CNN Loves Search Bars

In an earlier post, I had suggested that Google place a search bar in their 404 page. 

CNN.com has taken the exact opposite approach of having too many search bars in a 404 page: 

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They have not one, not two, but three [!!] search bars in their 404 page. Granted two of them are from the header and footer, but still, there’s got to be a better design. I’m sure Google is loving the heavy emphasis on “powered by Google” x 3 on this page.  

Pandora Thumbs: Bug or Feature?

When a song is playing in Pandora, the user has the ability to give the song a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down”. I noticed a different user experience when comparing Safari vs. Chrome (both on the Mac Lion OS). 

For Chrome, when the user moves the mouse over the visual for the song, three things are shown: (1) the “thumbs up” button, (2) the “thumbs down” button, and (3) the triangle that leads to more options. 

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For Safari, only the “thumbs up” button is shown. The “thumbs down” and the triangle for more options are missing. Once you move the mouse to the exact location of where the “thumbs down” and the triangle are expected to be, then they are shown. 

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I’m fairly certain this is a bug – and not an experiment for a new feature. It is a bit confusing to move from a treatment where all three buttons are shown to one where only one is shown. The only justification I can think of for having the Safari treatment is to encourage users to give the “thumbs up” and not give the “thumbs down”. But even that is a stretch considering Pandora wants to learn from your preferences and feed you songs that satisfy your individual taste. 

Zappos Price Search Filter Doesn’t Make Sense

When searching for shoes on Zappos, you can filter search results by price. As seen below, the four options are:

A: $50 and Under
B: $100 and Under
C: $200 and Under
D: $200 and Over

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This is really strange for the following reasons:
1. The four groups are not mutually exclusive. Groups A and D are independent groups. Group B includes all of the shoes in Group A in addition to the shoes that are between $50 and $100. Group C includes all of the shoes in Group B (which includes Group A shoes!!) in addition to the shoes that are between $100 and $200.
2. What if the user wanted to search for shoes that were between $50 and $100 OR between $100 and $200. As its currently implemented, the user cannot.
3. It is an inconsistent pattern. You start with Group A that stands alone. Then Group B includes Group A. OK, fine. Then Group C includes Group B (which includes Group A). OK, fine. Then all of a sudden, Group D comes along and is independent from the bunch??
4. The UI control allows the user to select more than one option! As seen above, Groups B and C are selected. This is no different than just selecting Group C. So what was the point??

Here is the better design:

Arrange the different price groups into the following options:

A: $50 and Under
B: $50 – $100
C: $100 – $200
D: $200 and Over

For the UI control, allow the user to select more than one option.

Friendly Error Messaging

Below is the error message shown after a session timeout for Bank of America Privacy Assist:

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This error attention caught my attention as it had an extra piece of information (somewhat?) unrelated to what I was doing at the time. Typically, the error message pattern is: (1) what went wrong? (2) why it happened, and (3) what should be the user next steps. What I notice above is an additional ingredient that can be called: “something for fun”. Now, the message above may be static, i.e. the user is always shown that piece of informational text warning about identity theft. But the treatment above does inspire the thought of having an extra part to error messages that is dynamic and gives something “random” and useful to the user.

For example, I’m thinking as a pattern for a fatal error page, have something like:
1. Something went wrong
2. Here is the fun fact of the day

 

Amazon: Letter from the Top

I’ve seen both eBay and Amazon launch campaigns to their users that start off with a letter from the CEO on the home page. This is an interesting way to get your message across.

Typically, web sites would simply roll out a new feature and communicate the new feature with custom messaging. In the case of Amazon here, the user would come to the home landing page, and be shown a message regarding “instant video and PS3” and the user would probably ignore the message and move right along. Clearly, a letter from the CEO has the impact of making the message seem important as well as really capture the user’s attention. Obviously, this can’t be done with every feature – then it would become ineffective. So where to draw the line? Maybe just use this treatment once a quarter? Twice a year? Once a year? This is one of those features where the more you use it, the less effective it will become. 🙂

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Google Search Redirects to a Competitor

Here’s something I never thought I would see. When I did the Google search shown below, the Google Ad that was shown at the bottom of the search results was a link for a similar search by the Ask Search Site. According to this site, Ask has about 3% market share and Google is around 66% so it’s not like Google is directing users to a top competitor. Even so, I find it very strange that they are redirecting to Ask.

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Google +1 Is Having An Identity Crisis

In the last month, I’ve seen so many different version of the Google +1 button that my head’s starting to spin. In terms of cultivating loyalty to a product, I don’t think it’s a good idea to constantly change the branding and how it looks to users. Let’s have a review of all of the different versions. 

I’ll start with what I’ll call Version 0, as seen about a month ago on Google Finance:
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Then, let’s move on to what I’ll call Versions 1 and 2 – which most people would call their current main versions. One place to find these versions is on the official Google +1 page located here.

One is a rectangular button with the “g” in the design. The body is red and the interior is white. 
The other is a square button without the “g” in the design. The body is red and the interior is white.  

First point of confusion: why are their two designs (one with the “g” and one without the “g”) ?!?

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Now, let’s move to two places that currently have these two versions. First, we’ll start with Version 1 (with the “g”) that is currently being used in the Google Finance stock page: 

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Then we’ll move on to Google+ that is making use of the +1 button without the “g”:

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But wait! There’s a key difference between how these two buttons are used in practice (in Google Finance & Google+) versus how they were branded in theory (the main Google +1 page). The color schemes are swapped. On the +1 main page, the interior is white and the body is red, whereas in Google Finance and Google+, the interior is red and the body is light gray. Why the color swap?!?

Now, onto more confusion. Here is what the +1 button looked like in the YouTube share module up until yesterday: 

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OK – simple enough – this was just the same as Version 1 (color swap) called out above. But wait, here is what the YouTube +1 looks like today:

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So now we have a third version of this button which has the “g” and the “+” but no longer has the “1”. 

Like I said before, my head is spinning. It’s best to stick to one version and ensure user consistency across multiple flows. 

 

Google Plus Integration With Google News

For some articles displayed by Google News, the author’s Google+ profile link is shown as well. For example, the Google+ profile module is shown for Julianne Pepitone below:

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And here’s what you see if you click on her Google+ link:

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This is weird and unexpected. For other authors, I’ve seen the article that is being shown on Google News displayed in their Google+ “Posts” feed – as they are sharing it publicly i.e. not with a specific Google+ circle. But in this case, even though the author hasn’t posted her article on her public feed, Google+ is still pointing me to her Google+ page. In fact, this author hasn’t shared anything with the public. So I’m wondering, why am I sent here? Why does Google+ want me to add someone to my circles if that person has not and probably may not share anything with me?

espn.com NBA League Standings Are Broken

One for the sports fans. The NBA is a league that is broken down into two conferences and three divisions within each conference. Sports sites that track the NBA allow the user to sort the team standings in different views such as: division, conference, and league. For each sort view, the teams included in each bucket are sorted by winning percentage. 

I noticed something strange with the way espn.com did their league standings. Instead of throwing all of the teams in the league in one bucket and sorting by winning percentage, what their algorithm (I think this is a bug) is doing is taking the standings of both conferences, ranking them, and then intermingling the results. For example, for the top ten teams in their league standings – they list in this order 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b – where each couplet includes one team from each conference – irrespective of winning percentage. 

Let’s take a look. Included is how espn.com does the standings (incorrectly) and how foxsports.com does the standings (correctly). 

espn.com standings located here
foxsports.com standings located here

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