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31
Oct 08

Stop validating e-mail addresses

Because you’re doing it wrong. At least, that’s what I’ve discovered to be the case with Borders.com, JustFlowers.com, and a number of other sites.

My personal e-mail address has a .name top-level domain. Dot-name, of course, being one of the 280 (at present) valid TLDs. Your rinky-dink regular expression that checks (com|net|org|gov|mil) does not cut it.

This morning I tried to order a book from Borders. I couldn’t. They didn’t like my e-mail address. I also tried to change my password. Couldn’t.

Ultimately, I had to change my e-mail address in order to do anything. Now all of my personal e-mail goes to one address, and all the Borders mail goes to another that I use for technical mailing lists.

Look, e-mail addresses are complicated. More complicated than you think. See Phil Haack’s enlightening blog post on the subject if you don’t believe me.

Did you ever consider why you are validating e-mail addresses in the first place? It’s in the customer’s best interest for an order confirmation e-mail to get to their inbox. Why do you put two text fields to confirm an address? It’s to help prevent the user from making dumb mistakes, right? The fact is there’s no need for rigid validation—either the e-mail gets there or it doesn’t.

If you must validate, do this instead: /.+@.+/. That’s guaranteed to be future-proof, and people like me won’t write you ticked-off e-mails telling you to fix it. ;-)

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6
Jun 08

Amazon.com’s down

Nice to know even the big ones go down every now and then.

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11
Sep 07

My multinational Japanese electronics conglomerate can beat up your multinational Japanese electronics conglomerate

Right now the next-generation HD disc formats—HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc—are battling it out for access to your wallet. These two companies (Toshiba and Sony, respectively) have paid off a number of studios to release movies exclusively in one format or the other, as well as big-box retailers to stock those discs in high-traffic areas. The rumored list of companies on the payroll of either company is pretty long: Disney, Paramount, Dreamworks, and Target, for starters. Not surprisingly, apparently both sides are actively courting Wal-Mart and Warner Bros., too.

So, that’s business. But then there’s this whole legion of movie and technology fans that have lined up behind one format or the other. You’ve got the HD DVD fanboys and the Blu-ray fanboys. They bicker about this stuff. They accuse the other side’s company of acting improperly. They send angry e-mails to opinion blogs and rehash the same arguments again and again.

How weird is that? Despite how entrenched both Sony and Toshiba are in the US economy, and the fact that a US citizen is the CEO of Sony, both companies are Japanese. People are ultimately siding with one Japanese company or the other. “I want Japanese Company B to win over Japanese Company A. I hate Japanese Company A because of some perceived and likely imagined impropriety on its part.”

When I thought about this this morning it hit me how global our economy is. People don’t see these companies as Japanese. Gamers want the Wii to beat the PlayStation 3, or the Xbox 360 to beat the PlayStation 3, or the PlayStation 3 to beat one or the other. They’re not siding with Microsoft over Sony or Nintendo because it’s based in the US and the others aren’t; nationalism or protectionism don’t influence these kinds of reactions at all.

Just 20 years ago, people were concerned with these things. Now, not so much. Wal-Mart used to be popular. Then Sam Walton (whose autobiography is entitled “Made in America”) died and Wal-Mart did away with that image he worked to cultivate. Now geeks spend time on message boards arguing about which multinational Japanese electronics conglomerate is their favorite.

That’s strange, isn’t it? It’s not just me?

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21
Feb 07

Informavores

That’s the term researchers at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center used to describe the state of mind people are in when hunting for information. According to the theory, human beings “track” information much like predators track prey—first, by finding a scent, and then pursuing that scent for as long as they’re confident that success is still possible.

Naturally, this is a theory that applies directly to user interface design and website organization. But surprisingly, many designers and developers still rely on false metrics like the “Three Click Rule” and the “No Scroll Rule” to make their sites usable.

Believe it or not, these can backfire on you and actually detract from the user experience. That’s what researchers at User Interface Engineering determined after an eight-year study, the results of which are published in their report Designing for the Scent of Information. Among other findings, it seems that the traditional design process, where the homepage is the center of the universe, can be a root cause of user frustration.

At $30.99 for a 28-page PDF, it’s a bit pricey, but I encourage anyone fighting a losing battle with self-proclaimed usability experts spouting inflexible rules to take a look. Managers may roll their eyes at the informal A List Apart-style tone that the authors strike, but it’s hard to argue with the hard data backing up their findings.

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4
Dec 06

Different IEs, same machine

IEBlog posted an article last Thursday on running multiple versions of Internet Explorer for testing purposes. Their suggestion? Virtualization using a downloadable Virtual PC image. Yikes.

Of course, an easier and more realistic way that designers and developers have relied on for over two years is using evolt.org’s standalone versions of IE, based on discoveries made by Joe Maddalone. Even better, download Yousif Al Saif’s self-extracting installer, which lets you conveniently select which versions of Internet Explorer you want to install.

The good news is that now that IE 7 is out in the wild via Windows Update, we can safely begin to ignore IE 5 and 5.5 and focus exclusively on 6 and 7. Frankly, Internet Explorer 8—and with it, the death of 6—can’t come soon enough.

Like this post? You might also like Coalmine, my centralized error tracking service for your apps. Coalmine captures errors and all kinds of helpful debugging information, notifies you, and makes it all searchable. Check it out!