You’re not that great a visionary

This is going to be a bit of a rant, but I can’t help it: I am so frustrated with this trend among companies – particularly tech companies, it seems – to force their users to do things “their way.”

My company recently got an industry report that talks, in part, about what private information people are “willing” to share. They quote Mark Zuckerberg, as the spokesman for consumer willingness to have their privacy violated. (Um. No. Just No.) Not only is Mr. Z an ironic choice of spokesperson for consumer privacy concerns, the list itself seems to better articulate current state of what people are sharing than necessarily what people are willing to share: a subtle but important difference. It’s not that users are so “OK” with sharing some or all of the information they list in the statement in question… it’s that users are (1) not always aware the information is being shared, (2) not always clear on how to stop it from being shared, and (3) not always given a choice to keep it from being shared, other than to leave the offending system altogether.

Does the average web surfer know how their search history is being used, or know to control access to the information? Do they know how to use the Privacy settings (assuming there are any) on every system they use (and will they still know this when those systems quietly change the settings without notifying anyone)? Do they understand the implications of not only their own settings, but how the settings of people they “connect” to impacts the information they post ostensibly to their friends?

The answer to these questions, very often, is No. But again, short of boycotting platforms, it doesn’t always seem like there’s much choice.

As an aside to this point: it actually IS possible to disconnect from Facebook, but people look at you like you’re a troglodyte conspiracy-theorist when you tell them you have done so.

[Sigh]

I am at present typing my blog on WordPress. I came to WordPress as a blogging platform, after shopping around a bit, after Yahoo! 360 was shut down. I like WordPress. I’ve liked its features. I’ve appreciated the responsiveness to support issues. I’ve even recommended it to friends. Heck, I manage 4 separate blogs on the platform, two of them for other people.

But there’s a disturbing trend taking place of late, even here on my (current) favorite blogging platform.

They’re making changes.  And you know, some change is good. New features, new themes, new improvements. Yay.

They recently made a change to their blog stats pages. Unless you’re a blogger on WordPress.com, you don’t know about that so much. It’s behind the scenes. It’s an administrative thing.

For the longest time, I’ve used that page a lot.
Wow, doesn’t that sound like I’m living and dying by my readership levels? (Love me!!!)

Actually, that’s not why I used that page so much. For the longest time, the quickest way to get into my administrative pages was to click the Stats button. And it would take me to my stats page, of course, which is always interesting; I like understanding what (or whether) you’re reading and how you got here. But it was also useful, in that all the menus I need to make a new post, or moderate comments, or any number of other things I could want to do, were instantly accessible to me.

Well, they’re making some redesigns. Some enhancements. Hey, I’m for enhancements!

But not when those “enhancements” … well, aren’t.  The new stats page is now this ugly, tiny-font page without menus. In other words, I have no access from that page to anything useful to me.

What the new page gives me, instead of one-stop access to everything I want, is a dumbed-down version with access to nothing I want.

OK, a side note on redesign. People tend to resist it on its face. But to be perfectly fair, sometimes technology is more complex than it needs to be, and a rethinking to a simpler, more streamlined version is a leap forward.

And sometimes, change is just a lot of flash with no substance. The new stats page is more the latter than the former.

I’ve contacted Support. I provided feedback to let them know what I don’t like about the new page, and why. I’m on the User Forums, so I know that there were a lot of us with similar concerns. A LOT. And let’s be realistic… for every one that makes their voice heard, there are a lot more who are saying nothing.

The response was a nice patting on the head and reassurances that they really care what we think and they are taking our feedback under advisement. And that we can still get to the “old” version of the page by following these 6 extra clicks.

Well then, what are you griping about? Sure it’s inconvenient to take a few extra clicks, but seriously, Gringita, it’s ONLY 6 clicks. How much time could that really take you?

Right. In these days when customer experience is meaningless, what indeed are an inconvenient extra few clicks? Except I logged in Friday night, and my “old” stats page now has a note on it saying that very soon it will be eliminated in favor of the version I hate. The version a LOT of us hate.

All those reassurances we were given? Lies.

I get it. They’re driving traffic to their own home page, where it will up their hits and give them ad revenue potential up the ying-yang. Hey, business is business. Whatever. But they couldn’t have left me with my menu options? That’s all I was asking; redirect me if you must but for heaven’s sake, leave me with access to the tools I need. I mean, I begged. I pleaded. I explained. And at last, I ranted… to Support, to the Forums, and now out to all of you.

It’s not just the stats page though. It worries me to think that this is just the first step down a slippery slope… because they’ve also created a dumbed-down version of the posting page, and it strips out 90% of the functionality I use when I post, and now I’m afraid one day soon they’ll decide for me that it too will meet my needs. (After all, why would I care about the 90% if I still have that core 10% available to me?)

It also worries me because it makes my good friends at WordPress look a lot more like the evil Empire that is Facebook… which is also notorious for making sweeping changes, apparently without user input and without regard for user feedback.

And like Microsoft, which decided that the thing to do with Office 2010 was to take things that used to be accessible with a single click, and split them up across multiple “ribbons”… and then tries to tell me how much more “intuitive” that is.  (Um. If you have to tell me (repeatedly) that it’s more intuitive? It’s not. I’ve been using it for half a year, and I’m still tearing my hair out — and when it comes to software I’m among the tech-savvier users.)

Dear creators of technology: If you’re going to try to tell me something is a vast improvement for me, perhaps – just perhaps – you might first want to understand what my current experience and use case is.

In other words, remember that you aren’t Steve Jobs. For heaven’s sake, even Steve Jobs couldn’t always live up to the Visionary Persona. So it’s only logical then that your “vision” might get cloudy every so often. So stop deciding for us what will be “simpler.” Stop deciding for us what is or isn’t core functionality.

Consider the customers’ perspectives.

And you know how you can get that?

ASK THEM. And then? LISTEN TO THEM.

(I’m not the only one who thinks so. See?…  Outliers & Observations » Why Steve Jobs is the Wrong Model for Modern Companies.)

Oh, and WordPress? I broke up with Facebook over this crap. I don’t regret my choice there. Do not think I won’t leave you too.  And if I’m not the only one, what will THAT do to your hit counts and ad revenues?

UPDATED: It’s not quite the same action, but it’s a sign of the same underlying thought process… therefore too apropos not to include: http://dilbert.com/fast/2012-02-19/

Advertisements

About aka gringita
Flotsam generator. Amateur photographer. Avid traveler. Christ follower.

One Response to You’re not that great a visionary

  1. Dillon Cardiel says:

    i loved your site, thanks!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: