August 2010

Volume 25 Number 08

Editor's Note - Does Your Program Smell Like Bacon?

By Keith Ward | August 2010

Keith WardHas a UI experience ever just made you really happy? I had one at Tech•Ed in June, and wanted to share it with you.

I was in my hotel room in New Orleans and wanted a pizza. I found the Web site of a nationally known pizza delivery company and decided to see how well its online order/delivery system worked. I’m always a bit hesitant to order food online; I’m never sure that the store will get my order, or whether the employee responsible for monitoring Internet orders will see it. Then, if they get it, will they make it right away? When will it be delivered? So many questions, so few answers from most online food-ordering systems.

I went through the ordering process—medium pepperoni, bacon, black olives (yeah, I’m strange). Then I hit “Order,” and the magic began.

A timeline appeared—it told me that my order was received. Then it told me that the pizza was being made, and by whom (Susie). Whoa! That’s something I didn’t expect. Then the system informed me that the pizza was in the oven. Then out of the oven and going through a quality assurance check by Susie. Double whoa! Then it told me that the pizza was on its way, who the driver was and what time the driver left. Wowser!

The graphics were outstanding; clear, large and well-labeled. You didn’t have to wonder about anything. For instance, at every stage, the particular segment on the timeline that was in process flashed; in other words, when it was in the oven, that part of the timeline flashed. I immensely enjoyed following my pizza’s progress on that colorful timeline.

The pizza arrived, direct to my room, within 15 minutes of the driver leaving. Needless to say, I gave him a big tip.

This experience, to me, really demonstrated the power of customer-­focused development. The UI answered any question I could possibly have about my pizza; in fact, it went above and beyond my expectations (how often does that happen?), informing me at every step of the process what was going on. As strange as it sounds, I felt personally connected to the pizza delivery company—and my pizza—through this experience. Isn’t that how you want your users to feel?

The key take-away from this experience: You must do more than just “Get it to work.” Think like an end user, and ask yourself, “What would make me excited about this program? What functionality would make me go ‘Wow!’?” Has your program gone beyond the minimum requirements? Is the UI more than just functional—does it make users happy?

If not, you’ve got some work to do.

Do you have examples of great UI design? Send them to me at