Expertise

Not Evangelism

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tempted by a New Saddle

I discovered yesterday that Brooks - legendary saddle makers - now make their flagship B17 Standard saddle in a delightful Apple Green.

Brooks B17 Standard saddle in Apple Green

Given that my singlespeed steed (the excellent Pompino by On-One) is mostly green (right down to the tread on the tyres), I'm now thinking that I need to replace my existing saddle (the super-comfy and delightfully-named Charge Spoon).


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fun Does Not Mean Comic Sans

I was asked to provide some content for a new website, and in the process of looking at it, I couldn't help but notice the presentation.

The layout, for instance, was too large to fit on my 1280x1024 monitor. A collection of photographs and their associated labels were disjoint. There were typos, text was uppercase, apparently randomly. And the predominant font was comic sans.

Now there is much to be said about comic sans, and a great deal more to be said about the role of font in brand, in the look and feel of a website (or application, or book).

But for me it boils down to a question of the appropriateness of comic sans for the subject. For a comic, for instance, it may well be the most appropriate font. For a warning sign, perhaps not.

In this case, I presume that the use of comic sans is to promote a sense of fun; there are humorous (although possibly in breach of various copyright) images, and the tone is light.

All well and good. But does the use of Comic Sans add to this?

I think not.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Email newsletters: detail matters (even in the subject line)

This morning, I received an email newsletter from a company that has re-designed their website. The subject line invites me to "celebrate our new web site".

The email meets many of my criteria for a good email communication strategy - it's quite clear who the sender is, why I'm receiving the email. And the option to unsubscribe is right where I expect it to be, at the end of the message.

So far, so good.

Unfortunately, the email falls down on a small, but significant detail: there's a spelling mistake in the subject line. They've lost me before I've visited the website, before I've even opened the email.

Detail Matters, Even in the Subject Line

User experience starts before the front page. Yes, compelling content will win out, but you've got to get visitors to your website (or to open your newsletter) before they can discover your content. Any barrier must be removed, anything that stops someone from making that first click. Even a typo - something so apparently small, so easily fixed.

Because every detail matters.

What was the error? The subject line offers "20% of everything".

And I'm pretty sure they don't mean that in the same vein as Harry Brignull does.

Related articles:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Food Miles Oversimplify Local Food

There's an interesting article over at TreeHugger this week on how (and why) the notion of "Food Miles" oversimplifies local food.

This article raises many of the points I wanted to address in a very popular article I wrote after watching a disappointing report on BBC television's Countryfile.

Local food is a good idea. It is likely to be fresher, which quite likely means more tasty. It's almost certainly going to be seasonal. And it's going to require less fuel to transport (which, ultimately, means less carbon - good news if that's your measurement of choice). Besides which, the money for the food is more likely to go straight back into the local economy. All of which, I'm sure, are very good things, and important to me.

But locally-produced food doesn't automatically guarantee decent welfare for animals; local food won't always be produced without pesticides or fertilisers. And for some people, local food might mean genetically modified food - it's got to be grown somewhere, right?

As for food miles, they are one (vastly over-simplified) measure of the environmental impact of food production and consumption - largely a measure of carbon impact (which, it could be said, is yet another oversimplification). They're certainly not the only consideration.

As ever, the choices come down to what's right for you; what's important according to your own personal principles.

Related articles:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Please scroll down to select size & add to your basket"

If every page on your website says this, you probably want to look at re-designing your page layout.


Especially if the item in question comes in only one size. Much like the "Please scroll down" message. Because, in this case, one size does not fit all.

The fact that the website needs to use this message suggests that they've had problems with their users not being able to find their primary action buttons, their calls to action; Add to Basket, Buy Now, whatever they happen to be called. Which means that they're not obvious enough - perhaps because they're not visible on the screen at target resolution.

But writing a message that users need to look harder - work harder, take another step - and putting it on every page, is not the answer.

Users look for something to click; they don't want to be hunting around. Every moment that users spend looking for a link, a button, is a moment closer to them leaving your website in despair. They don't want to resort to having to read the little, unimportant text on the page; they want a great big call to action. Buy Now.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cycling's Biggest Challenge is Not Motorists

The biggest challenge in promoting cycling is not other road users, truly it's not; the problem is a matter of perception.

In fact, the problem with cycling is soundbites. The desire for a good story. The need to moan rather than to celebrate.

Cycling is Safe and Easy

I have cycled pretty regularly for two decades; my love affair with two wheels started in the nineties. Although I am not a particular rabid cyclist, I have in that time cycled thousands of miles. And I have been shouted at by drivers twice. Both occasions, by the by, in the last few months, within a mile of my house - which I suspect says more of the area I'm living in than of motorised road users in general.

I have never been knocked off my bike by a motorist. And I have ridden on dual carriageways, with heavy traffic doing more than 70 miles per hour, in atrocious road conditions. I have ridden on country roads, with deep ditches, blind corners, narrow lanes. I have ridden in standing traffic, in cities where frustrated travellers wished for a speedy end to their journeys.

All without incident, without a story other than a Good Ride.

I have, in the main - in the vast, vast, vast majority of cases - been given plenty of room, and ample consideration for my own particular requirements as a two-wheeled fragile, slow road user.

People Like Horror Stories

But miles of happy cycling is not what people remember. Not what makes a good, memorable, recount-it, retweet-it, tell-it-down-the-pub story. Not what I write about, some of the time.

People like bad news.

Visitors to the house last weekend commented on my recent tweets and updates on Facebook, where I had fallen into the trap of maligning a couple of specific incidences of unhappy motoring. Two occasions where my morning commute had been marred by stupid, thoughtless behaviour from drivers.

Two incidents in two thousand miles.

Two times, in the mornings, in the dark hours when we must all commute, must all do the school run, must all do whatever we must do when everyone else is doing what they must, when we would all rather be in bed, in the arms of our loved ones, and certainly not out on the roads with all of them.

I'm not excusing these motorists, mark you; they acted dangerously, erratically, rudely. Morning grumpiness does not, will not ever excuse that. There is no license for unsafe conduct.

But my point is this: people (and I include you, dear readers, in that noun) do not remember the thousands of happy miles; the countless glorious, wonderful simple acts of kindness when motorists have hung back, have given me room, have been aware of me on my little two-wheeled conveyance, and have shown consideration. It is not the moments when I feel that I am flying that catches attention, not the moments when the world settles around me and I am in the zone, cycling the beautiful cadence, delighting in life.

It is the moments of madness, of darkness, of inconsiderate behaviour that are more attractive.

Yes, this is partly because I have not tweeted about those bright moments, the everyday rides. I have not declaimed at length at the necessary - and expected and welcome - decency of the huge majority of the drivers I have encountered.

But people are drawn to the dark side, aren't they? All of us, attracted by the bad stories rather than the uplifting ones.

So here's a vote for all the good times; all the uneventful rides, all the moments where nothing bad happened and the world was as it should be. Because they are far more common, far more regular, far more prosaic, than the ones that get talked about.

And that's good news. Cycling is good, and safe, and fun.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cycling Firsts

Last week, several cycling firsts for the year: my first commute (home) without waterproof leggings. Then my first commute in spring gloves rather than winter gloves.

The first commute in shorts and short-sleeved jersey. Which included the first time up the Big Hill (on my singlespeed) without getting out of the saddle.

In other words, last week was Quite A Week.

Although the year is still young, spring is on her merry way, and cycling is getting easier, more pleasant, more fun as the weather gets warmer and the days get longer. And yes, as I get fitter.