Acronyms are NOT good usability

An article about sending pictures on a cell phone amused me.

"...the phone menus use the term MMS, which is unfamiliar to consumers...."

Just so I don't commit the same sin, MMS stands for MultiMedia Messages, better known as pictures. The users also hated the terrible menus.

Maybe it's because my first job out of college was a technical writing job, but I have always thought it was axiomatic that acronyms are terrible usability. Recognition is much easier than recall: you recognize faces, you recall names. Which are you better at?

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Saturday, November 30, 2002 (Link)

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Poetry for Book Lovers

I love this poem, which starts with:

"Let's meet tonight between the covers
to thumb each other's spines
like true book lovers"

and goes on from there. Implying is much sexier than saying. Here's another poem [Link updated 09/18/2003 --Chad Lundgren] that subtly implies using the whole "food is love" idea by the same author, Jenny Lewis.

And last but certainly not least, enjoy some of Theodore Roethke's insanely great poetry.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Saturday, November 30, 2002 (Link)

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Password Previewing Tools version 2.2

I have been steadily working on upgrading the Password Previewing Tool. (146 Kb) It's now version 2.2.

The changes, for those of you playing along at home:

  1. Added a check of the 8,000 or so dictionary words that make up about 95% of the usage of the English language.
  2. Improved the passwords don't match behavior to highlight where they didn't match. Works even for passwords of different length (highlights the extra stuff).
  3. Added both top domain names like yahoo, zenhaiku, as well as a check for domain name patterns in general, which provides a warning for both email address and web-site-based passwords.

I feel like I've done the 20% of work that gets you the 80% of the benefit, so unless I'm missing something, I suspect the main thing is going to be maintenance mood, just hand adding silly passwords. Plus, it's up to nearly 150Kb of Javascript, which seems like a lot.

I would love any more feedback.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Thursday, November 28, 2002 (Link)

(See entry on its own, including comments) in bed with Verisign

So what is wrong with these entries from my online banking:


They've finally been removed, but they were there for days.

Lexico is the outfit behind I had attempted to buy the premium membership for $12.95.

It would NOT accept my address, even though I quoted from my online banking. I was using a debit card, so this money was being held hostage. The bankers always apply pending charges but rarely pending credits, to the Available Balance number, the "real" number of your balance.

Here is the incredibly verbose error message I emailed to them to complain:

"Sorry, the address you entered does not match the address on your credit card. If you would like to re-enter your address or credit card information, please make the appropriate changes below and try again in 5 minutes. Note: the capitalization of your address is not important during the validation process. Note: If you repeatedly receive this error and you are using a PO Box or Rural Route Box as your address, please let us know.The specific error we received regarding the address on your credit card is: The street address you entered does not match the address on your credit card. Please verify the street address you entered or call your credit card provider to update your street address. If you are using a corporate credit card, you must enter the address associated with it. Typically this is the billing address of your company. For your protection, you must enter your credit card number again."

Does that sound like charges will show up? Come on, people, reliability is as important as usability.

They were at a loss to explain why this had happened: I explained I had verified the address that very day. The punchline? They admitted who they use to verify addresses: Verisign. What, screwing up domain names isn't enough now?

In a more successful foray, I purchased a Handspring Visor on EBay. It takes the InnoPak V2 expansion module, which offers a vibrate alarm setting, which is much stronger than the built-in ones. I have yet to conduct the movie viewing field test, but it's only a matter of time. A usability note: the Visor does not snug into the cradle nicely. You have to futz.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Sunday, November 24, 2002 (Link)

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A Sonnet

I was having problems finishing, what with the sonnet form and the iambic pentameter, so I bought a Seattle Dark Chocolate bar (warning: this site is annoying, featuring Mystery Meat Navigation on the product page) for a reward when I finished.

The obscene bleat of sirens impels dread--
The unthinking, crumpling steel and glass
Embracing anguish like a lover's head;
Rubberneckers take a look and pass.

A suffocating brain unravels a life;
A fragile sparking of memories flickers, ends.
Despite the cold, invading surgeon's knife,
A cancer's growth confirms entropic trends.

Minutia drinks up time, if not there's want:
Enslaved by need for sex, approval lust,
By chocolate's dark perpetual haunt.
But grease and drink are best; in lard we trust;
So praise the Double Bacon Frito®™ Pie,
And guzzle libations for the god of "I".

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Thursday, November 21, 2002 (Link)

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Password Previewing Tool version 2.0

I've decided I may futz forever with the new and improved password previewing tool, so I'm releasing it for feedback.

New features:

  • Checks for hard to type letter combinations like "ere".
  • Checks for silly passwords like "password", "bosco", phone numbers, social security numbers, birth dates, famous people, sports teams, the most common people's names (john & mary, etc)
  • Checks against a list of the 2000 or so most often used passwords.
  • Allows you to change the length of the password field. This will also change the maximum number of allowed characters to match.

And now, without further adieu, here is the new and improved password previewing tool. Feedback welcome, especially on its usability and any silly passwords you punch in that it does not recognize.

Compatibility notes: Tested on IE6, Netscape 6 (Phoenix). Does NOT work with Netscape 4. If you don't know what that means, you're probably fine, just give a try.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Friday, November 15, 2002 (Link)

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Various Links and Web Designer Resumes

Some Windows 2000 users are seeing this error message when they attempt to change their password:

"Error Message: Your Password Must Be at Least 18770 Characters and Cannot Repeat Any of Your Previous 30689 Passwords". It's another Microsoft® bug. (Via Blogdex)

In other password silliness, people are still using social security numbers as passwords. Don't do this.

The new version of the password preview/debugging page is nearly complete. This version will do typability and password silliness checks, such as repeated characters, number patterns that look like dates, phone or social security numers, passwords like "password" and the like. I keep on find more silly passwords to add. Submissions welcome at .

