Category Archives: Web Design

Comic-Con Hotels 2010: Reviewing the Reservation Form

It was fast. Anticlimactic, really. It took a few reloads to get the Comic-Con International home page up, but once I could click on the reservation link, everything went smoothly. I was done by 9:05.

The reservation page was actually optimized!

  • Just one image: a banner across the top.
  • Everything was on one page, including the list of hotels, the personal info, and the hotel choices.
  • Hotel selection was done by client-side scripting, so there was no wait for processing between selections (and no risk of typos confusing their processing system later today).

This is a huge deal, especially compared to Travel Planners’ horribly overdesigned 2008 forms — yes, forms, plural — that kept bogging down. (I never even saw last year’s, though I tried for an hour and a half to get in.)

On the downside, that one page does load a half-dozen script files, but that doesn’t seem to have slowed it down much.

In case none of your 12 choices were available, they asked for a maximum price you’d be willing to pay for another hotel that’s not on your list. I vaguely recall this being a feature of the old fax forms, but I don’t remember being asked this on the phone last year.

I was surprised to find that they didn’t want credit card info immediately, but that’s good from a streamlining perspective as well. The hotel choices, room type, and contact info are critical in order to make the reservation in the first place. Payment can be done later, so in a rushed situation like this, it’s better to handle it later. Plus, not asking for credit card information means that they could run the site without encryption, speeding things up a bit more.

I would have liked to have gotten a confirmation number for the request, or an email, just so that I could be sure that I was in their queue. And to be sure that I entered the right email address. And the right start and end dates. And…well, you get the idea. I’m a little paranoid about the process at the moment.

Here’s hoping that the back end of the process, and sending out confirmations, goes as smoothly as the front end did.

Update: Short answer: it didn’t. Long answer: I’ve written up what went wrong, at least from the guests’ point of view.

Case of Mondays: Usability, 2012, and Chkdsk

  • Usability question: Is it better for a form to auto-detect the credit card type from its number, or have the user select it as an error check? # (Consensus on Twitter & Facebook was to have the user select it.)
  • In case you were worried, the world will NOT end on this date (or any other) in 2012. #
  • Yay, the PC isn’t totally crashed! Grabbed a current backup & now running chkdsk. Work last week, home this week. Pattern? #
  • Chkdsk is FINALLY running. If you get a “cannot open volume for direct access” error trying to run it on Windows XP, try running msconfig and selecting a Diagnostic startup. #

Best Way to Label Dead Links

I use the Broken Link Checker plugin on this blog and on Speed Force to find broken or moved links. In addition to helping you manage them in the admin interface, it can also assign formatting (as a CSS class) to mark them in your posts.

Cool! Readers can see that the link is broken before clicking on it!

But what’s the best way to label the links?

The plugin uses strike-through by default. You are marking something that’s gone, but strike-through usually means the text is being crossed out. That’s fine for a link in a list, but something like “Catering was provided by MyNiftyFoodCo” implies that the name of the company is wrong, not that the website is gone.

Just making something italic or changing the color doesn’t work either, because it’s arbitrary. Nothing about an italic link (which could be a title), or a random other color, suggests that something might be missing.

What I’ve come up with is to reduce the contrast on broken links. It combines two familiar schemes:

  • High contrast for new links and low contrast for visited links.
  • “Graying out” inactive items in software.

So here, I’ve got bright blue for new links, darker blue for visited links, and broken links as black (well, very dark gray), the same color as surrounding text. I’m keeping the underline in place so there’s still some indication that it’s a link, but it’s not as strong as the label for one that’s still functional.

It’s still not ideal, since color is the only difference, but it should cause less confusion than the strike-through.