Posted in Canadian, design, tech, user experience, Vancouver

Examples of poorly designed websites (part 2)

(check out my latest part3 review of a poorly designed website here:)

2. Staples Ad promises much but fails to deliver.. twice!

So I’m browsing a tech site, and see this Ad from Staples:

Screen shot 2009-10-12 at 11.18.58 AM

I’m feeling a little intrigued by the “limited-time tech deals” and “roll over to see more” promise. I’m impressed with the fact that they have tech-deals on a tech blog. They directed the advertising to me, in an extremely relevant yet subtle manner. And, I don’t know if they meant to or not, but with the “roll over to see more” they hooked me.

That’s two points.

So, I “roll-over” the ad and I get this image:

Screen shot 2009-10-12 at 11.19.22 AM


That’s what I got: Nothing.

Not only did Staples lose the two points they just got but they went negative in my books.

But I’m still wondering about those promised “tech-deals”, so I give them the benefit of the doubt – maybe it was the advertising company they contracted out to.

So I click on the “See Weekly Ad” and get the following website:

Screen shot 2009-10-12 at 11.20.35 AM

At this point, I am a little more than slightly frustrated.

Those who read my earlier post on location-based website can attest to this, but I feel that such a basic task as asking for your location from IP address is such a simple, yet valuable addition.

Granted, I was on a US tech blog, so I can understand why the Staples ad brings me to the US Staples site. But seriously, even got it right, why can’t you?

So I figure, I really don’t want to:

  1. open a new tab/window
  2. type on
  3. enter in my city, postal code, etc again
  4. find the “new tech deals

Instead, I want to

  1. Type in my city, country and have it direct me to the Canadian version of the staples site for my city!

So, as a last chance, I give them the benefit of the doubt again and type in “Vancouver, Canada.”

I receive this error: “Please enter a Valid Zip Code or City, State”

Screen shot 2009-10-12 at 11.20.59 AM

I’m done.

At this point. I’m done. Staples has become irrelevant to me. They are more than minus 1.

Will I stop going to Staples from now on? Probably not forever, but as a user I will constantly think about this every time I’m tempted to use their website.

Possible Improvements

Some suggestions for improvement – though Staples seems so large, and I so small, I hardly know if they will head these:

  1. Create a much smoother transition from your Canadian and US sites. (e.g. When I entered Vancouver, Canada that should show to you that I’m looking for Vancouver, in Canada, and send me to that site)
  2. Building on 1), detect where users are (including city, and postal code/zip codes) so users don’t have to keep typing it EVERY TIME.
  3. Test your ads on the majority of browsers, and the majority of Hardware! (I’m using Firefox 3.5.3 running on Snow Leopard (10.6.1) with a Macbook Pro 15″. Hardly a minority from what I’ve see nowadays)
  4. Golden Rule: Don’t suck. (I got this as an inspiration from the head of Google Canada). If your data sucks, your content is terrible, no matter how nice the ad or site or marketing is people won’t keep coming back. In this case, there was no data. That would translate to “suck” for me.

Again, not entirely staples’ fault, as they most likely went through a third-party for the ads, but that’s not what users think.

In short, Staples promised-high (with the design, the roll-over secretive anticipation) and succeeded on not only failing to deliver, but also annoying me.

From this humble user’s perspective, companies big and small need to stop doing that.

Posted in design, tech, user experience

Examples of poorly designed websites (part 1)

Update: of course since I pasted the screenshot the site has now changed and indeed implemented a suggestion of mine: to move the text over to the right and make space for the floatable support tab. I still feel that more valuable links should be used for that space as well but hey, who am I to say anything?

Disclaimer: I just want to say that I’m not at all against the content of the following websites. In fact, some of them I actually quite admire (like Timothy Sykes who managed to turn a $12 000 Bar Mitzvah present into over $1 million). I’m in no position to judge their overall site’s user experience. This is just a humble man’s opinion.

1. support tab that covers the site as you scroll.

Screen shot 2009-10-12 at 11.24.45 AM

my rant: I understand the new “floating” bars, which I honestly feel are a great addition to much needed tasks. But really, a support tab, that covers text as I scroll? It definitely left a sour taste in my mouth. I would have much rather enjoyed a small bar at the bottom of the window, or moving all the text to the right.

problem 1 (main): covers text, user needs to scroll around it to view text (the core, data)

problem 2 (minor): I’m not even sure what support is. Support for the website? Support Timothy Sykes?!?

solution 1: I’m a fan of simplicity. Does the support tab need to be there? Does it increase sales? Does it make users want to read, or does it get them irritated because as they read they have to scroll around it (which happened for me on more than one occasion). If the answer is no to all of the above, it doesn’t need to be there.

if there’s still value in it (perhaps there have been many complaints on the site’s usability) then make it available, but not so in your face. perhaps a bar on the bottom or visible but not overcrowding text. This is such common sense , I feel bad saying it.

solution 2: if it for website support? perhaps name it something other than just “support”, such as “website support”.

