Wanna annoy your readers away? Force them to turn off ad blockers

It’s officially 2020 and I find it baffling to see websites that literally force readers to turn off ad-blockers or sign in and give away personal information before being able to read content that may not even require a subscription. Take Forbes and BusinessInsider as examples. Here is what you’ll be greeted with when arriving at a Forbes article

On BusinessInsider

There are sites that require readers to subscribe before consuming content such as The Information or Washington Post. That’s fair game. When readers subscribe, the policy brings in immediate revenue. Some prominent publishers such as Bloomberg offer a trial in the form of a few articles or a significant discount before the actual commitment. With ads, the most common result of forcing an ad-block turn-off is just views. The downside is that the audience is annoyed. We are demanding consumers. Even one more unnecessary click can affect our experience with a brand or a website. When they don’t visit, websites risk not being able to show the sponsored content.

The Internet brings frictionless access to information. Websites will re-distribute your content, if it is good, in one way or another. Asking the audience to subscribe is a risk worth taking. Forcing the audience to turn off adblocks for some views isn’t, in my opinion.

CNBC provides a respectable example of how to ask audience to turn off adblocks while giving them an option to continue on

The stark difference in how airlines display their purchase policies

During a purchase process of a flight ticket, interested buyers like you and myself care a lot about the policies such as those on baggage, change, rewards redemption, cancellation or refund. The longer and more expensive a flight is, the more we want to know about the policies of such a flight. Let’s look at how some of the popular airlines display their policies

Cathay Pacific – Great

It’s easy to see the important policies on Cathay’s flights.

Emirates – Great

You can see the difference in policies across tiers. It gives the audience a chance to compare the options and select what works best for them.

Eva Airways – Good

Eva Airways opts for a text-based presentation of policies instead of bullet points and icons like Emirates and Cathay. Even though the information can be read easily enough, there is room for improvement

Delta – Acceptable

Delta spells out whether a flight can be changed or refunded, but the UI is not as user-friendly as other airlines that we have seen above

Singapore Airlines – Great

Similar to Emirates or Cathay, Singapore Airlines makes it easy for travellers to see what they are paying for

Korean Air – Good

Even though the comparison is easy to spot, the information leaves something to be desired.

American Airlines – Below average

The airline displays some basic information, but you’ll have to click on the baggage and optional fees on the bottom left corner to have more details. Even then, it’s not really easy to digest their complex policies

United Airlines – The absolute worst

Look at these chunks of text. The airline doesn’t seem to want their customers to know what they are paying for. The use of text instead of visuals is bad enough. They manage to make it worse by using capitalized fonts which are not user-friendly AT ALL.

Customers do buy services or products deemed good value for their money. Subtly and implicitly scamming customers doesn’t generate much trust or goodwill. In a cut-throat industry, trust and goodwill can be the difference between prosperity and struggles.

First look at Disney Plus

Disney+, the biggest initiative and priority in the near future of the iconic company, went live today in the US and Canada. I have been using it for 2-3 hours and below is the summary of my experience so far.

The sign-up is pretty standard and smooth. Nothing major. Even though there was some reported difficulty in finding the app on Apple Store

Fairly expectedly, the app encountered some technical issues which users widely reported here. I have had my fair share as well

That led to Disney+ Help twitter page issued the statement below

In addition to the technical mishaps, I was a bit frustrated by the User Interface. While you can download episodes from the mobile app, I couldn’t find the feature on the browser version. I am not sure if that was intended to limit the downloads, but I was under impression that it was possible.

At the end of a movie, you are presented with a suggestion like the screenshot below, but there is no way to get back to the homepage or the category page

There is an “Extras” tab under the main banner of a movie/episode. They can be never-seen-before clips that viewers will appreciate. However, they could have made the tab more visible or added it to the end, in my opinion

There are some Extras clips on the mobile app that are not available on disneyplus.com.

At the bottom of the website, there is a tab called “Interest-based ads”. On that page, you can choose to opt out of behavioral targeting by ads companies on disneyplus.com

In terms of content, I am excited about National Geographic and Marvel. But to succeed, I do think Disney Plus has quite a long way to go and much to improve if they want to augment user experience

Disclaimer: I own Disney stocks in my personal portfolio

Examples of good and bad user experience

Sometimes we run into designs or features that are either a pleasant surprise or leave us with some degree of annoyance, wishing that they could be better. Below are a few I came across today

Bad – Twitter Mobile App

I was strolling down my Twitter app this afternoon and ran into a tweet that was marked sensitive. When I clicked on the message, I was redirected to the web version of Twitter and prompted to enter my credentials to change safety settings. I wonder why that has to be the case. If that’s my phone and Twitter account, why can’t it take place within the app?

