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Quinnipiac Site Development Social Media Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM 552 Dark Patterns in User-Oriented Design

Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM 552 Dark Patterns in User-Oriented Design

Doostang versus Amtrak

For Social Media Ethics class, we were asked to compare dark patterns, which are designs which are put together in order to trick users into clicking on something (often to sign up for something they don’t want).

Doostang

Doostang is a rather unfortunately-named jobs site, claiming to have top financial and consulting jobs. Attempt to apply for a job through them, however, and you’re passed to a sign-up screen. Fair enough, a lot of jobs sites require an account. But this one’s just a little bit different.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM 552 Dark Patterns in User-Oriented Design
Doostang sign up page

Instead of defaulting to selecting the free sign-up, or not selecting any of the radio buttons at all, Doostang defaults to signing its potential customers up for a $9.95 “Premium” 2-day trial.

But wait, there’s more!

And it doesn’t make Doostang look so good. The Better Business Bureau has quite the file on Doostang, and rates them a D-. What’s the most common complaint? Billing and collection issues. A complaint dated January 21, 2014 says it best:

Complaint: I never agreed to automatic renewal or recurring payments. As can be seen in my usage history, I did not know I had a membership to this site, and never used it. At no time did I authorize recurring payments.

Desired Settlement: Please refund all monies taken after the initial payment. Please do not make me take additional action.

Business Response: Doostang is very clear in stating that all memberships are automatically renewed unless canceled. Members may cancel their subscriptions at anytime.

This is one of Dark Patterns’s classic forced continuity complaints, and it’s also a roach motel, in that it’s deceptively simple to sign up for a Premium service on Doostang, but it’s a real bear to get out of one.

Amtrak

Amtrak, like many other common carrier transportation companies, offers the user the option to purchase travel insurance. However, the option is just that, an option.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM 552 Dark Patterns in User-Oriented Design
Amtrak travel insurance purchase page

While the questions about buying travel insurance are set off in a different-colored box, and you must pass through this screen and make a decision before you can pay for your ticket, Amtrak doesn’t choose either travel insurance option for you. Instead, you are required to decide, one way or the other. There’s no question that Amtrak is trying to make the buying of travel insurance seem like a smart thing to do. But the consumer isn’t beaten over the head with numerous dubious reasons to make the purchase, and the screen is easy to understand.

Turning Doostang Away from the Dark Side

Doostang has two jobs to do, possibly three.

  1. Eliminate the preselection of anything on the sign-up page, or default to the free option. Clearly explain why a job seeker would want a Premium option. End forced continuity.
  2. Make it easy to cancel an accidentally added Premium service by adding online cancellation options and lengthening the time a consumer has before a full refund is no longer permitted. Close the roach motel.
  3. (Optional) Add more free services. Currently, Doostang only allows for applying to one job under the free service. This is the job connected to the referring URL. What if the free service was expanded, say, to that entire session, or for three job applications? A consumer just surfing in from a referral URL would never pay and, perhaps, would be served more advertisements. But someone clicking around, applying to a few jobs or opening up a long session would be using more valuable materials. Complaints of not knowing they were signing up for a paid service would have a lot less credence.

Come to the light, Doostang! It’s not too late!

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Analytics Quinnipiac SEO Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment #08 – NESN SEO

Quinnipiac Assignment #08 – NESN SEO

Once again, I reviewed NESN. But this time, it was in order to understand a few basic SEO (Search Engine Optimization) choices that their management had made.

Programmatic Decisions

I strongly suspect that NESN has some form of fancy programming behind their online page creation. NESN SEO just seems to be way too good.

If I were to guess, I would say that their program (possibly developed in house) scrapes the title of a submitted article, wraps it in H1 tags and copies it to the meta descriptions. That same article title is the basis for that particular page’s custom URL. Hence the article, A.J. Pierzynski Designated For Assignment; Christian Vazquez Joins Red Sox is connected to the following custom URL: http://nesn.com/2014/07/a-j-pierzynski-designated-for-assignment-christian-vazquez-to-start-wednesday/ The page title is: A.J. Pierzynski Designated For Assignment; Christian Vazquez Joins Red Sox | Boston Red Sox | NESN.com. The meta description for that same page is: The Boston Red Sox shook up their situation behind the plate in a big way Wednesday. Manager John Farrell confirmed to WEEI‘s “Dale and Holley” that the team has designated veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski for assignment and promoted 23-year-old Christian Vazquez from Triple-A Pawtucket. Finally, the keywords were: a.j. pierzynski, christian vazquez, christian vasquez, boston red sox, red sox catcher, a.j. pierzynski released, a.j. pierzynski dfa, red sox prospects, christian vazquez promotion, christian vazquez red sox.

Quinnipiac Assignment #08 – NESN SEO

Double quotation marks truncate meta descriptions. This meta description was no exception – in Google search, it simply reads: “A.J. Pierzynski Designated For AssignmentChristian VazquezJoins … Sox shook up their situation behind the plate in a big way Wednesday.” (Note: the bolding comes from Google itself).

The Power of Programming

NESN SEO programmatic work (if that’s what  it is) was just great. Pages are named properly. The URL structure is organic and easy to follow. The meta descriptions are generally excellent (the double quotation marks in my sample were probably the doing of the article writer. Perhaps the program should be refined to replace all instances of double quotation marks with single marks?) and are enticing to human searchers because they are written by professional writers.

With a programmatic solution, NESN can get this work done quickly and turn around better online product for more abbreviated deadlines. Having the computer system do this does not require writers to master SEO beyond the basics of naming their articles properly and making sure that the keywords in the titles show up with those articles.

Even better, any time the theory of SEO changes, there only has to be one change made at NESN. Simply (probably not so simple!) tweak the program to accommodate any changes, test it, and roll it out. All without missing  a deadline.

Conclusion

NESN continues to impress. NESN SEO is great. NESN.com is a well-crafted website. No wonder it’s an advertising cash cow.