Kathryn says, ‘I carry the weight of old boyfriends, self-possessed jerks and sweet immature nerds. The weight of making the relationship work, I can feel it in my chest and my throat. And if I open my mouth I inhale the sheer mass hanging in the air between us. My fear and ignorance are cinder blocks around my waist, one day anchoring me to the bed of the East River.
“Hey Kathryn. Hello? What’s wrong?”
“My website doesn’t smell good.”
Brad had stopped by for his morning cup to go (large, French roast, black). I thinks he likes me, but he never asks me out. “Oh, come now. I’m sure your website smells fine.”
“That’s not what Mr. Nahzah says. He looked at the home page and couldn’t smell where to find the French Roast. I almost gave the poor guy a heart attack. Here,” I swivel the screen towards him, “is it really that bad? Can you find the French Roast?”
“Let’s see, Home, Blends, Grinds, Beans…” A pause. A really long pause. I know he’s confused, and he knows I know this. He pinches his nose, “Damn girl, that website stinks!”
I slap him, laughing.
Brad grins, “Seriously, the labels don’t really help me find what I’m looking for. Maybe if they were longer, or you could put a picture there.”
“How am I going to fit a picture in there?”
“Well, why do you need to use this nav bar?”
“What’s a nav bar?”
“This thing on the side. Why do you need it? Isn’t it just boxing you in?”
“Uh, yeah, I guess. But a lot of websites do that.”
“Come now. Do you run your cafe like other cafes?”
“Of course not. Most cafes are totally lame.”
“Right. So stop being lame.” He shoots me his best mock-intense eyes, gently challenging me.
“I hate you. This is a lot harder than I thought it would be.”
He drew out his words in a mocking tone. “‘This sooooo hard.’ C’mon. It’s not like you’re curing cancer, you’re moving stuff around on the screen. Have fun with it.”
I stared at him and let out a heavy sigh. I feigned vulnerability and tried to create a moment, give him an opportunity, but he didn’t pick up on it.
I love the Internet. Love it. I love the little search box where I can type anything I like and it will immediately return something, anything. I love clicking buttons and making things happen. I love following links to see where they lead. I love crazed, shameless teenagers blogging for all to read what I wouldn’t dare to say out loud. I love stores with endless selections and receiving packages in the mail. I love geeky academics and their irrelevant, fascinating pursuit of minutia. I love academic geeks and their endless variation of the social software hack. I love designers high on their own esthetic powers of creation. I love the self-promotional emails from my elected officials. I love the Dad-assisted emails from Mom. I’ll even admit to clicking a banner ad or two and, shit, I’m occasionally humored by the relentless, inane spam.
I’m tired of feeling ashamed of my love. I love the Internet, there it is. Fuck it.
Mr. Nahzah comes in once a week for a pound, French Roast, Melitta grind. Occassionally he and his wife drop in for an espresso after dinner. He’s an electrician nearing retirement, she runs the stationary store on 3rd. They immigrated from Berlin together in 1950. He is always well-dressed, a charming man. He approaches me while I’m staring at the screen, "What is that?"
I look up, "Huh? Oh, I’m trying to improve my website."
"Our son bought us a computer. All our vacation plans we online planned. We’re going to Spain. Can I order coffee from this site?"
"Once it’s finished. In fact…" recognizing a victim when I see one, I swivel the monitor towards him, "would you like to try it?" You buy the French roast every week, right?"
"So how would you do that here?"
"Let me see." He squints his eyes and looks at everything on the screen, reading and re-reading to himself. One very long minute goes by.
"So, what’s your guess?"
"Ah, ah, I don’t know."
"You want the French Roast, right?"
"And that’s a type of coffee, right?"
"Ya, of course."
"So wouldn’t you click on ‘Beans’?"
"But I don’t want beans. I want it ground."
"Yes, yes, of course. But before they’re grounds they’re beans.”
“But I don’t want beans.”
