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Did Joel actually say this?

There's an interesting discussion about the usability of some e-commerce sites over at:

http://www.37signals.com/svn/comment.php?postID=522&95

It seems that Joel, or someone pretending to be Joel, has posted a couple of comments there. And he's getting royally hammered for it too.

I'm just wondering if it's the real Joel who's arguing the case there.

BTW, it's a "restrained usability" argument for branding purposes. Interesting perspective. What do you guys think about it?

Kelly Scott
Sunday, October 27, 2002

Well, I read a little of the discussion, and Joel's argument concerning "restrained marketing," or whatever it was called, made sense.

The discussion reminds me of the difference between car commercials that are are focused on "branding" the lifestyle associated with the car and say nothing about price, and car commercials that end with a screen full of numbers detailing cash-back incentives, 0% financing, and the like.  The "branding" ad does not provide immediate details -- it piques the viewer's interest and builds mystique around the brand.  The screen full of numbers doesn't successfully build the mystique of the brand.

(I don't know why the previous writer had any doubt as to whether it was Joel -- was there anything about the comments that sounded like an imposter was writing them?  No.)

Yahoo!
Sunday, October 27, 2002

"Branding" is one of those buzz words that advertising agencies use when they want to bamboozle their gullible clients out of zillions of dollars.

Sell a quality product (or provide a quality service), and do so at a reasonable price.  Treat your customers well.  If you do that, then the "branding" will take care of itself.

J. D. Trollinger
Sunday, October 27, 2002

I didn't think it was the real Joel either. Didn't seem like his writing or something he would do.

pb
Sunday, October 27, 2002

"37signals is an elite team of expert web design and usability experts"

These guys really come across as self appointed genius latte drinking poseurs.

needs to be said
Sunday, October 27, 2002

Yes, I really said it.

Joel Spolsky
Sunday, October 27, 2002

...and I really think that 37signals have made themselves sound like those annoying 20-something clueless web designers from 1996, telling everybody "you just don't GET IT." The same kind of attitude that made everybody so damn HAPPY when Razorfish et al went down the tubes. Applying rules of usability to fashion marketing is about as likely to work as applying rules of usability to bar & club design.

Joel Spolsky
Sunday, October 27, 2002

Hrm, I have a lot of respect for the guys at 37signals. It seems to me that they have the experience to back up their claims.

Joel, aren't you out of your field of expertise here?

Warren Henning
Sunday, October 27, 2002

The discussion is about this document, right?

http://www.37signals.com/researchdocs/briefs/37s_researchbrief_oct2002.pdf

Their analysis seems pretty reasonable to me.

Whenever Amazon features a book on its homepage, a visitor can easily learn more about the book by clicking on an image of the book.  I don't see why the fashion industry should be any different.  If I see a cool-looking shirt on the homepage of Abercrombie & Fitch, it would seem reasonable to me that I should click on the image to get more information (including the ability to order the shirt).

I really don't see what the fuss is about.  The 37signals argument seems pretty straightforward and uncontroversial, as far as I can tell.  I see nothing Razorfishy here.

Alex Chernavsky
Sunday, October 27, 2002

Joel's right. The so-called analysis of sites is just picking on seemingly obvious points without a deeper understanding of communications and marketing.

This won't impress big marketers, but it will probably grab business among 2nd and 3rd tier firms who will be impressed with it.


Sunday, October 27, 2002

Presumably they want people to browse their site and while looking for the article in question, buy other junk.  While there might be sane buyers of Nikes, you want most to salivate over the hipness, then cooly hit them with the bill.

But it's unclear, and I don't want to be in the business of grabbing a preteen girl's allowance.  (Being a smart model sounds like fun though.)

Tj
Sunday, October 27, 2002

Granted its a self serving document, and granted anyone labelling themselves as elite is likely to believe the word irony has something to do with personal magnetism;  granted all that, they have a point.

But its a very small point. 

Although I might expect by clicking on a picture that I'd get some navigation to products of that kind.  I don't think I'd expect to click on an image which was mostly of someone's arm and get to buy the model.  Which is the logical conclusion from their 'report'.

Rather than a report saying pooh pooh, I'd be more impressed with a demonstration site that delivered some of what they preached in a way that was useable.

Simon Lucy
Monday, October 28, 2002

Writing setup programs clearly has deleterious effects on one's mental state, such as forgetting everything you've read or written before.

Unless of course Joel is trolling, but his comments here actually suggest he believes some of what he has written on the other site.

Joel, forget how many lattes signal37 are taking, and how smug they may seem 'cos on this one they are right and you are way wrong.

A web site is not a shop. Example from Reality 101 - a shop is a builidng (normally) in a specific location that contains people and merchandise - a web sit is a collection of bytes on a hard disk somewhere that doesn't matter. The Empire State Building and an IBM SCSI disk are not the same!