Bad – iMessage Search Function

Great at their intuitive design as they may be, Apple still has one feature that annoys me very much: the search function on iMessage. Both the desktop and mobile versions are pretty terrible in this sense. If you want to search for a particular word in messages, get ready to be frustrated. The software only shows the latest message that contains the keyword. It doesn’t show the other messages that contain the keyword. Users have to search through the entire chat history manually.

Good – ASOS Return Label

On Amazon, if you want to return stuff that you bought, but don’t like, the typical process will be like this:

  • Go to your order history
  • Choose the goods you want to return
  • Choose a reason
  • Either print out the label your own or
  • Save a QR code, go to a UPS store, have the store print out the label for you
  • Send the goods back to Amazon

Depending on how you have your stuff delivered in the first place, you may have to print multiple labels for your returns.

On ASOS, the process is much better. In the delivered package that is pretty fast in my experience, they include a printed label already for you. All you need to do is to mark the reasons for return and paste the label on the package.

Good – Apple Verification Code

With the latest iOS, you no longer have to remember verification codes from software providers. When the code is sent to you, a small window will popup on the screen below the field that you are supposed to enter the code to. One touch on the window and the code is immediately passed to the field. No more multiple touches and remembering the code by heart momentarily.

Source: gadgethacks

Poor User Experience on CRN

If you go to crn.com, you will come across some articles with pretty annoying design and poor user experience. Look below

CRN Web Experience

The article is split into multiple parts and pages, forcing users to navigate to other pages to read it in its entirety. The first page features one photo and 5-6 small paragraphs. It’s a very annoying experience for audience. I don’t know the real rationale behind this design, but I think it is aimed at increasing page activities and lowering bounce rates. Obviously only the folks at CRN can tell whether this design does whatever it is aimed to do, but as a user, it is the sole reason why I don’t read CRN. Even though it’s a known brand in the technology media sphere, but I prefer siliconangle.com, or lightreading. There is not much on CRN that can convince me to click 5 or 6 times to read an article.

Cost of user acquisition keeps rising. It’s not easy to acquire users and it’s damn sure not easy to retain them. If you already convince people to read your site, at least make it a pleasant experience.

Gmail new look and ZenHub add-on

Gmail new look

I have been using the new UI of Gmail for around one or two months. While I am not a professional user, here is what I think about the new look.

So far, the look and feel is more sleek and modern than its previous predecessor. In the past, the Calendar & Task were hidden under the Compose button. Now, they are more visible by being on the right-hand column of the screen. If you use Calendar & Task frequently, it is a nice improvement to have.

The new Gmail offers recommended responses, depending on the content of the received message. Below is an example. A schoolmate of mine thanked me for helping me with a matter. Gmail offered three suggested responses and all I have to do is to click on one of them. Perhaps, it’s interesting, but to some extent, I don’t feel too comfortable when Google outright shows that our email is read. Nonetheless, if I keep using the service knowing that my emails are read anyway, the new feature may come in handy as some point, especially when I am on the go.

Gmail_1

Another feature I noticed was reminders. I received an email from a friend 5 days ago. Detecting that I haven’t replied for 5 days, Gmail has a subtle reminder as you can see below. I don’t have much traffic to my mailbox, but if you are a busy person with a lot of email exchange, this may be useful.

Gmail_2

So far, I have been pleased with the new Gmail experience. I wasn’t a big fan of Google products’ UX and UI in the past, but this time I have to say that they did the right thing here.

ZenHub

I have been in a couple of software development courses at school. Trello was our go-to Kanban tool to manage stories and tasks. While the tool does its job, I was suggested to use another tool called ZenHub.

ZenHub is a free add-on on Chrome browser. It’s integrated into your Github account. If your team shares a private GitHub repository, ZenHub can be integrated into that repository and your team can manage epics & stories without changing browser tabs.

ZenHub_1

As you can see on the screenshot, ZenHub offers many more features than Trello. The default set-up includes more than three columns that are offered by Trello. The tool also comes with Reports function as can be seen on the screenshot. The Reports function imports information you put in each epic/story and helps create burndown chart with an extra manual step on Excel.

ZenHub_2

Of course, more features in a new tool require some getting-used-to. Nonetheless, I think it’s a convenient software. Shout-out to the ZenHub team and I look forward to using it more often in the future.