When the medium obscures the message

The original mandate for this blog was to expose communication gone bad – when the medium gets in the way of the message. Whereas I’ve diverged from that a little because you have to be quite anally retentive to write an entire blog on the subject, I’ve noticed three examples of this today.

  • First thing: paying for credit cards with those stupid credit card readers. Apart from taking ages – especially when everyone’s paying for rounds with them to three bartenders with only one reader between them – have you noticed how they have a button on them that says ‘ENTER’, when the message reads ‘ENTER=OK’? Why didn’t they just put ‘OK’ on the button? Who in the world doesn’t know what ‘OK’ means? Isn’t it better than a button saying ‘ENTER’?
  • Next up: this website. It’s by a print/design agency. So what’s wrong with it? I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. It’s crap, that’s what’s wrong with it. Firstly, I’m told that I might not be able to see it at all unless I download extra software. So before I even see any content at all I have to either click, or download. So let’s assume that didn’t put me off. Click the Enter site link. Now I’m downloading an introduction. I’m yet another click and another download away from actually seeing anything. As do 99.9999999% of right-thinking people, I click Skip. Woah! What’s this? Loud funky music? I really really really don’t want this. I’m in the middle of an office and now people think I’m looking at TheSoundOfLove.com (btw, I haven’t even checked to see whether that url exists nor am I going to), when in fact this is company research. Words float around at me. Focused… committed… successful… confident. BLEUGH! BLEUGH BLEUGH BLEUGH. Keep clicking… keep clicking… when am I going to see some content? OK, it looks like things have settled down now. But where are the links? Oh, I see, if I click random squares on the graphic to the left I’m taken to a random page. But that’s largely academic because if I hadn’t been writing to you about this site I wouldn’t have made it this far.An object lesson in how not to do it. Sure, have great branding and cool funkiness if you like that sort of thing but GET people to your content immediately and ENABLE them to navigate it clearly. I think this site is possibly the worst offender I’ve ever seen in terms of doing the opposite.
  • Finally, Lotus Notes, more specifically some awful Lotus Notes-based blog-type interface that I’ve been using recently. Now, part of the reason blogs are so successful is that they’re so easy: you just type and publish and everything else is handled for you (this is partly my take on Web 2.0 is that it’s the ISO Application Layer being carried by the network but that’s for another post). It’s the single, simplest interface known to man. But could I figure out how to post on the goddawful thing? Could I? Could I? No, I couldn’t, because it’s bottom left of the screen, in a link called ‘Admin’. I go back to my original thought: an OK button should be called OK. Similarly, a Post button should be called Post.

In fact, Lotus Notes itself is so awful that it warrants an entire slandering of its own. Tomorrow I’m going to compile a list of Things That Are Awful About Lotus Notes and tell you all about them.

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