This post has gotten longer than I wanted. Stay tuned for part 2.

Posted in Canadian, design, user experience

MSN.COM asks me if I want to go to MSN.CA!!!

Screen shot 2009-10-14 at 1.47.34 PM

After years of defaulting Canadian-based Windows computers to the (US Version) website, now detects you are Canadian and asks you if want to go to the Canadian site ( or stay with the United States Version.

Not only that, it asks you to remember this choice for next time!

This is definitely an improvement to location-based user-experiences like MagicJack, but I say why not go a step further?

When the computer connects and allow the user to “register” in Canada, shouldn’t things like the default website be turned to the equivalent Canadian versions? e.g. ? In my head, that would make for a much smoother user experience.

What do you think?

Posted in tech, Vancouver

Google street view live in Vancouver. It took a pic of my car!!!

Google, you did it again.

Just this weekend, I had posted that Google Maps suddenly added live traffic information to Metro Vancouver.

Just today, 1 hour ago @ 1:18 ET, Google has now officially added street view to Vancouver (as well as Toronto, Calgary, and a bunch of other cities shown on a map in their main page, or via CBC news here).

Screen shot 2009-10-07 at 12.42.35 PM

Once again, no official announcement, no publicity – it’s almost as if it was an afterthought for Google. Well, when searching for “Google Street View” I did see this one ad:

Screen shot 2009-10-07 at 11.47.25 AM

Google Street View Explained

For those less technologically inclined, Google Street View is a free service started by Google in 2005 that enables users to actually see the streets of their city in near 3d quality. Of course, the images, like satellite images, or not live but snapshots from a certain time. Have you ever been preparing for an interview, and wish you knew what the building looked like? Google Street View can now help you

Continue reading “Google street view live in Vancouver. It took a pic of my car!!!”

Posted in design, entrepreneurial, personal, tech

Where are the entrepeneurs who can boldy go where no man has gone before?

big idea #1: rollable computers

For those who haven’t watched orkin design’s video for a rollable computer, I have two words for you:

Watch it.

Unhindered, non-judgmental group brainstorming

Over the last year and a half, I have been meeting with well over 20 different individuals in one form or another to brainstorm ideas for innovative products and startup ideas. However, I found that the majority of people were not able to dream big.

What do I mean?

A well-known trait for entrepreneurs is that they are continuously pushing the envelope of technology, innovation, and what is “possible” in today’s world. In an attempt to finally sound like a trekie, they are able to “boldly go where no man has gone before.”

However, most of the people I met with would do one of two things:

  1. dismiss any “crazy ideas” right off the bat.
  2. not be able to come up with anything out-of-the-box or remarkable (as seth godin likes to say)

It was quite frustrating.

Out of 20 people I interacted with only one or two who were able to throw aside their inhibitions, and really think outside the box.

I’m not advocating not to be a realist, but I find that too many people nowadays don’t know how to dream big anymore! My generation is especially to blame!!!

We are the fast-food, instant generation and are so used to being spoon-fed everything that rarely are we challenged to use our brains to think of new ways of solving old problems.

Tesla & wireless power. Edison and the lightbulb. Wright brothers and their plane.

AC, also known as alternating current, is what the majority of the World uses to transmit power because of it’s high efficiency and little power loss. AC was a mere theory back when Nikola Tesla learned about it – eventually, he would be the first to successfully apply AC to transmit power. Where would we be if he would have listened to the myriads of people telling him to give up, that AC was a mere theory?!?

However, he didn’t stop there – his imagination was to transmit power wirelessly in the long run! Though he got close he was forced to shut down by the government and died a poor man in a lonely hotel room. Where would our world be if someone had encouraged Nicola to continue his “crazy idea?!?!”

Not only that, where would we be if Thomas Edison had not followed his dream of creating light from electricity? Even after the 500th material didn’t work, he just kept on going with his “crazy idea”. Where would we be if the Wright brothers had given up on the “impossible notion” of humans flying in the sky?

Changing the World – One Idea at a Time

Something about these men both excite and scare me to death. Their story proves that one idea in the hands of the right man can really change the World.

I daresay, I want to be an entrepreneur like that.

Posted in design, entrepreneurial, personal

I invented an automatic hair-cutting catcher

My History as an Inventor

I’ve always loved inventing things.  The main reason is because I like solving problems. I think this is a valuable trait in any entrepreneur.

I remember as a kid in grade 7, I single-handedly built a wooden rollerblading ramp 6 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 1 foot high. What was the problem I was trying to solve? Well, apparently that I didn’t have enough bruises and broken bones. The ramp soon took care of that. ;P

Though I didn’t say all my inventions solved real-world problems, the ones I’m most passionate about do.

