From the perspective of usability, I don’t like uservoice.com and have contempt for any site which forces me to use uservoice.com as the only means of communication with them. I like to use an email address or a contact form whenever. If I have to use a forum I will, even though it means I have to go through the registration process. One of the sites I frequent used to use UserVoice.com for support and feedback. Within a month I ran out of the 10 votes which every new user receives upon registration. For any kind of post, a question, feedback, opinion, idea, suggestion,.. etc it costs you at least one vote. My first irritation with the site is why do I have to go through a voting system, subtracting a vote if all I want is an answer to a quick question. I knew right then that was an awkward system for providing support.
Back then uservoice.com was new and it seemed it had some kind of ‘cool’ factor because I felt every site was using it, along with getsatisfaction.com. Uservoice is good for voting a suggestion or idea up or down. It’s not for providing support.
So what happens when you run out of 10 votes? This is what their site tells us (the text in italic is theirs):
- Your votes will be returned when your ideas are completed or deleted. (So what happens if my ideas, let’s say I posted 10 ideas, take months to complete? Am I stuck till one of them gets completed? Deleting my idea, question or suggestion seems rude. Just say it won’t be implemented and move on)
- You can change your votes by clicking on them. (It’s not clear what this means. Can I downgrade a 1 vote to 0 vote. Why didn’t I get ability not to vote or use 0 votes?)
- You'll get a (digested) email of any activity. (I get an email and then what? What happens for the number 10 to change?)
When I ran out of 10 votes I did some research on their site with no results. I don’t like sites which limit my movement. Imagine if you go to a forum and you're allowed 10 posts only unless someone deletes one of your posts.
Anyways, my past frustrating experience with them made me wish that I won’t come across their site again. Recently a site ‘forced’ me to go there but I swore I wouldn’t use them again. It’s one of those sites I avoid with a big effort. If you have a site and want to support your customers, do it through a ticket system, forum, contact form or direct email. Don’t use uservoice.com. My opinion they are only good for soliciting customer feedback for new ideas or enhancements and where people can vote for these ideas.
I am glad the past overuse of uservoice has waned. I am guessing more and more people are realizing it’s not a good communication venue for everything.
I am not saying UserVoice is bad or useless. It’s how some site owners use it for.
I use a firewall which is set up to allow Internet access by any app on my system manually. Unless the app has been granted trusted access previously by me, I get a prompt whenever an app is trying to access the Internet. It displays the ip address it’s trying to connect to plus the port number. I download and install a lot of software and I need to know when & why a software is trying to connect to the outside. If the software is from a trusted application and I know it needs access, I give it a permanent permission. I can revoke it later if needed. When a piece of software wants access, my initial reaction is to deny it and see what happens. If it runs fine without the access, I know access was optional. The software vendor is probably collection some information for statistical purposes. Hopefully nothing more! And they do know that some users run software behind firewalls or on systems which physically have no Internet access.
Some software need to need have Internet connectivity for activation or registration purposes which is fine. I let the firewall remember their access on a case by case basis. If there’s software which has no business demanding Internet access, I most probably refuse it and uninstall it.
Here’s a little tip when trying software from untrusted sources. Install the software in a virtual operation system like VMware or Virtual PC or use a sandbox like SandBoxie which I have been using for years. I can right click on an .exe file and tell Windows to run the app inside Sandboxie. Sandboxie can show the registry keys the app tried to use. Sandboxie uses a virtual file system and you can view the contents of the system.
Play it safe.
I download and try a ton of software. There are some software which take a long time to display their initial screen, not even a splash screen. It seems they launch some process which could potentially take a long time to finish before showing the main window, the user interface portion. For example if it's trying to connect to another server and the connection is having problems. Technically the user is basically waiting for a timeout to occur before seeing anything. If the timeout is long, the user will get frustrated because there’s no visual indicator of any kind and the user might think the software has crashed silently.
The software developer should display the main window before executing anything. After the initial screen, the application can do whatever it needs to do and preferably show some kind of progress indicator so the user knows it’s doing some work.
In my next post, I’ll explain how I find out how I know an application is doing some work before starting up visually.
As a reader who goes through a fire hose of content each day from emails, blog posts (at least 150 a day), tweets, news articles, messages & technical documentation, I have to scan and read pieces of interest pretty fast. So when I hit a blog post which is pages and pages of text, it’s a big turn off for me. Most of the stuff I read is of good-to-know type of information, which means I can safely skip it. I know I will come across similar information in the future. if I don’t bookmark or put it in my Evernote app, I know the content wasn’t that beneficial or important. I noticed very long posts are written by people who write infrequently. They write like once a month. It seems they take time to think and craft a new long blog post thinking the longer it is, the more people would be interested in it. That’s not the case. People’s attention span is getting smaller over time. Reading books one day might be a luxury.
However people have limited time and on the web they usually scan pages, instead of reading all of the content, looking for the crucial pieces of information. They don’t want to get intake fatigue.
For most of the long posts, I conclude and tell myself “The author could have conveyed this information in a lot fewer words. Are they getting paid by the word!?”. I define long posts as posts which take more than 3 screen pages. When I see a long post I get discouraged in reading it as a whole. I usually read the first two paragraphs to know more about the topic. Then I read the last two. That’s where the conclusion is and hopefully it’s a summary of the detail which is in the middle of the post. I like executive summaries.
