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ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)


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Sender: "ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)" <[log in to unmask]>
From: Susan Farrell <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Wed, 10 Feb 1999 11:40:01 -0800
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Reply-To: Susan Farrell <[log in to unmask]>
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At 12:03 AM -0500 2/10/99, John S. Rhodes wrote:
>I deliberately placed 3 broken images on the index page. I am amazed that
>over the course of three weeks, with 175 unique users (229 total), that not
>one person has e-mailed me to tell me that the site had problems.

Although I've never measured this kind of effect, I'm really surprised at
your (lack of) response, because my experience has been completely
different. I suspect that user feedback may depend a lot on the audience
characteristics and their expectations of your response to criticism.

On my site I ask in many places for people to correct mistakes by telling
me about them. As a result, every kind of error except some broken external
links on link lists seem to be reported very quickly, sometimes within 5
minutes of my updates. I reward all bug reports with a personal thank-you
note, which usually brings in a few more helpful comments from each person.
If you had asked people to "critique" your site or to see how many mistakes
they could find, you might have gotten a very different response, as well.

People are often shocked to get a response from me. They say that they
never hear from other webmasters when they email comments about other
sites. So perhaps this assumed callousness to audience feedback is
dampening user enthusiasm about reporting bugs. Most users don't realize
how much email is generated by a busy web site, so they may assume that no
response is a hostile response in the absence of clear messages to the

Also, people who don't know me are more critical than my friends are, even
when my friends are UI professionals and I ask them pointed questions, so
the wish to please me with a particular kind of response probably has
something to do with my relationship to the responder.

I also wonder if the flood of plug-ins may add to the tolerance for broken
images. Special files often show up as a broken icon, so some users may
assume that their browser is at fault, not the site.

Further, I believe that the likelihood of reporting the broken image
depends on how much the user wants to see it. For example, I might not
report a broken navigation arrow if I can still navigate (in cases where I
have not been asked for a response to the site), but if I go to a site to
see a sensational photo or a funny cartoon - and it's broken - I will be
more likely to ask why. So if your caption reads "Tanya Bares All at Nude
Beach" or "Duck with 2 heads", your mailbox will fill right up, guaranteed

Susan Farrell

Susan Farrell                              Human Computer Interaction
Sun Microsystems, Inc. - Solaris Software  650.786.3173 (v)  (x83173)
901 San Antonio Rd. MS UMPK17-101          650.786.5723 (f)  B17-1126
Palo Alto, CA 94303                        [log in to unmask]