Once one has realized that some things become clearer. Like in a shop if they put the jeans at the back you have to go through the rest of the shop or actually turn round and walk back. On a website there's a little cross on the top right hand corner you click and the whole place disappears like in those childrens fantasies. Like when you're walking through a real shop you can pass the time looking at things, like the pert bums of all the other shoppers as they bend over to inspect the merchandise. While you're waiting for the pointless pic to download over your modem connection on the web site the only things I've got to look at are the Microsoft logo on the keyboard, the LG logo on the monitor and the Netscape toolbar. Not quite the same thing.

Exclusivity means difficult to get, not difficult to get to. If your defence of difficult to navigate sites was accepted we'd have all the posh stores hiding behind some disused iron sheeting contractors factory on an industiral estate in Slough instead of bang in the centre of London - after all what could be more "exclusive" than a location that you need to hire a native guide so you can find it in the first place?

You can't convey exclusivity and class on the web; when I go into a clothes shop the first thing I do is feel the ties with my thumb. That's all I need to decide if the shop is worth looking at. How do you do that on the web? "Ooh I must by that dress; just look at those pert pixels, those vivacious vectors!" Since Adobe Photoshop royal purple has lost its kudos.

If something looks clickable it should be clickable - it's called affordance and you were the guy that introduced a lot  of us to the concept. And when people come to a website they want to do something (normally either get information or buy something) and you want to use every bit of your expensive screen real estate(expensive in the sense of costing the customer time to download and navigate) to give the customer a link to where he wants to go.

Your claim that nobody from fashion is posting on the site is irrelevant  (didn't all Generation X web desingers start out as store clerks at the Gap anyway?). When you hired the electirician to put in the cables in your office you didn't specify experience in wiring up offices used for bug tracking software, and when City Desk came out you didn't pull out all the plumbing because the new pipes needed to be compatible with content management software.

It's the same with some things about user interfaces. A splash screen that does nothing is a waste of time (even if you're talking about a local app that loads it instaneously), in a web shop you expect to be able to click on a piece of merchandise and be able to tiuy it, or at least similar. After all have you ever seen a clothes shop that puts a piece of clothing in the window, and then you find you can't see it or anytning else in the same style when you go insiide?

And if AberCrombie and Fitch managed to sell more some those sweat shirts, then they could continue to annoy these people http://www.familyresources.net/abercrombie.htmlrcrombie.com/
and that must be a good thing.

Stephen Jones
Monday, October 28, 2002

Here's the correct URL referred to above
http://www.familyresources.net/abercrombie.html

Stephen Jones
Monday, October 28, 2002

Don't get the comment! Sorry

Stephen Jones
Monday, October 28, 2002

With boards like this and 37svn, it's easy to masquerade.

pb
Monday, October 28, 2002

"... it's called affordance and you were the guy that introduced a lot of us to the concept."

Actually, it's called percieved affordance. Pixels do not have affordances. But I'm just nitpixeling here...

Erik
Tuesday, October 29, 2002

I'm afraid their shops are just as poorly designed.

I went into Gap this weekend and found that the items were not catalogued at all.

Now, if I go into a bookshop looking for a computer book I just go straight to the computer section.  The books are all in alphabetical order according to subject. 

However, I could find no such order in the shop.  Sweatshirts were mixed with Jeans and with some items I couldn't even work out which gender the garments were for.

To make it worse, I had trouble asking the salesperson, because they kept playing loud music.  That said, although the salesperson was very attractive, she knew very little about the stain resistance of the various fabrics.

The people at Gap should visit Marks and Spencers and see how a store should be organised.

Ged Byrne
Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Ged. welcome to middle age.

Simon P. Lucy
Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Dear Ged,
                People with obsessive compulsive disorders like yourself should keep well away from trendy clothes shops. I suggest you send your mother to buy your shirts; works for Bill Gates.

                With regard to the clothes you can't even tell what sex they are for, what you do is try them on and see if you like them. If you later find out that they are actually for the other sex, so what? If it really bothers you, you can always get a sex change!

                Marks and Spencers, for those who don't live in the UK, is a department that stociks the kind of clothes that Dilbert's mum wouldn't wear because they are too square. And the layout of the apparel section has clearly been desigined by an engineer. Nuff said!

                  Your post made my day though :)

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, October 29, 2002

"Diesel stores are so confusing that it begs a question: Are they the worst run stores in America, or is something sneaky going on?"

http://query.nytimes.com/search/article-page.html?res=9E03EFDB1130F937A25754C0A9649C8B63

pb
Wednesday, October 30, 2002

pb, that was an interesting article about Diesel stores.  I'm not convinced, though, that such a strategy translates well to e-commerce sites.

Coincidentally, today's "New York Times" features a story about how McDonald's is urging its customers to eat less fast food (well, sort-of):

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/30/business/30FOOD.html

Alex Chernavsky
Wednesday, October 30, 2002

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