Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the category “blog software”

Improving your user experience

If there is one thing guaranteed to annoy me on the Internet, it is people offering or promising to “improve your user experience.”

At the top of this page, as I write this, WordPress exhorts me: There’s now an easier way to create on! Switch to the improved posting experience.

I had as look at the “improved posting experience”, and found that it was absolutely dysfunctional. What do these people think “experience” means? And “improved”? Do they regard increasing people’s frustration levels as an “improvement”.

To all web page designers out there, there are two ways of improving my user experience. These two ways are:

  1. make pages more readable, and
  2. make pages more readable

The first way of making pages more readable is to increase the contrast between text and background.

The second way of making pages more readable is to make the text stand still long enough so that one can read it.

Get that?

  1. increase contrast between text and background

  2. stop the text from jumping around when people are trying to read it

The first problem is the main problem with the new WordPress editor. I can’t use it because I can’t read the instructions or even find them on the page.

Fortunately the old functional editor is still available, but in order to make up for the high levels of frustration that are essential to an “improved posting experience” they have hidden it away so it is hard to find.

pushI have two ways of enjoying the enhanced user experience of low contrast between text and background.

One that I use with short pieces of text (a line or two) is to hold a powerful magnifying glass up to the screen and try to work out what is written in that way.

For longer pieces of text, like a full article, and only if I’m really motivated to read it, I mark the text as if I am going to copy it. This usually reverses it, and instead of illegible light grey text on a white background it often gives white text on a blue background, which is usually more readable.

There doesn’t seem to be much that can be done about the jumping text.

uxguideIt usually jumps when pictures are being loaded, and if it hasn’t stopping jumping within 30 seconds, I usually close that screen and give up trying to read it. The only solution is for web designers to design their pages better.

When I first started designing web pages 20 years ago one of the cardinal rules was that one should use graphics sparingly, because too many clutter up the page and take longer to load. Too many graphics is bad taste, and, what’s more, it leads to a bad user experience, but will web designers learn that? No.

And one of the first things to know about “user experience” is to stop talking about it! Just make our pages readable and make your pages readable and move on to something else. And, if you must, read this article

20 things you can do this year to improve your user’s experience:

With all of this emphasis on ‘experience’, don’t lose sight of the fact that most people use technology to get stuff done. Frankly, most people don’t want an ‘experience’ with a car park machine, they just want to buy a parking ticket and move on.

Remember that. Write it out 10000 times: most users don’t want an “experience”, they just want to get stuff done. When I’m writing a blog post in WordPress, I don’t want a posting experience, I want to get my stuff written and posted. I want to accomplish a task not have an experience.

A couple of months ago I got a new cell phone. It took me two weeks to discover how to answer it when it rang. My old phone had a red phone icon and a green phone icon. You pressed the green one to answer when it rang, and the red one to hang up. Simple.

But that didn’t work on the new one. It had green phones and red phones and flashing dots in expanding circles, but no matter which one you pressed it kept on ringing until the caller gave up. A marvellous user experience that — I really have nothing better to do than watch flashing dots while the phone is ringing and I’m wondering how to answer it.

I’ve also encountered user surveys, many of which claim to be trying to provide an “enhanced user experience” — “Help us to learn more about our users so we can provide an enhanced user experience.” But most of them don’t want any kind of user feedback at all. They just want to know how they can sell you stuff. They are not seeking to provide an enhanced user experience, they are wanting to have an improved marketing experience. It’s their experience, not yours, that they are concerned about.

One was from the Daily Maverick which I had thought was one of the least unreliable news sources in South Africa today. It was very disappointing. One question was about what you used the Internet for, and most of the things I use the Internet for were not even among the options, just subsumed under “Other”.

It turned out to be all about online shopping habits, and one question asked you to choose 3 advantages you saw to online shopping. None of the suggested answers seemed to apply, so I clicked on “Other” and moved on. It want back, and said you have to give three. I closed it. If it had been allowed, I would have said “None of the above”, but I was disappointed that the Daily Maverick seems to have joined the ranks of the shameless manipulators. That doesn’t enhance my “user experience” at all, at all.

10th Anniversary of Notes from Underground blog

It’s ten years since I started this blog, which I’ve kept going more or less continuously since then.

It was the day that we got an ADSL broadband connection to the Internet, instead of dial-up, with a whole 2 Gigabytes monthly allowance, so for the first time I browsed the Web instead of just going to a specific site, looking at what I needed to look at, and logging off. And in doing that I encountered the Blogger site, and so started this blog on a whim, because Blogger looked easy to use.