This is a funny movie about switching to the dark side. No, not MicroSoft® , the dark side of the force in acual Star Wars®™ movies. Just watch.

This one may only appeal to web designer types. Find out how much of a page is text content, and how much is just HTML and graphics. It's the GetContentSize tool by Adrian Holovaty. I'm happy to report that Zen Haiku fares well, getting 40% - 60%. If you think that's low, many newspaper and TV sites weigh in at 5% - 8%.

Speaking of links, I was looking at my stats for the past week or so, and discovered that my resume is (as of November 9th) hit #8 for for the search web designer resume (without quotes even). I assume this is mostly temporary, since Google boosts recently changed stuff, and I changed my resume the 8th. I also assume the more often I link to my resume, the better google will rank it. I wonder if google ranks higher if you keep on mentioning google, and if you link to google?

Okay, I'll stop now. :-P

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Saturday, November 9, 2002 (Link)

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Voting Snafus

Yes, it's that time. The day you get to vote and finally stop seeing all those ads urging you to call some political candidate or other and tell them they suck. This seems to be the new trend in negative political ads this year.

One of my friends wondered what the point of that was. I said, they don't seriously expect you to call the person and tell them they suck, it just puts the candidate in a subordinate position when the ad says to call them up and tell them to stop selling out social security or whatever the scare tactic du jour is.

I pointed out the media has a command-oriented outlook: "Don't you dare miss our sale" said a recent radio ad for a car dealer here in New Mexico. The media favors imperative forms, linguistically speaking. People use imperative form most often to order people around.

As I walked through the chapel on the way to an auditorium to vote, I noticed two things: that musty chapel smell (hymnals?) and a cute girl on a cell phone sitting near the entrance.

On leaving, she asked me to fill out a survey, which I did. I chatted her up a bit and discovered she was a political science major from my alma mater, UNM.

Speaking of the media, the survey was ran by the Voter News Service, a consortium of a bunch of media, who took a lot of flak for their predictions on the presidential election night in 2000. Of course, it turns out some people think Voter News Service is a monopoly. They don't appear to have a web site, but here's their logo:
Voter News Service Logo, which consists of logos for CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and and the AP

Rumors that their new computer system is behind schedule on the programming seem to have come true: in a breaking story posted as I write this, says the VNS folks have given up on exit polling for this election [Link gone 03/25/2003]. Oh well, there goes my data. It's not the first time a computer has eaten my data. Having been the victim of at least one death march, I sympathize with the programmers given the impossible task.

Interestingly enough, Batelle Memorial, the company that won the contact, has also worked on lottery machines. Oddly enough, I could find nothing about Batelle's work for the Voters News Service on their site.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Tuesday, November 5, 2002 (Link)

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Out of contacts

Contact lenses are a pain in the eyes, since they can be hard to insert when you're tired, which is always when you're inserting. However, they allegedly make me much sexier, so I put up with them.

You can also put them in upside down. The advice about looking at the lens and seeing if it's curved enough doesn't cut it for stupid o'clock in the morning. The advice that works, which I read somewhere on the Internet, is to put the contact on a wrinkle on your palm (your hands just washed, of course) and squeeze. If it's right side up, it will fold. If it's upside down, it will collapse toward the middle.

I picked 2 week disposables because daily wear seems excessively wasteful. The usability applied to life theory was that I would always have backups, so even if I lost or tore one I'd be fine.

This theory didn't work on a recent trip. I forgot to take my main contacts case [Link removed 03/24/2004], so I put my current pair in the backup case. (Mini-rant: why do so few contact cases have a different color for one eye?) This left me with the dilemma of where to put the backup pair. I settled on the coffee cups, since I don't drink coffee. Yes, I drank a contact. Doesn't seem to have hurt me.

At any rate, I ventured out on the Internet to buy contact lens for my right eye. I had lenses for the left eye, having bought them where I got the prescription. I had intended to buy both online, but put it off until my last left contact got weird. The left eye ones are only $20 for 6. My right eye has a different prescription which costs more.

I googled "contact lens" and clicked on the ad. They had a setup that made it relatively painless to find the lenses I wanted—Manufacturer, and then lens type, listed out by category. However, they insisted on selling me lenses for both eyes. Obviously I could use the other set for the same eye, but it still bothered me.

Then I made the mistake of going to Lens Express. The least bad search was Bausch & Lomb as Manufacturer. I tried searching for "Bausch toric" on their sitewide site search and got bupkiss. So I waded through ten pages of listings (no way to narrow the search) and lo and behold, they do have Bausch & Lomb 66 Toric lenses. (Update: 03/25/2003. The links showing this don't work, so they've been removed) Why didn't they hook their search into their catalog or provide a narrowing option?

Later, I googled "contact lenses" and saw the 1-800-contacts site as the number one hit. They did better, letting me pick just one eye. They also pre-filled the Base Curve (BC) and Diameter parameters, since they are always the same for this kind of lens:

picture of part of a contact lens ordering form

Pointless one item dropdown By way of contrst, I had to pick from a one-item drop-down on the site.

So the pre-filling won a brownie point they lost when they took out the blank item on the dropdown menus. I'd picked the wrong eye, and they popped up a window complaining. I went to change it, but they had removed the blank item from the menu. Being a web geek, I hit Control-Refresh to re-load and thus blank out the form, but a more casual web user would have felt stuck. The only other thing that went wrong was that occasionally some images wouldn't show up. I'm not sure why that didn't bother me more.

I saved about $10, including free shipping. But I have to special order the right eye from where I got my prescription, so it's worth it.

I'll end with a haiku:

Morning ritual:
The cool kiss of the contacts,
Their liquid embrace.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Tuesday, November 5, 2002 (Link)

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