had moved it half-way down the isle. It was now by the toothpaste hanging from one of those clip things.

Now i can see their thinking in moving it..."G.U.M. paid us more money to feature the product"..."putting products on clip things stand out more"..."products on clip things sell more than they would normally".

While these are all good ways to market a product...they failed to keep their loyal customers in mind. If they had kept the G.U.M. brand where loyal customers could find them, and at the same time offered them on the hanging clip thing, they would have maximized their promotion and sales.

I think that this scenario is a good analogy for offering and promoting products on a website. Lets make sure that we don't forget about our repeat and loyal customers whom we've trained to find things in a specific area. If you're going to promote a product, make sure it also exists where loyal customers know they can find it. Take a look at your stats to see new vs. returning visitors so that you understand the impact of these type of decisions.

"Its about as hard to quit smoking as it is to start flossing" - Mitch Hedberg

Create a better reccommondation system, win 1 million dollars by Cory

netflix.gifI have been using Netflix for several years now, and while I believe it to be one of the most usable and cleanly designed websites on the interent, its algorithm to recommend movies to me has fallen way short of my expectations. I have rated roughly 600 movies on Netflix, which is more than enough to give them a good idea of what I'm in to...yet nearly all the movies that they recommend to me I dislike. The ratings they display to you are based on how you rate other movies...which means that "The Divinci Code" could be rated as 5 stars to me, yet 3 stars to you based on how you (and others with similar ratings as you) rate other movies. This seems like a really smart way to build a rating system, but it sure doesn't work for me. Personally I would rather view overall ratings of movies rather than an algorithmic one...that way I know I'm looking at real ratings vs. ratings a computer generated for me.

Netflix must be aware of this flaw, because, according to the New York Times, they've started a contest offering a million dollar prize to anyone who can improve their rating system by at least 10% (hopefully they'll use a better system to measure improvement than they use for ratings).

The winning solution (if there is one) will not only be useful to Netflix, but useful for all recommendation algorithms out there...and just may result in pushing the internet to the next level.

Design Flaw of the Trash Can by Cory

We've all been're the only one around, the kitchen trash has started smelling foul and even that little ball of foil you need to throw away just wont fit in the already jam-packed trashcan (or is it just me?). You try to pull the trash bag out of the trash can, wrapping your legs around the can to get some leverage, grunting and sliding around, you spend 10 minutes just freeing the bag from the can. This is the design flaw of the trash can.

I have a simple solution...poke some air holes at the bottom of the trashcan! This allows air to flow into the bottom where the frustrating suction occurs.

Perhaps "taking out the trash" wont be such a chore now :)