I already had three online journals, so I thought starting a new one was an extravagance, but Blogger looked easier to use than the others — you could just start typing stuff. The others had a much clunkier user interface. The LiveJournal one is still there, though I don’t use it much any more.  I was introduced to that by Bishop Seraphim Sigrist, who still blogs there, and what he writes is always worth reading. One of the nice things about LiveJournal is that you can have “friends”, whose journals can be presented to you in a continuous feed, so you can see what they have written. You can see my LiveJournal friends feed here. The other online journals were on Yahoo 360 (long since killed by Yahoo), and something called MyDiary, which had the clunkiest user interface of all.

But Blogger had a streamlined user interface that made it easy to just write thoughts down — ideas that you wanted to share and discuss with people, half-baked ideas that you wanted other people to help you bake by commenting on them, adding to them, or even shooting them down.

When I started this blog on Blogger I didn’t even know what to say, but a blog is supposed to be, first of all, a web log, a log of web sites visited, so I wrote about a site for finding old friends, and you can see the first post here Notes from underground: Seek and ye shall find, And yes, the “Reverse People Finder” I wrote about is still there, and you can still use it.

You may have noticed that this post is not on the original site., and that is because quite soon after I started blogging there, Google, who had taken over Blogger, began messing with the blog editor, and it suddenly became a lot more difficult to use, and lots of things didn’t work any more. In 2006 there was a mass migration of bloggers from Blogger to the WordPress platform, and I started a blog on WordPress, called Khanya, just to be on the safe side. At first it was there as a kind of emergency fallback, in case Blogger became completely unusable, but then I began using it for different things, so the two blogs continued side by side. Eventually the Blogger editor stabilised, and I continued to use it for quick ‘n dirty posts. One major difference was that WordPress allowed you to use captions on pictures, but Blogger made it easier to add pictures without captions.

So it continued until Google began messing with the Blogger editor again, which you can read about here Notes from underground: Blogger’s new user-hostile interface and other atrocities. So I moved the whole blog over to WordPress, and all was well until WordPress began messing with their editor and introduced the new Beep Beep Boop one, which I found completely unusable, and at one point, when they hid the old editor so I could not find it, I began using the old site again. Bad as the new Blogger editor was, it was still better than the new WordPress one. Eventually I found where WordPress had hidden the old editor, and though it is a schlep to find, at least it is still there.

Unless your a dedicated blogger, you probably haven’t got this far, because of all that boring stuff about blog writing software. One result of the deterioration of blogging software is that people have been abandoning blogs and prefer to use sites like Facebook. It’s a pity, because there are many things for which blogs are a much better medium than sites like Facebook. For one thing you can easily find stuff again, even years later, whereas on Facebook you can spend half an hour looking for something that was posted five minutes before, and anything more than 3 days old is gone forever.

There was something else to record on this day 10 years ago. We were visited by an old friend, Trevor Stone. I didn’t blog about that at the time, so I’ll add it here. I knew Trevor from Namibia in the early 1970s. He had come from the UK as a volunteer to work at the Anglican mission at Odibo in Ovamboland as a mechanic maintaining the church  vehicles.

Monday 28 November 2005

Trevor Stone, Pretoria, 28 Nov 2005

Trevor Stone, Pretoria, 28 Nov 2005

Trevor Stone came to see us. He brought news of people from Namibia that I had not heard, and has remained active in support of the work of the Anglican Church there. I learned that Nestor Kakonda, who in the early 1970s had been secretary of St Mary’s Mission, had been killed in a South African raid on Cassinga in Angola, during the wars there. Trevor collected books about Namibian history, and collected information especially about the Kwanyama people and their history. He was arranging for collections of Kwanyama artifacts in Britain to be photographed, so that they could be sent to the University of Namibia and schools there, to be available to students so they could know their own history.



WordPress, please fix this bug!

I sometimes want to make a comment on a self-hosted WordPress blog, and I’m asked to enter my e-mail address, my name and my web page address.

When I do, I get this message:

Are you Steve Hayes?

You are being asked to login because is used by an account you are not logged into now.

By logging in you’ll post the following comment to The Anniversary Gift:

So I log in, and it takes me to the dashboard of my blog.

I navigate my way back to the blog I wanted to comment on, and enter the information again, and it responds:

Are you Steve Hayes?

