Archive for October, 2006

Boris Yeltsin in a Speedo

Monday, October 30th, 2006

There are just some things that you don’t want to see. A few days ago, I was reminded of an unfortunate incident in which I came across a photograph of Boris Yeltsin wearing a Speedo in The Economist. You don’t expect to see world leaders in swimwear in The Economist. It didn’t add anything to the information I wanted from The Economist. If anything, I was emotionally scarred from the experience.

It’s a lot like the presentation of data on a web site. You don’t display what your audience doesn’t need and — especially — what they don’t understand.

An excellent example of unnecessary information is on the TransLink site. If you’re not from Vancouver, TransLink is “a small organization involved with transportation planning, administration of service contracts with subsidiary companies and contractors, the management of capital projects, financial management and planning, public affairs and supporting business functions.” They also have buses.

If you try to get a bus schedule online, you click on the Bus Schedules tab, pick a bus route (let’s say the number 2 Macdonald bus), pick a direction, and show all stops. When you get to the bus schedule, it lists out some handy icons (whether the stop is timed, accessible or bike-friendly), the stop number, and the stop location. You end up with a stop that looks like:

Stop # 50067

But, the note at the bottom emphatically declares, “Stop numbers DO NOT appear on the actual stops.” 50067 has no purpose for the rider whatsoever. It’s not going to be on the sign where they need to get on (Believe me, I’m not proposing that they put it there). 50067 has no relationship to the physical location of the stop. You can’t even enter it into the TransLink trip planner as a stop (“We’re sorry. We are unable to recognize that location.”). It’s most likely an internal number used by TransLink for keeping track of their stops. It sounds really simple: just don’t display 50067 to your customers.