Ben Langhinrichs

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E-mail address - Ben Langhinrichs






April, 2005
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Genii Weblog


Civility in critiquing the ideas of others is no vice. Rudeness in defending your own ideas is no virtue.


Mon 11 Apr 2005, 08:46 AM
A customer ordered some Midas Rich Text LSX licenses last week, but only after saying that he had tried three times to place an order on our website and gotten an error each time.  Since others had ordered successfully, and since I was unable to reproduce the problem, I assumed it was "operator error", but it is my job to avoid the possibility of operator error, so I kept digging.  It turns out that we had some numeric fields that would error out in an unpleasant and unhelpful way if a potential customer entered fifty instead of 50, for example.  I cleared up that possibility by making it a text field, and I fixed a few other minor issues, but I also added a new feature that I thought would help, which is a notification that gets saved when somebody starts the order process (just a simple Web Query Open agent), so that if somebody started and didn't finish, we could have a heads up.

But something unexpected happened.  These notifications started showing up all day long, and clearly from people who are not having problems with the order form.  I scratched my head over this, and then realized that people use the order form to get pricing information and to figure out what is required and so forth, and not just to order.  It was an insight into the way people use the website, since we have a pricing page that I would have thought was more convenient, but people go to the order form instead.

Does it matter?  Well, in a sense it does.  The pricing information on the order form has less explanation than the pricing page, and it is down out of the way of the required information, because I assumed that people would have already figured out the pricing.  In addition, I can see that they might want to come and enter the number of licenses and see the cost come up automatically, which it does not do.  Now that I am aware, I want to look into how I can make the order form more friendly and interactive, as befits this secondary purpose.  I also want to do some investigation into how else people use our website in ways that are different than I would have expected.

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