A simple design trick guaranteed to infuriate your paying subscribers

Update: See Oct 12, 2010 update below

There’s not a lot of content that I pay for online, but there is some, such as the WSJ and Zagat.

Despite valuing its online content enough to pay for it, I end up irritated with WSJ.com every time I have to interact with it and re-sign in (typically, after clearing cookies or changing computers).

Why? The site makes it nearly impossible to find a ‘log in’ link so that current subscribers can continue reading teaser content.  (go ahead: see if you can find it below in 5 seconds or less)  Instead, they plaster ‘subscribe now’ in at least 6 places on the page, including at the most logical place to also include ‘sign in’: where they cut off the teaser content.

It’s a usability flaw that never ceases to irritate me, even though I now know where the microscopic log in link is located.  Is this really how the WSJ wants to engage its existing subscribers?


Go ahead: try to find the 'log in' link so you can finish reading the article that you've paid to access as a subscriber


Site designers and UX planners should never lose sight of the fact that even as they’re trying to entice new users to their properties, they should create a great experience for their existing users — particularly paying ones.

Update: Oct 12, 2010

To the WSJ’s credit (and to my astonishment), they:

* Graciously acknowledged my tweet/gripe about the above issue, via a Tweet reply within 10 minutes. Here’s the exchange:

* Sometime between then and now, they updated their teaser content landing page as shown below.  It now includes 2 additional login links where you’d logically expect those links to be: before the paid content begins and after the teaser cut-off.

The above has now gone from an example of a design gripe to an example of turning a suggestion around so that the griper becomes an evangelist (which is what I’m doing with this updated blog post and new Tweet). At the same time, the WSJ’s social media folks listened to a valid suggestion, got it to the right department, and that department made an improvement which now benefits all their subscribers.

Great example of social media in action and done well. Marketers: take notes.

The shocking thing about the Facebook outage is the collateral damage on other sites

Sites scrambled like the dickens when Facebook launched its Like button a few months ago, plastering the button all over their content. But now they’re finding out what happens when FB goes down and you don’t have a contingency plan.

As an example, check out what just about every article on CNN looks like now.  Where the ‘Like’ button would normally be, there’s a gigantic “Service Unavailable – DNS” error shown.  Ouch.

FB outage causing all kinds of headaches for other sites

The NYT handles this a little better; the Like button is still shown and you don’t get the error until you click it. But still – this ain’t purty.

Facebook seems to be back up now. But I wonder if the outage is going to cause some of these major sites using the Like button to assess what contingency plans they could enact should the FB API fail again. It’s a relevant question to ask.

Beer heaven in the Bowery

A couple of weeks ago Paul and I crossed the great divide (5th Ave) to venture East and have dinner in the Lower East Side. Dinner at The Orchard was ok- (great flatbreads but a suburban mall-like decor). It was the walk back, when we discovered the beer room at the Whole Foods on Houston, that was the highlight.

The Beer Room has more than 1,000 different types of beer, many refrigerated but even more on shelves. A handful are also offered on tap at any given time, and they also sell home brew kits if you want to do it yourself.  This place is worth a visit.

About 1,000 types of brew, including a few on tap

Kits, drums, and capping equipment for the DIY crowd

What to do on a flight from NYC to Berlin

This sketch series is hilarious.  I wish I could draw…

New Urban Art on 21st Street

The elementary school on 21st Street between 8th and 9th Avenues in Manhattan is getting a major piece of artwork added to its 6 story high walls.  Pretty cool:

In progress

Fuzzy pic of artists and crew, taking a break

Check out the details on the shoes/feet

All done. An awesome addition to our block.

You can read a bit more about the artists here and here or watch them in this video interview. Even better pictures of this particular piece are on Fatcap.com.

Smart move by Yahoo to partner with Gannett for local sales

I’ve written before about the challenges of selling local online advertising and the difficulty of delivering a good local experience for end users.  (and don’t even get me started about that most dreaded of all local advertising vehicles, phone books)  So I was glad to see today’s announcement that Yahoo! will be partnering with Gannett’s sales force to peddle Y!’s inventory to local businesses.  It’s also interesting that Yahoo will be offering ‘interest targeting’ as part of the inventory. That’s something that’s going to be more and more critical for publishers to provide to sophisticated ad planners/media buyers.

Whatever the economics of the agreed-upon Yahoo-Gannett deal, you can bet the numbers are a boatload better than if Yahoo had to put their own feet on the street to cater to local businesses.  I recall my experience at AOL over a decade ago when their local sales force was integrated, separated, and re-integrated with the national sales team every 6 months or so. It was a complete mess.

Local businesses are by definition “people people” based on who their customers are.  And in my experience, newspaper salespeople are also great relationship builders.  Some might call them old school, old media, or some other uppity term, but the fact is that they know how to engage customers, brush off rejection, and ultimately close deals.

Yahoo! could use every boost it can get these days.  Executed carefully, this partnership should provide one.

Google’s new background images (esp. the default one) make me want to hurl.

Thank you, that is all.