Archive for the ‘WOMBATS’ Category

Branding: the enemy of legibility?

Monday, October 6th, 2008

A nationwide franchise operation has recently rebranded - strong visual, communicates core message well, distinctive, modern. The predominant colour is a shade between maroon and a deep pink. So what’s the problem. The problem is that their brochure has the text in white with the pink/maroon as the background colour on glossy paper. Look at it from a distance and it’s attractive - try to read the copy and it’s a struggle.

Further to this, they have settled on one of the complementary colours being a pale grey - not a problem in itself - but a complete failure when used for the contact details on the business cards (as they have done). Nice form, zero utility.

Reverse text is always somewhat problematic from a legibility perspective as it needs extra font weight to achieve the same visual weight. The kiwibank logo is a classic example where the reverse text “kiwi” is in a heavier weight (”bold” if you like) than the “bank” to create an overall balance.

A contra example is on the Labour Party’s new election website where the white text on the red background in the middle panel of changing messages is very tough to read. As it turns out - it’s worse than that - the text which matches the current item is white and the other three items are pink. You can actually click on those items to show the relevant info in that panel. How the average punter would know they are clickable (no visual link or button cues and the cursor doesn’t change) or why they would even want to is another matter. A clear case where the text needs to be of heavier weight to be legible.

Brands and visual identity are powerful tools for shaping perceptions of an organisation. However, when branding makes information difficult to access the customer’s perception will probably not be what was intended. Skillful design first focuses on and retains that focus on utility then on aesthetics.

Falling asleep 18 months jail: causing injury 12 months home detention

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

On his third drink driving charge,  three charges of careless driving causing injury were not enough for Judge Anne Kiernan to imprison Jason Peters despite having caused injury to a number of people in an accident at Maramarua in May 2006.

As we noted in a post in May 2007, a judge imprisoned for 18 months a driver with a history of drink driving for being well over the limit. No one hurt, no one killed - over the limit and fell asleep at a petrol station. The family had pleaded for home detention  instead  of imprisonment. The judge is reported to have said he had “no choice but to sentence Perenara to prison“.

Can we have a little consistency please?

Smith and Smith Glass flatters Supreme Screens

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Up until late August Smith and Smith Glass had a terrible website - little content and poor design - the 0800 number was writ huge and actually that was the website’s main message “forget the website, just call the 0800 number”. All that has changed with a new smart looking site, but what makes this site so good? You only have to look at the website of their competitor, Supreme Screens, to see why.

  • Supreme Screens: Repair is always our first choice
    • Smith & Smith: We repair first
  • Supreme Screens: Page titled - Repair vs Replace
    • Smith & Smith: Page titled - Repair or Replace
  • Supreme Screens: Free repair with no hassles!
    • Smith & Smith: Repair is hassle free
  • Supreme Screens: “Windscreens not only prevent ejection of the occupants, they are also the backboard for the airbag. ”
    • Smith & Smith: “the passenger airbag relies on the windscreen to provide support if the airbag deploys.”
  • Supreme Screens: “If you have comprehensive car insurance with a windscreen extension, in most cases you will not pay a cent for your windscreen repair.”
    • Smith & Smith: “If you have full vehicle insurance including cover for glass damage, Smith&Smith® can normally repair your windscreen for free.”
  • Supreme Screens: A windscreen repair is QUICK
    • Smith & Smith: Repairing a chip is quicker than replacing a whole windscreen.
  • Supreme Screens: if you can cover the complete damage with an old sized 50 cent piece…
    • Smith & Smith: A chip smaller than a 50¢ coin.

How do we sum this up? In keeping with the message of this post I looked to others for a quote.

“Creativity is great, but plagiarism is faster.” - unknown

“he that comes last is commonly best.” - Robert Burton

And that, of course, is what will irk Mike & Sue at Supreme Screens.

New mobile offering - what is it exactly?

Monday, September 1st, 2008

TelstraClear are offering a new mobile service to compete with Telecom and Vodafone. There are some basic details available in the media - so I though I’d go checking to see if I might be eligible and perhaps save some money on my mobile bill.

First challenge - the TelstraClear website - will it tell me what I want to know? Having got to the “mobile” page I try the links to the pdf documents “About Mobile brochure” and so on - the links are broken to all of them. Tested? I don’t think so.

What’s my big issue? My mobile number is on business cards, websites and more importantly stored in other people’s cellphones and address books. Can I keep my cellphone number if I switch?

To find that out it seems I’m going to have to call them. I don’t have the time to sit in their call centre queue. Waste of time for me and costly for them to service my enquiry by call centre when it could have been handled by the website. Not a great start as far as I’m concerned.

How does this happen? It’s a mindset failure - a focus on the new product/offering and not on the customer.

Meetings not working? Try Meeting Maps.

