Archive for April, 2008

Converting a Printed Form to Web

Thursday, April 10th, 2008 by The Director

My, my, my. I entered the Southwest Airlines Spirit magazine sweepstakes, but the form gave me nasty flashbacks.

You see, the form for the contest is a direct print-to-Web port of a form that came in the magazine, which means that the form includes questions that don’t make sense and that the form controls include validation and logic that are inferred, but are not present within the printed form and which cause all sorts of trouble.

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Weather.com Defects Rate Themselves

Thursday, April 10th, 2008 by The Director

The heading banner of Weather.com looks like this on its home page:

The banner in its full color glory
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The first couple of searches I run display the same banner minus most of its imagery and styling, leaving only a rating for the problem:

I would only rated it high.
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Personally, I would have only categorized it as a high priority defect; it’s good to see someone harder on a Web site than QA.

World Record For Missing Objects

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008 by The Director

The Cottonelle Be Kind To Your Behind sweepstakes triggers the JavaScript error message box an astounding 25 times on its page load:

The first of many happy returns
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Is that 25 missing objects, or is 25 the maximum number of times IE tries before failing? Lord love a duck, I never thought I’d have to wonder.

UPDATE (April 15, 2008):It looks as though they’ve fixed it six days after I “logged” it. Slower than Disney, werd.

B-R-O-W-S-E-R C-O-M-P-A-T-A-B-I-L-I-T-Y, Find Out What It Means To Me

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008 by The Director

It works with Internet Explorer, why bother look at it in other browsers? Schlitz Gusto explains why, inadvertently.

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The Ephemeral Ephemera

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008 by The Director

I’ve worked on a number of campaigns and promotions involving coupons, and in every case, the copy and the design of the coupon was handled by someone outside the agency where I worked. You can already tell where this is going, can’t you?

I don’t understand why brands create artifacts that are from outside the interactive world of less quality than the online counterpart. This came to mind recently when I reviewed a coupon from the uPumpItUp community (not professionally, natch, but because I dig Mandy Lohan or whoever that is).

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Advertising Agencies With Bad Web Sites

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008 by The Director

One fellow identifies Mexican firm Teran\TWBA, and I have to agree. How many problems can you find without even understanding the language?

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Here’s Your ROI Statement For Load Testing

Monday, April 7th, 2008 by The Director

You don’t want to piss off 100,000 bikers, do you?

The crash Saturday of the ticket-sales Web site for Harley-Davidson’s 105th Anniversary Celebration entertainment – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – left many fans angry, empty-handed and wondering whether concert tickets were still available.

Tickets officially went on sale for the Aug. 30 concert at 8 a.m. Saturday, but the Web site crashed about 30 minutes later. Harley-Davidson reported Saturday evening that ticket sales will resume at 8 a.m. April 14 once the bugs are worked out.

Put that in your risk assessment plan.

Pick On Yahoo! Day

Friday, April 4th, 2008 by The Director

Well, it wasn’t supposed to be a pick on Yahoo! day, but I’ve realized that I have a trilogy of separate bugs based on Yahoo! Web sites or applications, so I’ve decided to roll them up into a single post.

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Sony Advocates Insecure Passwords

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008 by The Director

On the login page for the this sweepstakes, the title attribute for the Password edit box is Enter Your First Name.

Enter your first name as password.
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I don’t know that much about security; however, using your first name as the password seems a trifle insecure (which is why I use my middle name, Freakin’. That’s right, I am The Freakin’ Director).

Or, I suppose the developer could have simply copied this control from another form and altered the name to password. However, given the infallibility of developers, I’d have to go with the rationalization.

Maybe This Is Their First Rodeo

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008 by The Director

Sounds like a problem a cowboy would have:

Lasso error.  Yee haw!
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You know, if it’s in your power, you should have your organization configure friendly error pages at the Web server level. It won’t help you when your site doesn’t respond at all, but it will look better in the cases where your middleware turns into middlewhere?

And, as a sad commentary, try running a Google search for the error message and see how many Web sites are indexed with it.