The long post authors ought to know that most readers are reading other people’s posts as well in the same time frame. They should not assume their post is getting all of the visitor’s attention. Personally the only time I read a whole long post is when the post is really beneficial or interesting, which is rare.
You might have noticed that all my blog posts are pretty short. Just about two pages. That’s for two reasons. I don’t want to waste your time and I don’t want to spend too much time myself crafting a long post. I want to say something and I want to say it quickly.
So your keep blog posts easily digestible. No more than 3 pages long. That’s a personal opinion.
I love Bosch dishwashers. Because they are reliable, effective and QUIET. I seek quiet from any appliance. We’re replacing our current one with a newer model. What’s wrong with the current one? Nothing. We’re redoing the kitchen and major appliances will be replaced for different reasons.
A good Bosch dishwasher runs very quiet and I can hardly hear it. At the appliance store looking at the different Bosch models, I quickly remembered this 37Signal’s post. I need a dishwasher which has a visible LED which shows me it’s running AND shows me how much time is left. I can’t depend on a tiny light. Therefore the hidden panel models won’t do it for me. I am worried I might accidently open it when it’s running. I like to know how much time is left. While these models look cool and minimalist, I need something which works for me. I need my visuals. I am just picky when it comes to appliances & gadgets.
This advice applies to non mobile apps too but I will concentrate on mobile apps in this post. Yesterday I was checking out a few location based apps on a Windows Phone 7 (WP7) phone which deal with restaurants. I was at a bookstore and I wanted to know which restaurants were near by. After checking out these apps, I noticed they suffered from their implementation of using maps, like Bing maps and Google maps. When a map first shows up for a location, it starts at a zoom level which is not useful. The map view is from a very high elevation which necessitates many levels of zooming in. For example, a restaurant is 0.47 miles from my location but the map shows my whole city, near-by cities and near-by state. How is this information anywhere useful? I saw two dots very close to each other. I know where my city is located among other cities! At the moment, I need to know which direction I should go by looking at a close-up of my location where I can see the name of the street where I am at and the name of the street of my destination and that’s without doing any work. That’s how a map is useful to me. It should be smart enough to adjust itself and center my area of interest in the map.
It would have taken me at least 5 minutes to zoom in to the right level and center the location with my mobile connection, if I am patient enough to wait for each zoom to finish downloading. The map on my phone actually became unresponsive and I wasn’t sure if the map was busy downloading map data or it shocked up from the amount od data. I gave up.
Now, I am not sure if this is a limitation of the map providers or if a developer has little control on map rendering. I am assuming there are using a map control which does all the work. But whoever is responsible, a map should automatically adjust zoom level based on the distance of the two points where outside areas should be removed and zooming should be as close as possible to the points. At least have this as an option provided by the map provider. It is already painful to navigate using a map on a mobile device. The experience needs to be very smooth.
Status.net displays a dialog window, the part in bold orange & black, which looks like it’s part of the page. They’re asking visitors to supply their work email address before they can properly view the page. I find this practice annoying and intrusive. The style of this dialog is actually misleading making people think it’s part of the page, without using a conventional popup window or dialog.
What if I don’t want to give you my work email address before I know why you need it or before I feel comfortable with giving it out? I protect my work email address more than I protect my personal one. Because I can’t bare getting spam from people while I am working.
Even after sending an email address, the notice notifies you that you have to activate the account their their email they sent you. The page doesn’t change and you still can’t use it.
The dialog should have a Close button or link. If I don’t want to give the information right now, I should be able to. I found status.net’s user experience pretty annoying, I didn’t bother checking it out. I sent a fake email address and I can’t activate the account and proceed with their site. Thumbs down for a bad user experience. There’ no chance for them to get me to be a customer of theirs. I truly hope other sites do not follow this process.
The thin font used in the very top links is not very clear. After scrolling and refreshing the page, the page acted weird. The top section disappeared. The text in the dialog changed. It asks for a regular email. I am not sure what happened. I decided to write about this experience and move on.
Home page of Status.net. The orange & black areas is actually a modal dialog
can’t be closed.
The registration & login pages should be different and not the same. Each page serves a single purpose and it is the purpose the page was designed for. The user expects to see only a registration form in the registration page and possibly a link to the login page (just in case they clicked the wrong button and it saves them from clicking the back button).
In the case of AT&T's site, part of page shown below, both the login and register links go to the same page. The registration page has a link, located at far right and can be easily missed and it goes yet to another page with the actual registration wizard, while most of the page is dedicated to logging in.
A login page should be for registered users to log in and possibly a link to the registration. A registration should be for new users to register and possibly a link to the login page.
Login & Register links go to the same page
Login & Registration page are this same page. The actual registration is a link in the right side
If you see this post it means that BlogEngine.NET 2.5 is running and the hard part of creating your own blog is done. There is only a few things left to do.
To be able to log in to the blog and writing posts, you need to enable write permissions on the App_Data folder. If your blog is hosted at a hosting provider, you can either log into your account’s admin page or call the support. You need write permissions on the App_Data folder because all posts, comments, and blog attachments are saved as XML files and placed in the App_Data folder.
If you wish to use a database to to store your blog data, we still encourage you to enable this write access for an images you may wish to store for your blog posts. If you are interested in using Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, SQL CE, or other databases, please see the BlogEngine wiki to get started.