29 September 2008


New site design for Navarik

I've worked for Navarik, a company started by some of my university colleagues, since 2003. But I was involved with the the organization almost from the beginning in 2000, doing freelance writing and editing work and helping out with the website. That site has been through numerous incarnations over the past eight years, including a new version that just launched this week. Here's a comparison of what the home page has looked like over the past three generations (2004, 2006, and now 2008):

Navarik websites 2004-2008

The overall feel of the site hasn't changed too radically: the blue-and-white colour scheme has been there all along. The logo, designed by Ryan in 2001, is also much the same. But the company itself has shifted its focus, so that it now describes itself as "a software service provider to the petroleum supply and trading industry." It began back in 2000 as a developer of web applications for small marine shipping agencies and shipbrokers, but now our customers include some of the largest companies in the world, such as Shell and BP.

The fine new site is much more straightforward and reflects what the company does far better than the previous one. Yet it does make me a little melancholy. I've been off work for more than a year and a half because of my cancer treatment, which means that I had nothing at all to do with this redesign, whereas I was in charge of the previous two. This relaunch is the first time I've been uninvolved for many years.

Labels: , , ,

04 April 2008


Chevron's gas pumps piss me off

This has bothered me for years. A couple of days ago I fueled up one of our cars at a Chevron station. Here is their self-serve gas pump:

Gas pumps designed to trick you into expensive fuel

I'd like you to notice something—Chevron is trying to trick you. The lowest-priced fuel (87 octane) is on the far right. The price gets higher as you go left, with the highest-priced Supreme Plus fuel (94 octane) having its own separate nozzle, which is coloured bright red, on the far left side of the payment console. (The nozzle for the other grades is a subtle blue.)

I can think of only one reason for that, and it's one that's hostile to Chevron's customers. In a society where we read left to right, and would normally expect prices to go from low on the left to high on the right, this pump is designed to bamboozle drivers who are in a hurry and not paying close attention. In a rush, they press what they intuitively assume would be a lower-priced button (on the left), but actually get a higher-priced blend instead. That happened to me a few times when Chevron first introduced this style of pump a decade or two ago.

Worse, if you're particularly distracted, the pump for Supreme Plus can look like a separate single nozzle, and it's possible to pick the most expensive fuel without realizing it until it's too late. Up on the big price sign next to the station, we generally only see the price for the lowest-cost fuel, but the pumps themselves conspire to fool you into buying something that costs more. It's not a big thing to pay attention to if you want to avoid the ruse, but I notice a bit of a cognitive load when I encounter it. And of course, the digital price indicators have the smallest print in each section; you can hardly even see them in my photo.

Most modern economy cars—which is what most Canadians, like my family, drive—don't require anything more than the basic grade fuel. I fully expect that gas stations sell far more of that standard grade than their higher-priced varieties, so the design of pumps ideally should make it easy for the majority of people to find what they want. It might make the most sense for standard 87-octane blend to be the one with its own nozzle, and for the price to go up left to right overall. But that's not what's happening here.

Overall, Chevron is no more or less controversial than other oil companies. I like their claymation commercials and their Town Pantry convenience stores. But because of this pump design problem, I usually don't buy my gas at their stations.

Labels: , , , ,