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Did you ever notice that some people say an awful lot in meetings and others say almost nothing? Or, that they flow off information seemed to come from one or two people towards everybody else?

Effective meetings tend to have much more even participation and contribution from all the participants (if your meetings have attendees rather than participants then that’s the start of the problem). Meetings are a tool most effectively used for gathering input from as many of the participants as possible.

So how do meetings typically go? One simple way of finding out is to map the next meeting that you participate in. Its very simple, you draw a map.

Meeting Map of Team Meeting

Team Meeting - Guess who’s the boss?

The most efficient way to do this is to;

  • Start with outlining the meeting table and the participants sitting around it, represented by a small circle around the meeting table with the name of each person written next to it.
  • Draw a circle in the middle of the meeting table which represents speech that has been put forward by one person directed to the rest of the group (and not just one person in particular).
  • For each 30 seconds that a person is speaking, draw a line connecting their circle to whoever they are directing their speech to.
    • For instance, if a person is addressing the group as a whole, then draw a line going from their circle to the circle that you have drawn in the middle of the table.
    • If instead they are only addressing one person in the group, then draw a line between their circle and the person’s circle that they are talking to. If they talk for longer than 30 seconds, then draw a second line between the circles and so on until they have finished talking.

At the end of the meeting you should have an easy to read map which will show you who has done the majority of the speaking and those who have refrained from talking.

Meeting Map - Project Meeting

Project Meeting - Mainly Project Manager getting individual updates.

If you would like to send me a copy of one of your maps that would be appreciated. I’ll email you back with  my analysis. We’ll look at what these maps tell us shortly.

Don’t help find Evan Trembley

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

There is a missing child chain letter doing the rounds at the moment.

Warning sign:

“Please pass this to everyone in your address book”

Whenever you see that phrase in an email, alarm bells should go off.

The annoying thing with these hoaxes is that they prey on people’s good nature - and, sadly, our gullibility (although you won’t believe that).

If you get an email that you think may be a hoax - go to Google and put in some key phrases like the name of the person or virus or whatever. Chances are that if it is a hoax that you’ll find out pretty soon. Email the person you got the hoax email from and ask them to let the people know not to pass it on so the chain gets broken.

Is the “Windows Key” a WOMBAT?

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

What is the Windows Key you ask? In that case it’s currently a waste of space on your keyboard. The Windows key sits down on the bottom left corner of your keyboard between the “Ctrl” and “Alt” keys. You’re not using Windows? Well, you’re probably stuck with using a Windows keyboard and a useless key. If you’re a Mac user then you have the Apple Key - and you can smugly know that the Apple key spawned the Windows key.

What does the Windows key do? Press it. It kicks off the Start menu - yes, as some wag (not this kind) pointed out Windows is the operating system where you have to press Start to stop the system.

However, the Windows key has more functions available if you use it in combination with another key on your keyboard. For example, pressing the Windows key and “D” will minimise all the open windows and if you press that combination again it will restore them exactly how they were. Pressing Windows key and “M” will minimise all windows but not restore them.

Uber geeks probably already know that the Windows key plus the “Break” key brings up the System Properties. How memorable and useful is that?

The combination I use frequently is the Windows key plus “E” as this kicks off Windows Explorer showing My Computer.

Here’s the full list of Windows key combinations:

  • Windows key (Display or hide the Start menu)
  • Windows key + BREAK (Display the System Properties dialog box)
  • Windows key + D (Display the desktop - press again to restore windows)
  • Windows key + M (Minimize all of the windows)
  • Windows key + SHIFT + M (Restore the minimized windows)
  • Windows key + E (Open My Computer)
  • Windows key + F (Search for a file or a folder)
  • CTRL + Windows key + F (Search for computers)
  • Windows key + F1 (Display Windows Help)
  • Windows key + L (Lock the keyboard)
  • Windows key + R (Open the Run dialog box)
  • Windows key + U (Open Utility Manager)

If you like using your keyboard instead of your mouse all of the time and you can remember the key combinations you set up, then Winkey is free software that you can easily download and install that allows you to set up other Windows key combinations as you like - like Windows key + W for Word or, as on my computer, Windows key + O for Opera and Windows Key + X for Firefox.

For most people the Windows key isn’t very useful (except for Windows key + E) - but it can be if you like using keyboard shortcuts.

Will these changes prevent a repetition?

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

In my previous post, about the preventable perinatal death I had missed a report on the Stuff website titled “Hospital procedures to change after mother dies“.

According to this report

An internal investigation by Auckland’s District Health Board (ADHB) was launched after Ms Bayliss’ death, and several procedural changes have followed including a new process for obtaining emergency blood and checking all pregnant women for risk of postpartum haemorrhage.

Assuming this was reported correctly, can we be confident that those reported changes will prevent problems in the future and if we look retrospectively would they have resulted in a different outcome?

