Archive for April, 2006

The key to customer relations management

Don’t send out an email that starts:


…then continues with:

Thank you for recently entering our North Carolina Sweet Potato competition in conjunction with Sainsbury’s, and American Airlines.

You what? I entered a Sweet Potato competition!? When?

We received an incredible number of entries and on this occasion we’re sorry to advise that you weren’t one of our lucky winners.

Now you’re just being mean :-(

If you would prefer not to receive this type of information please click here.

You complete numpties. There’s no link to click! GAAAAHHH!!!

4 days of continuous biking

Friday: Leckhampton Hill, Orange 222.

It all came together today: The sun was out, the ground was dry and most of The Hills Have Eyes crew were riding. Simon was up there, so as is traditional, we spent a good while sessioning stuff. Great fun was had on Stu’s Roosty corners – driftorama! Nick and Si were getting proper sideways on the way through there, Sam Hill stylee. Proper bo!

Saturday: Gethin, Orange 222.

Myself, Anton, Nick and Brett headed over to Gethin in South Wales for the Dragon Downhill uplift day. Unfortunately, the uplift part of the day was shrouded in controversy, but the riding itself was fantastic.

First, the uplift: New Health & Safety regulations were recently introduced, meaning that bikes and bikers need to be separated on the uplift trucks, bikers must be seated and helmets must be worn on-board. The trucks are also speed-limited. No bad thing in itself, except that it halved the number of bikes that could fit onto a truck (we were managing 19-20 per truck), which meant massive queues and plenty of disgruntled riders. Jason Carpenter told us that there were 150 riders on the day and they were only getting 98 up the hill every hour. Clearly that’s not good enough and there is work to be done. Still, kudos and thanks to Jason and the team for sticking with it. Without them we wouldn’t have the Dragon Downhill series at all.

Olly riding Gethin As for the riding, Gethin continues to be one of the best DH tracks I have ever ridden: It’s pretty easy to ride down it (for the most part), but damn hard to ride down there fast. Nobody seems to really enjoy the first section, but then you turn into the woods, put down a couple of pedal strokes and the fun begins: berm, jump, berm, drop, berm… so much fun all the way to the bottom. I was death-gripping through some sections and making lots of whoops and BWAARRP! noises. The cameras caught Nick and myself. Really need to learn to look further down the trail…

Sunday: Leckhampton Hill, Cannondale Prophet.

It started out as a fairly normal XC ride with Weon (who unfortunately had his bike stolen the very next day). We rode up and around the back of Leckhampton, before dropping down “the dragon’s tail”. On the way back up we met a guy on an old Cannondale Super-V 1000. I really wanted one of those back in the day. We agreed to show him some of the trails leading down the hill. I don’t know if it was a competitive instinct or just plain showing off, but something made me push a little bit harder than normal. The result: Me and the Prophet finally clicked.

Up until now it’s been a good bike, but today it became great. I was riding it with all the confidence I’ve regained on the 222 over the past couple of days. Those first couple of corners at the top of the DH tracks are amazing and unlike the 222, the Prophet can be flicked (rather than hauled) through them. That lightness counts through the following berm too – it carries speed beautifully. Ace with a capital A.

Oh, and we scared the crap out of the guy on the Super-V.

Monday: Leckhampton Hill, Cannondale Prophet.

Nick had offered me a lift up the hill with my 222, but I’d had so much fun on the Prophet on Sunday that I decided to ride up on that instead. This time I was hitting everything quickly – Stu (on his Mr Big) was only getting away from me where the track got really steep.

Everything up there that I’ve hit on the 222 has now been ridden on the Prophet. It’s not as easy or as quick (yet), but it’s all doable. Time to push the boundaries a bit further on the 222 methinks. “Brett’s Drop Line”, “2nd Coming” and “La Raclette” need to be conquered properly…

Playing Flickr catch-up

I found a couple of old hard drives lying around at home the other day, so I plugged them in to see if there was anything interesting on there.

I’m quite glad I did really, because I found a shed-load of pictures from my various digital cameras stretching right back to a trip to Afan Argoed in the year 2000. So now I’m slowly but surely backfilling my Flickr stream with some of the better ones. So when you see pictures of out-dated bikes and kit popping up, that’s why – although I still seem to have a lot of that kit now…

If nothing else it’s a great showcase of just how far budget digital cameras have come on over the years. Compare this photo from 2000 to this one from the other day: It’s quite a leap forward.

