April 2004 Archives

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been selling a lot of stuff on eBay for Barnwood Decor. It’s been going pretty well: People like the stuff, and eBay’s Turbo Lister makes it really easy to relist the same items over and over.

It’s easy to see why eBay is so popular—They keep making it easier for sellers to market and for buyers to purchase. One especially nice feature is their shipping calculator. The seller chooses calculated shipping when they create their auction, and the buyer just has to type in their zip code to find out how much shipping will be.

Unfortunately, this great feature wasn’t working right for me. It was consistently overcharging by $5.00. I knew this because Barnwood Decor has a shipping calculator as well, and I compared both results with the calculator at UPS. Barnwood’s was close, eBay’s wasn’t. What was even more frustrating was that, after an auction had ended, I could use eBay’s shipping calculator before sending an invoice, and it would calculate correctly. If I used that to correct the invoice, the buyer would see the lower shipping in the e-mail, but when they tried to pay by PayPal it would charge them the higher shipping. This did not go over well with some customers.

Screenshot from Turbo Lister with the discussed check box highlighted. The last time I listed items, I finally figured out what was causing this: When setting up calculated shipping, there is a check box which reads, “The packaging is not standard.” I assumed this equated to the question on the UPS calculator that asks if you are using their packaging or your own. I was wrong. It adds a $5.00 surcharge for unusually packaged items. And, sure enough, it’s in the help. I sure couldn’t find it before.

So, if you’re selling on eBay and people are complaining you charge too much for shipping, this might be something to check. Or, actually, uncheck.

Just a quick announcement: I will be part of a panel discussion on web site development and e-newsletters at the Professional Development 2004 seminar hosted by the Oklahoma City Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. It’s being held at the Omniplex on June 16. When I know more I’ll pass it along.

You know, I don’t participate in enough memes. So, since Keith, Doug, and Matt all told me to:

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 23.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

From Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash:

Hiro’s father, who was stationed in Japan for many years, was obsessed with cameras.

It’s sitting on top of my stack of books to read—Along with Google Hacks, Eric Meyer on CSS, and Designing with Web Standards. I’ll never get around to reading any of them, but I keep thinking I will, and it’s the thought that counts.

By the way, I highly recommend following the trail backward on this one. A wide variety of answers, and an interesting beginning to it all.

I’ve been reading about the privacy concerns that surround Google’s new webmail service, Gmail, with growing irritation. Now, a California legislator wants to ban it before it is even open to the public.

I wish I knew what was behind all this opposition, because it certainly is not logic or reason. I guess people are concerned about Google scanning your e-mail and presenting targeted advertising based on it. Apparently, this innovative, new idea is a privacy disaster in the making.

Come a little closer to your computer and I’ll let you in on a secret: It’s not new. And, the only thing innovative about it is the fact that they admit doing it.

I’ve read the Gmail privacy policy which, just like the service, is still in beta. If you want to read my thoughts on that, look through the comments in the first link of this post. I’m apparently the only one who has also read the privacy policies of Yahoo and Hotmail. You want chilling, browse those two documents for a while. They clearly state that they will gather up as much of your personal information as they can, cross reference it with anyone they can, and share it with anyone they want. And, they will use that information to provide you with targeted advertising. No where does it say they will not scan or read your e-mail. Google, at least, draws a line: a computer will scan your messages, but a human will never read them.

Let’s also try not to forget this is an opt-in service. If privacy groups want to get the message out so that people are informed about what they are signing up for, that’s great. Legislation to block the service is just silly. I understand the risks, and I’m ready to sign up. I don’t need to be protected from my own choices.

I’m proud to announce that Smart Goat Web Design has taken over maintenance of the Red Earth web site. How busy this will make us is hard to say… I imagine, as we get closer to the annual festival, there will be plenty to do.

Who knew order matters?

If you visited yesterday, you probably saw an incomprehensible jumble of a web site. It wasn’t me speaking in tongues—it was a little April Fool’s CSS fun. Here’s what I added to my stylesheet:

* { direction: rtl; unicode-bidi: bidi-override; }

*:hover { direction: ltr; unicode-bidi: normal; }

The asterisk indicates the rules apply to all elements. The direction: rtl rule is intended for languages that read read right to left, like Hebrew. The unicode-bidi: bidi-override rule tells the browser, “Ignore everything else you know about this language, and just follow the direction rule.”

You probably discovered that hovering your mouse over any text would cause it to turn back normal. What, you say that didn’t work for you? I’m sorry, you must be using a non-standard browser. May I suggest an alternative?

“How much does it cost to set up a web site?”

I love it when somebody calls me and that’s the first question they ask. It takes all the will power I can muster not to respond with, “How much ya got?”

Many people think of web designers as fast food restaurants. They just want to order the combo: a medium web site with a large side of hosting and a small domain name. Something prepackaged, and cheap. And, unfortunately, there are places where that is exactly what they will get.

What we do is more analogous to a car mechanic. You wouldn’t call your mechanic and ask, “How much to fix my car?” and expect a real answer. At the very least, you would need to describe the problem, preferably by trying to imitate the sound your car is making while everyone in the garage listens on the speakerphone and laughs at you. Even better is if you take your car to them and let them do a thorough inspection and tell you what you need.

When you call me, it means you need work done on your business. You either need or want a new web site installed, or there’s a funny noise coming from your current web site. Every business is different—there is no generic web site that will work for every business model. The web site I installed on a 2001 non-profit organization will not fit on a 2004 retail chain. It is hard to diagnose your problem over the phone; It’s much better if you bring your business in and let me take a look at it. Then, I can tell you exactly what you need, and exactly what it will cost.

All of this, of course, assumes you hire an honest web designer, and not someone who’s going to tell you your HTML is out of alignment, and that’s going to cost you extra.

Unfortunately, I’m not very good yet at getting this across to potential clients. Typically, these are small business owners who have very little time and even less money. They know they need a web site, but they don’t really know why because they’ve never really gotten into that whole Internet thing themselves. They want a product, not a service. I do my best to get as much information as I can from them, then I give them a number. Often, that number is higher than if I were given the opportunity to really analyze their needs. That’s because I don’t know what I’m getting into, so I pad. If I refused to give them a quote over the phone, they would just call the next company in the phone book. Of course, they’re going to call the next company anyway, to see if they can get a cheaper price. And they will.

And then they’ll be asked if they want to super size that.