Banging My Head Against Rocks (and Web Sites!)

I’m fresh off a “working” vacation. Last week, I spent several days landscaping the back yard area adjacent to the patio at my house. Normally, this kind of stuff is enjoyable to me, but this project was a real nightmare! The people who owned the house before me put landscape rock in this space on top of a “helpful” plastic liner about three inches down. Over time, soil had mixed in and covered over the rock, and the mess was higher than the patio. So any time it rained, dirt and rock would flow over to the adjacent patio.

After four days of moving rocks in 90 degree heat, the patio is higher than the adjacent soil – and the space is neatly planted and mulched. I can entertain on the patio area now – and spend evenings sipping wine with friends while silently contemplating what to do with 100,000 or so landscape rocks.

Back in the office grind this week, I have interacted with some web sites that remind me of my old patio space – ugly and hard to use. Just yesterday, it took 15 minutes to schedule a flight to DC for Hike the Hill later this month — and I still had to call tech support at the airline when the web site told me I was doing something wrong — without telling me exactly what. After 15 minutes on the phone with the techie telling me what it *could be* — we finally got the flight booked. (As an aside, have you ever noticed that when folks in tech support have no clue what’s going on, they say, “hmmmmmmm?”)

Fast forward to this morning, when a newspaper person I emailed yesterday was nice enough to reply to let me know she had referred a press inquiry I made to the appropriate person on staff. They did so without providing contact information back to me for my press contact list. “No problem,” I thought, “I’ll just go on their web site and find them.”

After wrestling with the search function and staff contact list for 10 minutes, I gave up. It’s not worth the time. Added to this, the newspaper in question overhauled its web site not too long ago in order to embrace “Web 2.0” and the ways in which people receive information!

So how does your web site stack up? I am far from an expert on this area (I’m just a schmo who has to book airline flights occasionally and likes to use the search function). If you are in the process of evaluating the web portion of your communications toolkit, I came across a book and web site that might be of help … Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think.

Krug is a web usability guru according to non-profit communications expert Andy Goodman. (Note: I love Andy Goodman’s stuff, much of which is FREE. I will do a blog entry soon on Andy and the work he does.) Krug’s book will set you back $35 and according to Goodman is, “Worth its weight in gold.”

Krug’s web site has some great information and perspectives on making your web site more user-friendly. Check it out.

If you have gone through this process yourself and have some tips and resources to share, feel free to do so. Also, if you have a funny “web nightmare” story to share, feel free to post a comment.

The person who shares the best “web nightmare” story wins 100,000 landscape rocks, which will be sent COD to your home. (Just kidding.)

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4 Responses

  1. I secretly despise our credit union website. That’s part of the reason I started blogging. But even in its sub-standard state it is actually better than some of our local competition. I can’t wait to check out these references you provided tomorrow morning. Sorry I don’t have any website horror stories to tell.

  2. Dan’s WordPress template rocks – like this one. Far better design, IMHO, than most CU public-facing websites.

    I think that’s part of the appeal of consuming blogs. Because of RSS, readers like me don’t have to go to the actual site to consume the info. Thus the traditional website clutter is out of the picture. When the reader chooses to interact with the site (leaving a comment), the link to the site is direct (no chance to get lost).

    Great post! Mind if I come have a glass of wine on your patio? 🙂

  3. Trey –

    I agree that blogs are a great storefront – they seem to be about communicating ideas rather than selling something, which is refreshing in my view.

    Come on down for a glass of wine anytime – but you may leave with rocks in your pockets. 🙂

  4. Our web-site offered online statements…that is unless it was more than 5 or 6 pages. The server that had the statements had 2 minutes (yes that is two minutes of waiting) to retrun the whole statement. This was impossible with more than 6 pages. If the image was not complete, the process was terminated. So if you had a 7 page statement, you would wait 2 minutes, the system would hiccup, and you would get an error message. The nightmare was the error message that said…Please try again. (Try though you might, you could never succeed.) So how many have more than 7 pages in their combined statements?

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