I’m an Engineer – I solve problems

Take this problem for example:

Vicki, among the other plethora of tasks she’s able to do including sewing her own clothes, hemming my pants, cooking authentic Chinese cuisine, singing like a rock star, sleeping like a baby, making a fart sound cute, actually enjoying baby food, and blinking like a red light, can cut hair. Who would’ve known!

When I found out, I felt like I won the lottery – well, maybe the $10 lottery. Who would’ve guessed that marriage would have so many benefits?!?

However, it soon turned into the MINUS $10 lottery when I found out that cleaning hair out of the washroom sink, wall, bathtub, toilet, behind-the-toilet and in the floor cracks wasn’t really that fun. This was a problem.

I got to thinking, and when I start thinking there’s no telling what might come out.There had to be some way, some solution that was already done, that could catch the hair before it hit the ground, but still allow the barber easy access to the head. I had some large pieces of paper and quickly sketched out a similar idea using the cone technique

1st Prototype – Cone shape

I quickly took some nearby poster paper and tested out my idea of a prototype – the contraption resembled that of a dog cone.

Nevertheless, let’s just say I’m glad I don’t have the actual picture to show you.

There were also major problems like:

  • Difficulty removing and wearing the contraption
  • Cutting the neck
  • The barber could not access many spots of hair

2nd Prototype

For my second prototype, I really wanted to build something that fixed the problem of the barber having no space (3 above).

I realized that to let the barber get his hands in there, the contraption  would have to be portable, and the shoulder-area would have to mold along the patient’s chests and shoulders to give the barber more room.

I quickly sketched some ideas on a nearby cardboard paper and began designing.  I solved the problem by making the contraption run along the shoulder, then go deep enough so the Barber can reach from underneath.

I also knew that I would have to make this something easily taken on and off. I solved this by making it so that you can turn the “hat” sideways, and put your head through it. Then rotate it back to the normal position.

And finally, we solved the neck cutting issues simply by putting duck tape along the neck, and a garbage bag.

Here’s the final version in action:

Mack Showing my invention offVicki cutting mack's hair using my invention

What do you think? Would you use it?

Here’s a video of Mackenzie, Vicki’s little sister, taking it for a spin!

Moral to the Story

I think I learned some valuable lessons for my startup.

1) Just because you have a good idea or solution for a problem doesn’t make you a success.

Of course, I was really just doing it cause I had the time to spend with the material around me. But if this were a company, I should have first checked out the competition and seen there are some of these things out there:

I did buy the product shown above, and it works nothing as advertised. So I could try and enter this market, but this would lead to my second lesson:

2) If there’s not much competition in the market it is either a) the unlikely event that you’re the first one in or b) the likely event that others saw it was not profitable enough

How much margin can I really make from selling these? Who cuts their hair at home? Would they want a product like this? Would they want a solution that keep hairs cut from dropping to the ground? That’s where user research and market research would come into play.

Needless to say, I’m most likely not pursuing down the “haircut catcher” road so if anyone wants this idea, its all yours!

Posted in random

Firefox doesn’t like 111+ tabs – Anyone have a cure for tabulitis?

I’ve gone and done it again.

I made firefox crash.

a few days and 111 tabs later firefox and I couldn't keep our relationship from breaking
a few days and 111 tabs later firefox and I couldn't keep our relationship from breaking

111 tabs is quite a lot, I suppose. But that’s why I got a 15″ MBP with 4 Gb of memory!!!

I’m starting to try the firefox readitlater plugin – which connects well with the iPhone app, but it’s going to take me some getting used to.

Any suggestions?

Posted in random


– make this website look nicer
– connect with some other people who have similar visions and passions for clean, beautiful, and powerful user experiences
– reply to all the people i need to e-mail

Posted in random

Newspapers Are having an identity crisis

(fr my iPhone)

As I was browsing the Vancouver sun this morning, i saw a quick summary section.

This got me excited. How great to be able to see all the important stuff in one page without having to look for it?

Then I saw the online section below. One short sentence grabbed my attention.

“Nobel prize announced”

Now really what are they tying to get me to do? Go to vancouver sun online just to see what the Nobel prize in medicine is? Why not just google it, probably much faster!

Or even better why not just, hmmm , I don’t know,TELL ME, what the medicine was?!?! I’m still one of the faithful few who paid money to get your paper instead of getting my news online so why would you tell me to go online instead??

Sometimes I feel like users are the last ones considered in these decisions – I don’t have a problem with the sun encouraging me to check out their online site, nor do I have a problem withthem giving an inncentive (ie. A contest or something downloadable to your computer), but I do think it’s a problem to withold news, what I’m paying for, in order to get me online to see it.

It seems newspapers are realy having an identity crisis. Whenever there’s a decision being made, a good rule is to ask “how does this affect our users?”