Posts tagged “systems”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Consumed – Faux-Authentic Uniforms [] – The authenticity question is a particularly interesting one to parse. A pair of worn, faded jeans does reflect a history shared by object and owner. For many years now, manufacturers have sold a shortcut to that idea by wearing out and fading jeans before they hit the shelves, by way of a variety of industrial processes (often charging a hefty premium for this outsourcing of the item’s physical past). These Burton pants embrace the worn-denim trope but take it a step further. They’re actually made of a waterproof Gore-Tex fabric and made to look like jeans through “photo sublimation,” according to USA Today: “a photo was taken of a pair of tattered jeans then printed onto the garments via a technical heat process.” So what we have here is a representation of a simulacrum of tattered, faded, authentic pants-with-a-history.
  • Why You Shouldn’t Believe A Company’s Word Lore [] – By promoting the “sound of the machine” origin for the once-generic kisses, Hershey is engaging in what Kawash calls “strategic corporate forgetting”: “they invent an original story for marketing purposes to make it seem unique to their candy.” Notably, Hershey’s historical whitewash took shape in the late ’90s, just about when the company’s lawyers were beginning an ultimately successful battle to trademark kisses. They didn’t use the story in their legal arguments, but it played right into their efforts to associate kisses uniquely with the Hershey brand. When a company is trying to make its product iconic in the minds of consumers, it doesn’t hurt to inject a pleasant etymological tidbit, no matter how easy it is to disprove.
  • Making Sense of Complexity [] – Unless the subject is TV remote controls, Americans have a fondness for complexity, for ideas and objects that are hard to understand.We assume complicated products come from sharp, impressive minds, and we understand that complexity is a fancy word for progress….What we need, suggests professor Brenda Zimmerman, is a distinction between the complicated and the complex…Performing hip replacement surgery is complicated. It takes well-trained personnel, precision and carefully calibrated equipment. Running a health care system is complex. It’s filled with thousands of parts and players, all of whom must act within a fluid, unpredictable environment. To run a system that is complex it takes a set of simple principles that guide and shape the system.“We get seduced by the complicated in Western society,” Ms. Zimmerman says. “We’re in awe of it and we pull away from the duty to ask simple questions, which we do whenever we deal with matters that are complex.”

Poor interoperability is a major challenge to good user experience design.

This type of thing seems disturbingly common nowadays: I am preparing to book a hotel for an upcoming conference. The hotel is part of a chain I’ve never stayed at before, so I decide to see if they’ve got some sort of affiliate program or bonus/loyalty/mileage thing, before I book.

I sign up for the program and get my number about 12 hours later. I tried to book online but because I was looking for a conference rate (without a code) I gave up and ended up calling.

And they don’t show my loyalty number.

I’m looking at the auto-generated email, with the number in bold text. And we try several times. They try my name, everything. And give up. Even though I have the “receipt” on hand. No dice.

So the convenience factor – not having to read out every single piece of contact info I’ve already entered, not having to specify room preferences that I’ve already entered, all gone.

They pointed me to the service number for the loyalty program, and the person I speak with explains it may take 7 to 10 days for a newly issued number to be available to the rest of the hotel systems (such as reservations). He was able to quickly put the number into my reservation for credit, and both people I spoke to were incredibly helpful and genuine (besides being forced to read some clunky scripts), so this isn’t really a complaint about bad service, but really an eyebrow-raised in amazement over bad design.

Shouldn’t a requirement of the system they design to create and issue the loyalty numbers be rapid integration with the reservation system? Isn’t a likely use scenario going to be booking of a reservation very quickly after creating a new account? IT systems in silos is scary for what it prevents.

I guess the band-aid would have been to explain this limitation in their “welcome” email but that might have been too big a peek behind the curtain. They did inform me it would take 48 hours to issue the new account at the beginning of all this (although that also seems silly, what are they doing, checking my references?)…

In general, poor interoperability is a major challenge to creating a good user experience. And this example seems highly typical.

Recently rolled out an integration of their home delivery accounts and web-content accounts (I think to help sell their premium access service), but they did it in a terribly clumsy and confusing way, leading to service calls to agents who had no information (I was told, after a lot of vague language like “when you go out of the system you have to come back and and when it asks for your account you enter your number” to wait 24 hours and try again) and no interest in helping (“this is all the information we have. We can only read this out to you; that’s all we can do.”)…a disaster, as far as I am concerned. Maybe it’ll be better now, but the NYT hurt their brand pretty badly, at least in my case.


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