The Financial Implications of Web Usability

I am a passionate believer in the importance of Web design usability. Web sites, more than anything else, should be easy to use. Simple. Straightforward. Focused. No bells and whistles.

In my work as a Web strategist for nonprofits, I often argue for Web usability from an aesthetic and functional standpoint: people like the way simple Web sites look, and such sites communicate information more efficiently than cluttered ones. Web sites that are visually initimidating are frustrating to navigate.

But needlessly fancy Web design also has financial implications.

I was talking to my buddy Benny C. last night, and the subject of a gourmet rice pudding restaurant in New York City (yes, you read that right) came up. Our pal David Z. visited the place and sent their link around to us the other day and raved about it.

So Benny, being a foodie, went to the restaurant’s site and tried to place an order for some $50 worth of rice pudding. Note that I said triedthe joint’s awful Web site, which features music and dreadful flash animations, was so complicated that he couldn’t figure out how to buy their pudding — and Benny’s a very smart guy. But he got frustrated and gave up.

Think about that. The restaurant, which I’m sure provides an excellent product, went from having a complete stranger evangelize them — our friend sending their link around and talking them up — to losing a $50 sale and the future business of a potential customer. And all because whoever built their site was more concerned with coolness than effectiveness.

It’s a shame, if you ask me.

usability, design



Japan Times:

SAGA (Kyodo) Kidsbeer, a nonalcoholic brew aimed at children, is catching on with young drinkers and is posting monthly shipments of 75,000 bottles, according to maker Tomomasu Co.



Cheese Gone Missing


Canadian salvage divers are searching for an unusual treasure – a vast hunk of sunken cheddar cheese.

Sausage Carving Tips…

from the Japanese. I like this one the best:

Wasabi Mayo is for Pansies

I give you bacon mayonnaise. Get you some. (Link via Dana.)


“Everything You Thought You Knew About Grilling Is Wrong.”

Nats Win! Also, My Name is Not Newman

Had the pleasure of seeing the Washington Nationals beat the Brewers in the bottom of the ninth last night. Great game.

And then this morning I suffered a rather amusing indignity. I stopped at Starbucks on my way into the office. (By the way, in case you didn’t know, I’m back at Burness Communications, my old place of employment, as a Web consultant. Anyhoo.)

I order a breakfast sandwich—a new offering from our favorite bohemian corporate goliath. They’re actually not bad there. And the teenage girl asks for my name. I tell her. And I even spell it out for her. She scribbles it on a piece of paper with a Sharpie pen.

A few minutes later, when my sandwich has been microwaved in that that huge thing that’s supposed to look like a pizza oven or something, she picks up the paper, and in front of the entire line of waiting customers, yells, “breakfast sandwich for NEWMAN. Hello, NEWMAN? Is there a NEWMAN here”?

Gimme a goddamned break.


Jalapeno pepper hands: how to cure the burn

🌶️ Update, August 19, 2018: It’s been fourteen years since I first published this post, and the comments just keep coming.

It seems this affliction is still plaguing folks. Read through and please weigh in with your suggestions below!

July 3, 2004: The story of my friend’s accident involving jalapeno peppers. Read his tale and the hundreds of comments below on potential cures for this strange affliction!


I received the following email from a good friend who I’ll call CD. He lives in the Washington, DC area. He sends along this cautionary tale about a cooking experience gone horribly wrong. His story is by turns frightening and hilarious. Enjoy.

Dude, I got a great story for you that I’ll try to relay in this message. Friday night S and I went over to J and C’s. I was going to help C prepare for a catering gig he had on Saturday. So we get there and start boozing and hanging out. We eat dinner and then begin the process of prepping for the catering gig.

Well, one step in the catering cooking process was to roast a 5-pound bag of jalapeno peppers on the grill and then remove the skins and de-seed them. Like what you’d do with a roasted red pepper. Well, at about 10:30pm I belly up to the table outside with all the peppers and start going to town. An hour later, I had peeled all 5 pounds worth….the catch is that I did it with no gloves.

At about mid-night S and I leave and I start complaining that my hands are burning. Not terribly, but a bit of fire. An hour later, we are back at S’s and it really sets in. Pain like I have never felt. Unbelievable, extreme, terrible, super harsh burning pain in both hands and even a little ways up both arms. It was like I had burnt both hands in a fire.

Now, I have to set the time frame so you can get the full affect of how long this pain lasted….it was at about 1am Saturday morning when I really began to realize i was in some trouble. At about 2:30am I woke S up and said I needed help (she had been asleep for about an hour). She got on the Internet and looked up how to stop jalapeno burn. She called two emergency rooms and even a number of “ask the nurse” hotlines. Nothing. At about 3:30am I was in so much pain i was rolling around on the floor almost yelling. By that time I had dipped both hands in milk, olive oil, vegetable oil, yogurt, oatmeal, water with baking soda, a bleach water mix, aloe and even mineral oil. Nothing helped.

At one point, I had both hands covered in aloe, a wet wash cloth on each and my hands in two huge bags that were filled with ice and water. That did not even help. at about 5am S calls my doctor at his emergency number. He says to get in the car and go to the emergency rooms at GW. So, we get in the car and I ride with my hands out the window to let the wind somewhat cool them down.

I check in with the front desk and am taken back to some ER room at about 6am. Now, realize that I am SO embarrassed at this point. Everyone in there is looking at me like I am a freak. They even wrote on the ER board where they identify what is ailing a patient “CD, jalapeno hands.” It was funny as hell.

Once I am in my little holding room they give me a shot a morphine, which by the way does nothing to ease the pain. Damn good high, but nothing for the pain. After the morphine they give me a shot of something stronger which also does nothing for the pain. I even got a shot of straight benedryl because they thought I might be having an allergic reaction. Needless to say, nothing works for the pain. They debated admitting me at one point. They also talked about putting me on some IV of pain killers.

Finally, after being there for about 3 hours, they tell me to go home and basically just wait out the pain. They did give me a prescription for some really strong pain killers.

Well, to get to the end….the pain finally lessoned to where I could take it on Saturday night at about 6pm. I was basically in a living hell for like 18 hours. Even today (Monday morning) I still feel a burning in both hands. If I scratch any part of my body, it immediately starts to burn. I can just bump into something and even that little bit of contact sets off a slight burn. And get this, my feet have this low grade burn from walking on them. That’s how much of the jalapeno oil got into my body.

Have a cure for this dreaded condition? Leave a comment below!