Firstly, a disclaimer - we’re working off newspaper reports 5 months after the event - but that’s all we have to work with. The report stated that there were “several procedure changes” but nominated only two - we don’t know what the others were, but presumably the most important ones were reported.

A new process for obtaining emergency blood

What “emergency blood” means I don’t know. If it means the putting aside of blood in case of emergency so it is easily and quickly available when required then yes that will be beneficial.

Checking all pregnant women for risk of postpartum haemorrhage

On the face of it this sounds good - but isn’t it happening already? Certainly in the case of Renee Bayliss it would make no difference as she had been checked (on December 31st) and the risk had been identified.

This last recommendation sounds like a typical shallow response to failure. The only way to really address repetitive failure is with rigorous root cause analysis. When a proper root cause analysis is conducted everything related is put on the table as a possible cause. In our experience, whatever is first considered to be the real reason for failure is never the reason.

Given the identified risk that “Her placenta was also found to be at risk of causing problems, including bleeding following birth” did the investigation include analysis of the clinical decision to choose induction instead of Caesarean? Maybe, I’m hypothesising, that was the root cause and all the rest were contributing factors - I don’t know, but to prevent the preventable all options need to be covered.

Prevention of repetitive failure requires more than “investigation” it requires application of a rigorous process - otherwise it just a …

Confident it was an isolated case

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

The Chief Medical Officer at Auckland Hospital claimed a case of preventable death had a combination of circumstances that was unusual and he was confident it was an isolated case. Sounds like code for “it won’t happen again because it’s very unlikely”. That’s not an effective way to deal with repetitive failure - and preventable hospital death in New Zealand is definitely a case of repetitive failure, the national solution to which has been to take seven years to produce an incomplete report.

Auckland City Hospital admitted that the death of Renee Bayliss on January 26 withn 4 1/2 hours of the birth of daughter, who survived, was preventable. The report in the NZ Herald stated, “A first-time mother died from severe bleeding during childbirth after blood was not put aside for her, despite her specific request.”

The most galling aspect of this case was that the risk of haemorrhage was recognised before the commencement of induction and Ms Bayliss had requested cross-matched blood be put aside. That request was made on January 24: it wasn’t needed until January 26 but when it was needed it wasn’t there.

Key issues in care were identified as:

* Why she was not quickly given a transfusion of “universal donor blood”, whose higher risks are considered justifiable, rather than having to wait for blood cross-matched because of particular antibodies that had been injected before the birth. The anti-D antibodies are given if there is a risk of the mother’s immune system attacking the fetus’ blood cells.

* Whether a hysterectomy, to stop the bleeding, should have been done sooner.

The problem with these “key issues” is that they deal with conditions that happened as a consequence of earlier treatment - they do need to be addressed - but the real issues, in my view, are:

  • Number one issue - why was cross-matched blood not delivered until 6:17am on the 26th? (over a 32-hour interval)
  • Why did the patient have to request for blood to be put aside? Isn’t that what doctors are for?
  • On December 31st, “Her placenta was also found to be at risk of causing problems, including bleeding following birth.” Why did this information, of identified higher risk, not ensure that blood was ready and available?
  • Given the known risk of haemorrhage, why was induction started before securing the matched blood? More than three weeks had elapsed since original hospital diagnosis, so it shouldn’t have been an urgent induction.
  • “Although a registrar had asked at 4.15am for cross-matched blood to be provided, the request was not carried out.” Why not?
  • “The blood bank was not told a cross-match of blood was required until 5.20am.” What is happening here? Is there a communication problem with the blood bank? Not forgetting that they were advised of this same need more than 24 hours before.

The hospital has commissioned an external review. Hopefully that will arrive at uncovering the root causes of failure (tough to do after this much delay) - otherwise we will see this kind of preventable death recurring. An external review is better than nothing - but much better would be to have that kind of review happen automatically within hours of the event to ensure that all relevant facts can be gathered while they are available and memories are fresh.

Hospitals should have automatic review and root cause analysis processes built in when serious incidents occur - otherwise combinations of unusual circumstances and “isolated” cases of preventable death will continue to happen.

The very least we can do is to ensure that a preventable death prevents another.

Instant petrol price rises

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Why is the petrol price instantly linked to the price of crude oil? There’s at least a three month delay between the time crude oil is purchased and shipped to New Zealand for refining and delivery to your local petrol station. We’re paying for petrol at ~$US140 per barrel when that petrol was refined from oil that cost less than $US100 a barrel.

To make that work with anything else you’d probably need to have a small group of companies that operated like a cartel.  Couldn’t happen in our free-market economy where competition is king.

Have you noticed that (in New Zealand) the petrol price is always some dollar and cents amount followed by .9 cents? No matter the oil price or the exchange rate - it’s always .9 cents. And all the oil companies come up with that exact same price ending in .9 of a cent, every time. Amazing.