Update: Flickr caught-up!

A couple of weeks later and I think I’ve finally finished wading through them all now. Follow the links for pictures from 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Normal (shonky) service might resume at some point…

More failed redesigns: Mojo and 24Seven

I spotted Hope Technology’s new website a while back and branded it a failure. Alas that seems to be something that’s spreading throughout the UK mountain bike industry.

Mattmagic pointed out that both Mojo and 24Seven have recently launched redesigns. He’s left it to me to point out exactly what’s wrong though. Let’s take them in turn:

24Seven Bikes

  • That’s possibly the most pointless splash page in the world, ever. What’s more, it’s completely inaccessible. Where a normal link would have worked, they’ve gone with an image map. They’ve used obstructive javascript instead of the href attribute. Best of all, they’ve forgotten to include any alt text. Search engines? Screen readers? No, I didn’t think so.
  • Oh, I see, it’s supposed to open in a perfectly sized popup window isn’t it? It doesn’t though, because I’ve told Firefox to open links in the same window unless I say otherwise. Someone needs to read Veen’s Give Up Control.
  • Frames? In this day and age? Are you quite mad?
  • Great use of the title element. A nice helping of UNTITLED DOCUMENT across the top of the browser window looks really professional.
  • Those are some nice navigation buttons you have there. I can’t read them though. Is there any chance you might choose a legible font next time?
  • Whenever you use a graphic to create a navigation element, you must supply alt text. It’s not an optional extra.
  • Speaking of navigational elements, using select elements to jump between pages is just plain daft, especially when they cease to work without Javascript.

Oh I give up. I could carry on for hours about this one.

Mojo Suspension Hoodoo

  • Oh man, another great splash page. Why do people still bother with these? This one looks great if you’re browsing maximised at 1280 x 1024. Anything less and I start to get horizontal scrollbars. Even better is the fact that there are no obvious navigational elements. It takes a good few seconds before you realise those three words down on the bottom left are buttons.
  • What the hell is an M-CYCLE anyway? Just write motorcycle and be done with it.
  • We’re currently greeted with the message “THE WEBSITE IS CURRENTLY BEING UPDATED (20/03/06), SO SOME IMAGES & LINKS MAY NOT WORK. PLEASE BARE WITH US, AS IT WILL BE SORTED OUT VERY SOON, THANK YOU.” Firstly, you might want to spell “bear” correctly. Secondly, why did you launch if the site was going to be full of broken links? That looks professional, doesn’t it?
  • Once we get inside we find great use of frames once again. I don’t tend to keep my browser maximised, and I quite often have a sidebar open. Thanks to the brilliant design of this site, half of the navigation disappears off the side of the page. Now, I know I ranted about unecessary horizontal scrollbars up there, but here’s somewhere I actually need one. Unfortunately, one isn’t forthcoming. Just fantastic.
  • Clearly I’m going to have to shout it this time. ALT TEXT, ALT TEXT, ALT TEXT and not just when you feel like it, either.
  • The bottom frame and the flash animation that sits within it: That really is completely pointless guff isn’t it?

Again, I could go on.

In conclusion

These sites are both great examples of work by someone who’s got themselves a copy of Dreamweaver but has virtually no idea how to use it, let alone an understanding of exactly what it does or what it outputs. “As long as it looks OK on my PC that’s good enough”.

As for semantic markup and standards compliant code, there’s no point even showing it to the validator. It’s awful. Not quite as bad as Hope’s code, but I suspect that’s simply because Dreamweaver has cleaned up it’s act a bit over the years.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t particularly enjoy tearing someone else’s work apart like this. I know that these companies produce damn good product and have great customer service. Alas their websites are absolutely awful and someone needs to say something.

So well done. Congratulations on your . Joe Clark would be proud. For your sakes I hope you got them dead cheap.

First Annual Naked Day: April 05 2006

So, Dustin Diaz has come up with the idea of Naked Day. It’s simple really, you just switch off your website’s stylesheets for the whole of April 5th.

It’ll be interesting to see how well all of the participating sites out there work without stylesheets. Mine’s not too bad, but it could definitely be better.

I’ve put the stylesheets back now, after all it’s now April 6th here and I can’t stand to look at the nudeness anymore.