Millions of Choices

Written: May 11, 2013

TCT West is a telecom company in Montana and Wyoming that wanted to offer a way for customers to visit their site and choose services like:

The challenge was that TCT West serves 61 cities, and the pricing, packaging and options change for each city. Furthermore, each service has optional add-ons. In summary, there are literally millions of choices possible, so how do you make that intuitive to the customer trying to order a single service, multiple services, or even a pre-packaged bundle of services?

We started out the design by making it very simple with a single choice: Residential or Business

Bundle Builder

 

Once you choose by clicking, then a new choice appears dynamically prompting for your City location:

location

 

Clicking in this field brings up a City picker:

City Picker

 

Based upon what you just clicked in the City Picker, you next see only the packages and services designed for your specific city:

a la cart items

 

As you choose an Internet service then the add-ons appear dynamically:

Internet Add Ons

 

As you choose each service then the shopping cart populates instantly and shows if you have any discount:

Shopping Cart

 

Clicking the Checkout button brings you to a summary page where you see all the details of your order:

confirm your order

 

There you have it, this is how we simplified the process of having millions of choices by offering dynamic content based upon customer choices, one step at a time.

This project was developed in WordPress, see what the back-end looks like in another blog.

For the technically inclined reader, this project used the powerful jQuery library.

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Event Registration with PayPal and WordPress

Written: April 14, 2013

I belong to the Portland Metropolitan Photographers Association and we have events where members need to register and make a payment. Since the www.pmpa.net web site is built with WordPress I was able to add a new feature using PayPal for payments where members choose between three different options and quantities:

Three options for Add to Cart

When a member choose an option and quantity, clicks the Add button, they see the PayPal cart on a secure web page:

Secure PayPal cart

 

If they click Continue Shopping, then they are returned to the PMPA page that they started on. When they click Check Out then they can pay with Credit Card or PayPal.

Checkout

Inside of WordPress they can choose where to place this new event registration using short code:

[pmpa_print_competition]

This is easy for the PMPA volunteers to add event registration to any Page, plus it’s easy for members to register, a win for everyone.

Email Etiquette

Written: April 12, 2013

Many businesses use e-mail updates to keep clients and prospects updated and informed about information that is of value. For this to work best you should follow some simple rules:

  1. Have people opt in
  2. When people opt in, then let them opt out easily with one or at most two clicks
  3. The frequency of messages should be appropriate, not too often
  4. Let people choose what their interests are
  5. Provide value

I’ve been a loyal Acura car owner for many years and some how I got added to their email list, but then decided that I no longer wanted to receive their emails.

Acura email

 

At the bottom of the email was a link to update my preferences:

acura preferences

 

Clicking this link I ended up at www.acura.com and scrolled to the bottom and checked the box to Unsubscribe:

Unsubscribe

Then to my dismay the page told me that no updates had been made to my preferences:

No updates

I then phoned Acura support at 800 382 2238 and asked to be removed from their email list. The Acura phone support asked for my phone number to find my account, but when I provided my phone number he couldn’t find the account. Next he asked for my Vehicle Identification Number which I was unwilling to give him. Finally he asked for my name and had me wait several minutes on hold. Eventually he asked me to forward my latest Acura email to a special address. All of this process was a big hassle and inconvenience to me, a somewhat less than happy Acura customer.

Summary

I’m shocked that Acura has not mastered the art of email communications, and hope that in your business that you will comply with the CAN-SPAM act and make it easy for subscribers to quickly opt-out without placing them in a catch-22 situation where they cannot opt out themselves.

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Reliable Web Hosting

Written: April 3, 2013

I’ve used over a dozen different web hosting companies over the years, and the company that I recommend now is called 1and1. My reasons for this recommendation are:

1and1-hosting

Having said that, I felt some panic today when I tried to login at www.1and1.com and was greeted with this screen of death:

1and1 as 404

 

This is the kind of screen that you would see if their web host was having issues, or worse, they were hacked.

A quick phone call to tech support provided me with the login address: my.1and1.com

1and1 login

Yes, I can login, however why is the main web site at www.1and1.com down this afternoon?

All of the web sites that I have hosted at 1and1 are all up and running without issue.

When I filled out a Support request on their web site it was about 10 minutes later that I got a reply e-mail asking me, “Which browser are you using?” I replied that it was Google Chrome on a Mac. Next, I tried out four other browsers and they all worked OK (Firefox on Mac, Safari on Mac,  IE on Windows, Firefox on Windows).

Hmm, sounds like a browser issue and not a web hosting issue. I then went into the settings on Google Chrome on my Mac and cleared the cache, sure enough I can now browse 1and1 OK, it was a browser bug and not a 1and1 issue. You see, even an expert like me can mis-diagnose a tech issue.

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