Sunday, April 10, 2005

Travails: It looks like TSA is about to be put to death. This amazes me for the simple reason that I have never heard of an entrenched, unionized government agency simply going away. I’m no fan of politicians, but the one that made this happen has to be something of a hero. Not that I ever had any problems with TSA--in fact, short of the few weeks immediately following 9/11, I had a harder time getting through security pre-TSA that I did post-TSA. (Except for the time in Charlotte when a particularly sleazy TSA goon decided he needed to search inside my pants.) No doubt I am in the minority. Apparently the expectation is that a lot of security screening will go back to private industry. That’s probably good. At least that way they should be able to fire any complete losers, and if they piss enough people off, an airport can hire a different company. Still in case of a security breach that costs lives, it opens the door to enormous lawsuits. And it certainly won’t prevent cock-ups like what Cory Doctrow over at Boing!Boing! had to deal with. As much as people hate TSA, there are trade offs in all things.

Except Flash animation. There is nothing good about Flash animation on websites. An enormous number of hotels (speaking of travel; yes, an atrocious segue, I know) use Flash animations on their home pages. Why? To show me pretty pictures? You do understand that I would never accept hotel site photos at face value, don’t you? Look, if I am coming to your website I am likely checking rates and availability, possibly location and amenities, but I am never ever trusting you when you try to convince me your hotel is fabulous. I will check Trip Advisor for that. So don’t make me waste time by putting up splash screens or forcing me to download Flash animations, or worse -- both. The vaunted new Wynn in Las Vegas gives you both. Click through to the site and you get the splash screen. Click enter and you get to download the flash application. I hope the hotel is better designed than the website. Please see #4 in The biggest web page design mistakes of 2004. To wit:
You sell an expensive product or you're a fundraiser getting ready to make the ask for a large sum of money.

You walk into a potential client's office, introduce yourself, and place an information packet in front of the client.

As you start to make your big presentation, the client reaches into the packet, extracts the contract/pledge form you hope he'll sign and grabs a pen.

As the client starts to sign the lucrative, long-term contract/pledge, you reach over across the table, grab the client by the throat, and yell "Not so fast, a**h***, I haven't finished my presentation!!!"

All hoteliers listen: Everyone of you should have a page with the following URL: reservations.{your hotel site}.com, which will take interested parties directly to a standard HTML page to check rate and availability. No animations and no ads -- we are already visiting your site with a mind to possibly making a reservation. DON’T PUT ANNOYING CRAP IN OUR WAY. To be annoying in pursuit of a goal is just plain annoying; to be annoying in the pursuit of self destruction in an order of magnitude more annoying. That would be annoying10, for those of you keeping track.

Anyway, here are a couple of hotel hotlists. A fairly comprehensive one from Travel Intelligence and a less detailed one from Tablet Hotels. Both of these have finds I had never heard about before. Worth a look if you are travel planning for something special, but beware the Flash if you venture to the official hotel sites.