Many times on this blog, I have written about apps and websites whose designers must not be users. That means they spent lots of time trying to make things look pretty or include cool functions, but the end product turns out to be either difficult or worthless for the average person.
One such example is the app for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, whose online presence is known as STLtoday.com. Even though I no longer need it as a resource for radio show topics, I still check it occasionally to see if it has a local story or two I might be interested in reading. The vast majority of the time, the answer is no. But that’s not the problem.
The issue is that the headlines on the app are often incomplete, truncated teases which leave off important information — like the subject of the story! On Saturday, I opened the app and found these ten headlines, which I have copied verbatim:
- “This is not how adults function” Politics, dysfunction dominate Norm…
- St. Louis woman works to preserve
- Made in St. Louis: Retired teacher
- World travels inspired design of modern
- 20 year ago the iPod entered our lives. Here
- Mizzou suspends fraternity after
- St. Louis aldermen endorse call for
- Messenger: Missouri lobbyist’s PAC reports
- Nonprofit planning $25M geospatial
- Pritzker orders vaccinations or testing for
That’s not a single mistake, but ten of them, all on the same day!
While that number is usually smaller, there’s rarely a day without a cutoff headline on the app. The full version does appear on the STLtoday website, but whatever algorithm is used to feed the mobile version has been getting it wrong for a long time.
When Twitter had a limit of 140 characters per tweet, users had to figure out how to be economical with the wording of messages. That became easier when the limit was doubled, but there are still times I have to edit myself to keep a tweet to 280 characters. After each one goes live, I double-check the final product to make sure it’s right. If I get something wrong or miss a typo, my alert readers quickly notify me so I can delete, correct, and re-send.
When I worked full-time in radio, I listened to other shows on the station, and if I heard a commercial that was dated (e.g. a Halloween commercial running in November, a Super Bowl promotion running after the game had been played), I would call the control room and alert whoever was there so the mistaken ad could be removed before running again later.
I know the Post-Dispatch’s staff has been drastically reduced over the last few years, but how is it possible that no one at the newspaper or its digital side ever looks at their own app, sees this problem, and reports it to someone who can make sure it gets fixed?