You are being asked to login because is used by an account you are not logged into now.

By logging in you’ll post the following comment to The Anniversary Gift:

And so on, ad infinitum.

This bug has been reported before, long ago, and it is extremely annoying. And its one reason I think self-hosted blogs are a bad idea.



Testing WordPress

Just testing to see if WordPress will let me post.

If this appears, it will let me post text, but it doesn’t seem to want to let me post links or pictures.

Here is a picture:



This is a link — click on it.

You can’t even enter a link manually <a href=””>this is a link – click on it</a>

Hey, WordPress — have you ever heard of the saying — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?

I don’t want an “improved posting experience”, I just want an editor that works.

I hate it when softweare developers promise an improved “experience”.

Every time I see that, I know what it will be — reduced functionality, and the main experience is frustration.

When they offer an “improved experience” it always means more bells and whistles, fewer pistons and cylinders.










The illegibility of WordPress

Whose idea was it to fill WordPress blogs with illegible fonts?

I recently wrote a comment in another blog, and the first line of my comment was this:

The Facebook world is very much a Web 1.0 world.

but all I could see of it was this:

Th     l  l    ll i   i  mu h i   l       i l l.

The vertical strokes in the letters are visible, horizontal strokes are faint, and diagonal strokes fainter still, so that in a word like “Facebook” all one can see are the vertical strokes of the b and the k, which make the word look like ”    l  l”.

The blog post in question was Church in a Facebook World | Liturgy, where the blog says that it is “Powered by Headway, the drag and drop WordPress theme”, but most of WordPress’s public and help pages seem to be written in the same barely legible font. The list of Categories in the right column where I am writing this are in the same illegible font.

I really couldn’t be bothered to read most of the comments on that blog, because peering at the screen trying to work out what the words are leaves one so exhausted that it isn’t worth bothering to think of what those words are trying to say.

These are not the Dead Sea Scrolls or some other ancient documents that have to be deciphered after being exposed to the vagaries of the climate, insects and other hazards for thousands of years. Why make text on a computer screen look like a badly-fixed paper photograph that has been left out in the sun?

You can surely devise fonts with a face and colour that contrasts enough with the background to make them legible. So why do the people at WordPress seem to go out of their way to make them hard to read? Are they trying to kill blogging?


Why I hate self-hosted WordPress blogs

I tried to post a comment on a selfhosted WordPress blog, and got this message.

Are you Steve Hayes?

You are being asked to login because is used by an account you are not logged into now.

So I logged out and logged in again, and tried to post the comment, and got the same message.

So I logged in again without logging out first, tried to post the comment again and got the same message.

The comment I wanted to post was this:

By logging in you’ll post the following comment to To My White Nationalist Brothers:

Though it is not an Orthodox statement, I believe that the rebuttal of racism contained in A Message to the People of South Africa (link to PDF document), published in 1968 during the apartheid period, is also useful for Orthodox Christians. Orthodox bishops, and especially His Beatiotude Theodoros, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and all Africa, have frequently denounced racism in their partoral encyclicals to the faithful. / credentials can be used.

That last statement is evidently untrue.

Disabling NoScript

I recently found that I could not edit WordPress posts, but managed to do so when I used Internet Explorer rather than Firefox.

I have now tried again with Firefox, with the NoScript add-on disabled, so it seems that the culprit was NoScript. There must have been something wrong with a recent update. It also seemed to have weird effects on some other sites, with menu options taking one to the wrong place etc.

It’s a pity, because I found NoScript useful when visiting news sites and others with bandwidth-hogging video streaming etc.


The WordPress editor still won’t let me write anything in the body of a post

2013 in review

Notes from Underground: 2013 annual blog report. Once again, thanks to those who took the time and trouble to comment. This is the first full year since I moved this blog from Blogger to WordPress, and the number of readers is about half what it used to be on the old site, but the crippled Blogger editor was becoming too difficult to use.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

WordPress stats hard to read

Is it just me, or have the WordPress stats pages (and editing pages) just become harder to read?

In typing this, some letters (and parts of letters) are easily seen, but the rest are faint. It looks like a pice of paper on which raindrops have fallen and dissolved the ink in patches, making it fainter?

Or do I just need new glasses yet again?

Looks like I’ll have to write blog posts outside WordPress and copy and paste them in — trying to spot typos is too much of a strain.

The line below this in the entry form is almost unreadable — “Tags (llol llol lool loll oll loll l olollo)

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