Lessons from foodnetwork.com

I’m watching an episode of Good Eats with the Golus/Graham fam, and we just saw a particularly lovely recipe for a salmon and ramen dish. I went to the Food Network site, www.foodnetwork.com, to find the recipe.

1. Ran a search for “alton brown ramen recipe” and the browser crashed
2. Went back to the site and saw that the currently playing show is featured on the homepage with links directly to that episode’s recipes.

I did find the recipe but it required re-opening the browser.

Lessons? Users look for search. Great content organization is vital, but so is a functioning and well-configured search engine.

Design: "utility enhanced by significance"

originally posted to linoleumjet.com
From Presentation Zen’s review of Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind:

To many business people, design is something you spread on the surface, it’s like icing on a cake. It’s nice, but not mission-critical. But this is not design to me, this is more akin to “decoration.” Decoration, for better or worse, is noticeable, for example ‚Äî sometimes enjoyable, sometimes irritating ‚Äî but it is unmistakably *there.* However, sometimes the best designs are so well done that “the design” of it is never even noticed consciously by the observer/user, such as the design of a book or signage in an airport (i.e., we take conscious note of the messages which the design helped make utterly clear, but not the color palette, typography, concept, etc.). One thing is for sure, design is not something that’s merely on the surface, superficial and lacking depth. Rather it is something which goes “soul deep.”

“It is easy to dismiss design ‚Äî to relegate it to mere ornament, the prettifying of places and objects to disguise their banality,” Says Pink. “But that is a serious misunderstanding of what design is and why it matters.” Pink is absolutely right. Design is fundamentally a whole-minded aptitude, or as he says, “utility enhanced by significance.”

From presentationzen.com.

How to thank survey responders

(originally posted to linoleumjet.com)
As a rule I help out fellow web citizens by responding to redesign or usability survey requests. (I know that I’ve benefited from user feedback over the years, and I’m happy to reciprocate.) The MBTA.com folks sent this very nice note as a thank you to survey participants; I think this is a great model of how to thank users for their time.

Dear MBTA Rider,

Thanks for taking the MBTA.com redesign survey. Your opinions and advice will help guide us as we redesign a site to better meet your needs.

T riders had some great ideas for improving the site and we’re already at work to bring your suggestions to life–designing and developing a new site, packed with helpful, easy-to-use features including:

* Dynamic mapping
* Custom/Personalized Rider Tools
* Cutting-edge ‘Alerts’ to push critical transit updates via email and mobile devices
* Powerful, easy-to-use, Trip Planning tools
* Mobile device downloads for handy access to maps and schedules
* Simple and clear “Charlie” content to educate users about the new fare system

Many riders expressed interest to participate in future site redesign surveys or customer focus groups. This is great news because customer feedback is critical to our success. In the future, we may contact you again to provide your insights, opinions and customer perspective.

Thanks again for helping out. We look forward to launching the new site–a simple, powerful website, that makes users happy.

Best regards,
The MBTA.com Design Team