An exhibition celebrating real ale culture. You could pull your own pint, eat cheese and pickle, pork pies and look at some photographs of a brewery. I don't like real ale so the exhibition was a bit lost on me but I thought the building, Made, was a great exhibition space.
Google agree hyphens as good as dashes for urls
It seems that good things do come to those who wait. A few months ago I was gutted to come across this post from Google blogger Matt Cutts on the use of hypens in urls. I've always used underscores to separate words but, as the post lays clear, google wouldn't differentiate words when they are joined by an underscore (it was something to do with the fact that the google algorithm began as a way of searching through code).
We considered switching all our urls on a pretty large site, but decided against it, partly because the work involved would have been a pain and partly because we felt that underscores were a more sensible way to separate words than hyphens. Looks like our foresightedness/laziness has paid off, Matt Cutts anouncing Google will soon treat underscores as appropriate word separators.
I worked on the first Hub Festival a few years ago and I haven't been to it since. It didn't seem too sure what it was trying to be, but judging from Andy Sunley's great set of photos from this year's festival this weekend, they seem to have developed a pretty well defined audience.
It's a great interview, covering the start of the website (they sent an email to 40 friends and had 40000 hits by the end of the first day), monetising the site through subscription, moving on to free subscription and supported by advertising, dubious claims of 10 weddings a day caused through the site, their early use of virtual products (selling virtual flowers three years ago) and their new HotList product.
I listened to the first talk from the @media 2007 podcast yesterday, Joe Clark's talk, 'When accessibility is not your problem'.
Joe starts off with a lengthy preamble about WCAG Samurai. Spurred by a controversial article he wrote last year, To Hell with WCAG 2, Joe decided to stop waiting for the WCAG 2 guidelines to be finalised and, together with a few chosen contemporaries, return to making the best of WCAG 1. WCAG Samurai is the result of this project.
The delay in the production of the WCAG 2 guidelines is well documented, WCAG 1 was published in 1999! Another talk I listened to in the last week gave a good job of explaining the current(ish) situation from the working group perspective, Accessibility Wars: A report from the trenches.
All four have come up in recent work I've been involved with, they are:
font resizing - he sees this as a browser issue. Fair enough if you're only worried about accessibility compliance but if you're concerned with usability you can't just pass responsibility on to browser designers and users
headings and links out of context - he says that headings and links shouldn't have to make sense if a tool takes them out of context
abbreviations - language is a lot more complex than HTML can ever allow for. Loads of great examples
cognitive disabilities - Joe stresses the fact that the clearest and simplest language should be used appropriate for a site's content. I would add that different language can be appropriate for different sections of the same site.
Following on from the covering up of the Norton for Scrap sign, this photo shows the latest success story for the Grot Spots campaign. The former Las Vegas Amusements arcade outside Lime Street has had its Las Vegas sign removed and now looks much more cultured. £1 for a bottle of larger.
Suggested improvements for the Virgin Trains website
I use the Virgin Trains website that often, and there are that many things that annoy me about it, that I thought it's best to keep a note somewhere. I'll update this regularly as I come across more of the issues. Problems such as:
the total lack of a site search facility
I know there's a section called 'My Account' that contains details of tickets I've booked, etc, but there's no apparent link to it from the home page or anywhere else. The only way that I've found to access it is to pretend to buy a ticket for another journey and then a link appears in the main navigation.
if you fill in a particular hour for travel, you also have to fill in a quarter hour. So you can't just choose a train after 11, you have to choose a train after 11,00 (two separate drop down boxes)
if you book multiple journeys in the same transaction, you receive a separate fast ticket code for each journey. So, when you pick up your ticket at the Fast Ticket machine you have to put several separate codes in (inserting and removing the same credit card each time to identify yourself. I'm sure they don't post each journey separately but maybe they do.
pointless pop-ups - at random points throughout the site clicking on links opens the new page in a new window. Click on the new offer on the homepage? Popup. Submit your planned journey times? Popup. It's not unusual to find myself with six tabs open by the end of a visit to the site.
the homepage's opening message - 'Hello and welcome to the Virgin Trains website. To bookmark this site press CTRL+D'.
at first you're allowed to select any month of the year, but if you select a date more than 12 weeks in advance you're sent to an error page telling you you can't book more than 12 weeks in advance. The form on this page only shows the next three valid months, why doesn't the first form just do that? (added 6 July 2007)
trying to view your booking details to cancel a booking and receiving the message 'The page isn't redirecting properly. Firefox has detected that the server is redirecting the request for this address in a way that will never complete.'. (added 6 July 2007)
stick a time in the form on the homepage, less than two seconds later receive the message 'Due to inactivity, this site has timed out. This is for your security. Please visit the Home page to continue.' (added 6 July 2007)
clicking on the Request Refund button to open a page with the message - 'Our new Refund Online facility is currently under construction - we expect to launch it shortly.' (added 6 July 2007)
search for times, select available trains, reach last stage of booking form and receive message 'Sorry, tickets not available for this journey, please search again'. Go through the full process again, selecting the exact same trains and times, booking goes through (added 9 July 2007)
regularly hitting the screen that says: Sorry, due to a technical issue we are currently unable to process your request.
If you have not yet reached the payment stage, please go back and try again.
If you have received this after you have submitted your payment card details, please click this link View Booking History.
View your booking details and check to see if your transaction is listed. If it is listed your transaction is completed and you don’t need to do anything. If it is not listed the transaction has not completed and you have not been charged so please go back and try again.
Alternatively you can call 0870 010 1127 to speak to our agent. You will need your email address and the time that you received this message. (added 13 July 2007)
wouldn't it be great if I could export new journies straight from the website booking system into my google calendar? (or outlook, or upcoming...) (added 23 July 2007)
give your credit card a nickname, tick the check box to remember the details, next time you try to pay? have to enter all the same details again (added 2 August 2007)
if you choose 'return' you're offered the return fares with a clickthrough option for single fares. If instead you have chose 'single' you're still offered the return fares with a clickthrough option for single fares (added 28 August 2007)
their popup calendar sorts dates with the week starting on a Sunday instead of a Monday (added 28 August 2007)
you choose to 'add another journey' having already booked a return journey. For this second, new, journey though you decide to only have a single and not a return. The website refuses to accept your new date of travel and will only ever give you dates for the previous journey you booked (added 28 August 2007)
fill in your journey details on the homepage and get sent to a page 'Site down for maintenance'. Couldn't I have been given this message on the homepage? (added 17 September 2007)
@media 2007 London podcast @media 2007 was held in London last month. Recordings of the talks from Day One are now on their website. As I've mentioned before, it's becoming standard for web conferences to post their recordings free online, a fantastic resource. The @media podcast is also improved by including pdfs of the slides used by the lecturers.
Talks and topics: (I haven't included links as the summary pages don't include links to the mp3s. all mp3s available through the link above)
Jesse James Garrett of Adaptive Path on 'Beyond Ajax'
Molly Holzschlag on 'Solving the browser problem once and for all'
Jason Santa Maria on 'Diabolical design: the devil is in the detail'
Nate Koechley on 'High performance web pages'
Dan Cederholm on 'Interface Juggling'
Richard Ishida on 'Designing for international users'
Mark Boulton on '5 simple steps to better typography'
Tantek Celik on 'Microformats'
Joe Clark on 'When web accessibility is not your problem'