“Yes, I know. But nothing else makes sense. So you’d click on ‘Beans,’ right?"
"Ahhhh, ahhhhh," still starting at the screen, his face turns red and his head starts to shake, finally blurting out, "Das kann ich doch nicht riechen!"
Ouch. We’re both silent for an uncomfortable moment. I realize I’ve reduced this poor old man to cursing at me in another language, "Ohmigod, I’m sorry. I totally stressed you out. I’m so sorry."
"No, no, I am sorry. I lost my temper. ‘Beans,’ you are right. It is my fault, I should have known it was ‘Beans.’"
I triy to recover by lightening the mood, "Ummmm, so, was that something in German you said before?"
"Oh, ya, that is a German saying. It means, ‘I cannot smell that.’ We say that when we don’t know what something is just by looking at it."
"Ah, got it. ‘Smell that,’ it’s a funny phrase though."
"But I think it works well. We can tell by the smell of something if it is good, like food. I wanted to know which was the good link, but couldn’t ‘smell’ it, you see."
"Kinda. So, I should make that link smell better."
"Yes, it should smell like what I’m looking for."
"So my little blue link here should give off a pungent, slightly burnt aroma, with chocolate overtones?"
"Yes! Yes!" he smiled widely and nodded yes.
Peterme et al on Craft and Engineering in user experience design. Engineering must refer to usability engineering, with accompanying research. While I’ve been a proponent of the craft approach, I don’t see why there couldn’t be systematic methods inserted where appropriate. I think it’s premature to debunk, or even debate, design engineering as we don’t have any examples of such a thing.
- How much business might I have lost so far?
- How much do I stand to lose in the next year?
- How much could I gain by doing what Java Jim is doing?
- What could I lose by not doing it (my whole business??)
- How much can I invest in my website?
- What would happen if other competitors went online, especially someone big?
- What do I compete on?
- What do I give him?
- Where’s my niche?
The phone rings, she shakes her head free of coffee lust and jogs to the phone, rubbing her slightly oily fingers on her apron. "Hello, Sweet as Love. This is Catherine"
"Hi, Catherine, it’s Tim, from Angelina’s." Angelina’s had been a huge boost to her business a year ago when Tim, a manager there, suggested Sweet As Love deliver all the coffee for their 3 restaurants.
"Hi Tim! How can I help you?"
"Well, unfortunately I need to cancel our weekly order."
The word cancel took the air out of her chest. "Really? Is everything OK?"
"Yeah, yeah, I think we just reached a point where we needed, well, different service."
"Oh, alright. But, do you mind if I ask what kind of service?"
"Well, you know, sometimes we need special orders fulfilled quickly. Java Jim’s website let’s us place an order any time, and it’s delivered within a few hours. We realized it would be easier to get all our coffee there."
Catherine remembered, wincing, all the times she played phone tag with him to get the orders delivered. "Oh, sure, OK. Well, thanks for all your business, I appreciate it."
"Java Jim’s. That is such a dumbass name." She pulled up the website. "Damn, this thing is ugly." But she sees the shopping cart icon, and understands how millions in books, music, clothes, gardening tools, a whole lot of other things pass through that 10 by 10 catalyst of consumer lust. The business reality of it all sets it, deep. Immediately her competitive instinct kicks in.
"Let’s just analyze this for a minute…" She grabs an envelope at hand and starts scribbling…
Her favorite time is just before the store opens. The brewing aroma the strongest, the morning light magical through the windows, the peaceful quiet outside. Today she [informally] inspects the shop, walking down a row of coffee barrels full of beans on both sides of her. Each is lovingly labeled. She stops at one,
$4 per pound
medium body and balanced flavor
I love this with a hearty breakfast of eggs and toast or as the final course of a home-cooked dinner of beans and rice
She glances around to make sure no one is looking, and sinks her hands deep into the beans. She closes her eyes and wiggles her fingers, feeling the beans dance around her fingertips. She smiles gently and savors the feeling.