Tag Archives: design

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.

Mac vs PC People: Personality Traits & Aesthetic/Media Choices

We issued a new Hunch report today about the differences in personality + aesthetic & media choices among self-described “Mac People” and “PC People”.  The executive summary:

  • Mac People are more likely to see the existing world in a light of “sameness” and thus express a need to be perceived as different and unique.  This is consistently reflected in their aesthetic choices such as bold colors, “retro” designs, one-of-a-kind clothing and highly stylized art.
  • PC People are more likely to see the world as “different enough already” and appreciate “being in tune with those around them.”  This is reflected in their more subtle, “mainstream modern” (neither retro nor extremely contemporary) design choices and their practical choices in clothing, footwear, and cars that favor getting the job done rather than making an overt design statement.
  • Media choices and preferences vary greatly between the two groups, with Mac People trending toward more independent films, specialized comedians and design-centric magazines, and PC People trending toward more mainstream alternatives as well as sports.
  • From a personality perspective, Mac People are more likely to describe themselves as “verbal”, “conceptual”, and “risk takers”, with PC People countering that they are “numbers oriented”, “factual” and “steady, hard workers”.

There are a lot of fun details and images in the full 13 page report, which is also available in a downloadable pdf version.  And once again, we had an illustrator distill all this down to make the following 2 pictures roughly worth the report’s 3,000 words.

PC users are down-to-earth team players who enjoy sports, practical design, and mainstream media

Mac users trend towards retro design, bold colors, an appreciation for objects which express their individual identity, and "media with a message"

See the full report here.

The FIND display on the MTA’s new R160 trains: simply brilliant

Since I walk to work I’m not a frequent subway rider. But yesterday I took the F train to Brooklyn to see a friend who was visiting from out of town. I was on what’s known as a R160 train, which the MTA has been phasing into service since 2006. Besides these trains being clean, fast, and smooth, they also sport a pretty amazing interior display system called FIND (for Flexible Information & Notice Display).

This may be old news to many New Yorkers, but it was novel for me. I found the displays to be a brilliant execution of smart engineering and clever design.

R160 train "FIND" displays: great engineering and design

R160 train "FIND" displays: great engineering and design

The multi-colored displays show station names, borough changes, and transfer lines cleanly and clearly. The information is dynamically updated at each stop and can reflect station skips or temporary service changes in real time.

What’s most clever though is how the devices handle the display of every station on even extended routes. To do so they display the next 10 stops in fixed positions, and then show subsequent stops in rotating groups of 5 in a dynamic “Further Stops” section.  You can see in this video (at the 12 second mark) how the display changes from stations 16-20 to 21-25.  Announcements are also fully automated, as you can hear in this clip.

These smart displays are a world of difference from the plastic display cards still in place on many NYC trains, and they are about the most sophisticated system I’ve seen on any transit system I’ve ridden in the world.

I’m not sure who handled the electronics for the display system, but Kawasaki Heavy Industries handled the overall engineering for the train. Well done.  And kudos to the MTA for getting these into service.