I blogged a couple of years ago about the uselessness of signs telling people not to run in the train station. My point: people don’t run in the station because they think it’s fun, or because they’re unaware of the dangers; they run in the station because the passenger experience encourages people to run, and posters saying the opposite will do very little to change that.
It’s always nice to look at a document that’s just been proofread and see no changes marked. It’s a bit less nice to hear the proofreader say that they marked several changes, but for some reason you can’t see them.
Today I was trying out a new way of working with proofreaders: Google Drive. Normally I just use Libre Office Writer or PDF editing software, whether I’m hiring a proofreader or being hired as a proofreader myself. But this kind of collaborative working is what Drive was designed for, right?
“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”
“I had a headache for five days in that week.” During the parliamentary recess in February this year, MP Helen Goodman set herself the challenge of spending just £18 a week on food. She had received lots of messages from constituents worried about the bedroom tax (which hadn’t yet come in) and decided to see for herself what it would be like to survive on the resulting lower income.
Don’t tell me not to run in the station.
Announce my platform well in advance so that if I reach the station in good time, there’s no need to hurry at any point.
Signpost my platform properly so I don’t have to run around as I struggle to find it.
Hire more staff. A 20-minute queue to buy my ticket turns “plenty of time” into “maybe I can make it if I sprint”.
Typical: of course the ticket machine chooses a busy time to go wrong. In Oxford station, queues were forming at a machine that refused to display Network Railcard as a valid railcard. The woman at the front of the queue tried for quite some time to make it work, then gave up and sought assistance. I was eavesdropping on her conversation with James, a busy member of station staff, when I got to the front of my own queue and encountered an identical problem. Soon it became clear that all the ticket machines had the same issue: refusing to display Network Railcard as an option.
Designing a train ticket website? If the usability is poor, I might buy the wrong ticket. Designing an online booking system? Bad usability could lead to a lot of confusion and unnecessary phone calls. Designing a medical device? Bad usability could kill someone.
Google’s decision to scrap Google Reader drove people to seek alternative RSS feed readers. Lots of us migrated to The Old Reader, which described the heavy influx of traffic from March onwards as “a nightmare” and took the decision to close user registration and shut the public site down. (At the time of writing, they are discussing “new proposals” which may reverse this decision.)