What Automated Web Testing Can Do

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008 by The Director

At the very minimum, a scheduled daily automated test on your live Web site can tell you if your Web site is up or not.

Unlike this example from a little company called Energizer, who has been down for the last two days with a Bad Request (Invalid Hostname) error.

That's like me, calling a host bad names
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UPS Puts the Mess in Message

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008 by The Director

UPS’s Forgot My Password form could use a bit of design work. While I was trying to use it to log in so I could track a shipment of application demolition charges, I kept getting an error message that didn’t make sense. Here it is:

The validation message didn't make sense
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Let’s take a quick look at the form, and what I did:

  1. In the User ID edit box, I typed a probable user name.
  2. I saw the second form, which seemed to indicate I could just have UPS send my user ID to my e-mail address. So I typed in my e-mail address, since I’m sure of that and might not be sure of my user ID.
  3. I clicked Submit-> without clearing out the initial user ID guess.

The application responded with this message: A User ID and Password were both submitted. Please submit either a User ID or a Password. (MYU_1130).

Now, pause and think about that a moment. I didn’t enter a password. So the message is incorrect and confused.

However, the form is ill-designed to begin with. If I can only enter information into one of the two subforms to proceed, one would expect a nice set of radio buttons to indicate that each option is exclusive; clicking a radio button would then enable the associated controls and disable the other controls. When the user clicked submit, the application would validate the contents of the enabled controls and ignore any contents in the disabled controls. This way, the user would never have to suss out what that erroneous error message means.

No, UPS instead “chose” (by not thinking about it or discarding the thought if they did) to go with the unusable and incomprehensible. By not spending their time to make it right, they made me spend my time trying to figure it out. And my time is cheaper to them than their development staff’s.

Disney E-mail Goes The Extra Mile, Gets Lost

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008 by The Director

You have to hand it to the people responsible for the Disney Movie Rewards e-mails. They just try harder.

The basic e-mail has the normal, if you can’t see it, click to see it on the Web link:

The normal click here to view as Web page link.
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And that view as Web page is wise enough to remove the View as Web page link (a pet peeve of mine, as you know: the “View as Web page” link on the actual Web page that the user views when viewing an e-mail as a Web page). The Disney interactive marketing team and its e-mail vendor go the extra mile, though, and put a special link on that Web page instead:

Click here if you're still having trouble
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Awesome. I love it when they go that extra step. And fail:

The page could not be named more appropriately.
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A page entitled Marketer Error Page with nothing on it.

It could not be named more appropriately.

You know what The Director does when he’s running through the test e-mails, sometimes called “friendlies” because they’re sent to a list of known people for testing? He clicks every link in the e-mail. And you know what he does when he clicks the View as Web page link? He clicks every link on the Web page.

Often you’ll find that tracking information is missing or whatnot, but every once in again, you get the good stuff.

I should make a special category called Disney to collect all the pro bono work I’m doing for the company.

Perhaps The Parenthesis Should Have Called

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008 by The Director

KMOX.com, the radio station that no longer hosts St. Louis Cardinal games no matter how many times I reflexively look there for them, is waiting by the door for some guests that didn’t arrive.

Someday, my parenthesis will come.
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Between parentheses and semicolons and objects, sloppy Web designers and developers just cannot keep the Web browsers happy, ainna?

Gallery of Stack Traces: When Gopher Goes Bad

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008 by The Director

Sometimes, your content management systems just cannot get what your database is telling them. The result: The Parser Error:

The Love Boat's Parser embezzles a banner ad.  No, the quip doesn't make sense.  Just roll with it.
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In this case, it looks like it’s supposed to dish up a banner ad that the application cannot handle, resulting in havoc.

How do you find these things? Well, you just have to try to load the page. If you’ve got some sort of banner ad rotation algorithm going on, you have to reload the page. A lot.

A very basic automated test could do this for you; simply have the script load the page and use some navigation on the page. If the automated test bombs out, it could be because the navigation wasn’t there. Heck, even Empirix can handle that.

Wait a minute, someone just told me that Gopher was the Pacific Princess’s purser, whatever the heck that means. Oh, well, too late now, the gag’s done.


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