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Is it just me, or is this a really poor UI?

Hi All,

I just got an email from a software company telling me that the upgrade CD that I ordered is not in stock and has been backordered. That's fine, but the email continued:

"To respond to this e-mail communication:
    Click the Reply button in your e-mail application
    Place an X in front of either option #1 or #2
    Click the send button  in your e-mail application

Please choose from the following by placing an X in front of the desired action:

#1 ___ Please SHIP MY ORDER if the product is available by the new expected ship date.

#2 ___ Please SHIP MY ORDER when it becomes available, even if after the new expected ship date shown.  I understand that I may still cancel my order at any time before you ship the product to me by contacting xxx-xxx-xxxx."

First off, why they wouldn't just assume that I want it at any time is beyond me. They actually will cancel your order if you don't respond. I understand notifying me and letting me know that I can cancel the order, but no action should be required to just wait it out.

Secondly, I'm a software developer and I specialize in UI design, but I'm not sure how to indicate my choice. How would my mother or grandmother figure it out?

What do you think, do they want this:

    X #1 ___ Please SHIP MY ORDER....

or this:

    #1 _X__ Please SHIP MY ORDER....

The wording and the space there after the number make it very unclear as to what they want. I would assume that their processor will check for both conditions, but if they are using such a terrible method of asking my response, maybe not.

In my opinion if they have to do it this way this should have been a link to a nice simple web form with two radio buttons, actually maybe three with an option to cancel, and a submit button. Anyone without web access could call the number. Processing this kind of response would have been much easier as well.

(I've removed the references to the actual company because that is immaterial here, other than to say that it is not a small software company, but rather one from whom you wouldn't expect such a hack.)

JWA
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Re: The 'X' factor.

I see no reason why a company cannot expect its customers to "fill in the blanks".

#_X__ Please SHIP MY ORDER....

is very intuitive.

.
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The problem is that the "form" is fill-in the blanks, while the instructions for said form said to put the "X" *before* the number. So it contradicts itself.

Chris Tavares
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

1994 called, they want this thread back.

Honestly - what firm is still doing this?

Lawrence
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

My guess:

It's going to be read by a person. It was sent out by someone who's worked in shipping for years & is duplicating a postcard. Maybe it gets printed out. Maybe even for some obscure legal reason. (There are laws about shipping delays requiring that they ask you what you want done, I don't know if they require the response in a particular format.)

Either X format is unambiguous. Writing "YES" at the top of the message is ambiguous.

mb
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Well, people always said that this company never really got the Internet - maybe this is proof :).

JWA
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

I don't mean to start a flamewar, but isn't this essentially how *nix systems work?

"You want to change such-and-such?  Well, just open this one text file and change the settings!"

Add to that the lack of a simple, no-frills editor, and you've pretty much just made a huge stumbling block for anyone trying to learn a new operating system.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Oh please.  There are numerous "simple, no-frills" editors for Unix.

AMS
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

As for why they send the note and ask for a reply, isn't it a law that if a mail-order company is out of stock they must inform the consumer?

If it wuz me it would say "we're out of stock, we'll ship it when we get it.  Call 1-800-frag-off to cancel your order"

Snotnose
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

"Oh please.  There are numerous "simple, no-frills" editors for Unix."

As easy to use as "edit" on MS-DOS, and installed by default on most distributions?  Please enlighten me, I'd like to learn *nix, but this has been a stumbling block.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

dunno about Linux but FreeBSD comes with 'ee' which is its "Easy Editor"

Dan G
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Most unicies come with 'pico', a super-easy editor, that has all the commands listed along the bottom. Once you learn that '^" is 'control' and 'WriteOut' means 'save', you're set.
$ pico whatever.file
make your changes
'control-O' while working to save
'control-X' to exit
'Y' to save changes
'return' to keep the name, or enter a new one.

And the difference between this email and UNIX config files is that the config files (for the most part) have UNAMBIGUOUS documentation. From httpd.conf:

#
# KeepAlive: Whether or not to allow persistent connections (more than
# one request per connection). Set to "Off" to deactivate.
#
KeepAlive On

null fame
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

No frills editor guy,

ed, man!

ed is the standard text editor!!!!

http://gammatron.novarese.net/txt/ed.html

rt
Thursday, July 22, 2004

I would say that the biggest problem with this reply form is that both options start with:

Please SHIP MY ORDER

Most people seem to read as little as possible and probably won't bother with the rest of the paragraph.

As for *nix editors, I'm also a pico fan :)

Joe
Thursday, July 22, 2004

why not nano?

Once you get the hang of ESC + : vim isn't that bad either - it has nice syntax highlighting for a console editor.

If you're using X, get NEdit, it has very powerful syntax highlighting, lots of language modes, and the layout is fully customizable.

Usually, Linux config files, which are indeed text, are a lot better documented than the Windows registry. I'd rather dig myself into the Apache config info than not be able to do various things for MS IIS, although MS IIS has a nice graphical configuration IFace.

But the best thing of all: try using the graphical editor for the Windows NT4 DNS service's DNS files. It's very nice and neat, a lot more conventient than editing the files by hand, only there are options you simply cannot set from there, but you can by directly editing the underlying text files, which have exactly the same structure as the Linux "named" files (DNS server for Linux). These options will get recognized by the NT4 DNS service, though.

I guess it all depends on what you want from the machine. Try cross-compiling some C++ sources using MSVC, or scripting some complex text processing with the bare Windows shell, you won't get far (actually you won't be able to move past start). But how many of us really need this stuff?

However, in order not to loose al the goodies of the Linux shell in Windows, I run cygwin. Of course, not everything works (most shell stuff, the X server, few X apps, even fewer daemons), but hey, there's always the pleasure of hacking the sources to get something to compile on a new platform!

A_flj_
Monday, July 26, 2004

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