Warning: Long Post, sorry
Tripsync is a company trying to address a pretty good need. Integrate travel management directly into Outlook. If you are open source, anti-Microsoft, etc, stop reading now, move on. As a start up you might find some of this interesting.
A while back, I said (via the TripSync home page) flip me a note when you are ready for the world to play. I got that note today. Here are the steps.
After clicking on the link, I get to the download page which among other things has this box:
This reminded me of “Please say or touch your 16 digit account number” only to have the person answering call cheerfully saying “May I have your account number, please?”
Point one: If you take the time to have me give you my email address/name, etc, when you ask for it: Use it. The TripSync folks had this data and, well, here I am filling it out again. Yes, if I forward the email around, somebody will get my information pre-filled, that’s fine.
So, I fill out the above and start the download. The application is a plug in for Outlook which requires you to have Outlook closed, all fine -n– dandy. There is no problem with the download and it is a fairly simple little tool bar thing shown here:
In order to use this, you have to activate it. This is a multi-step process. You get an email with an activation code in it, you click on one of the buttons shown above, fill in the activation number and then the application goes and plays with itself for a bit while getting all ready to work.
The company, Portaga, the makers of TripSync say they are “is in the business of increasing computer user productivity and eliminating inefficiencies”
Point two: Sending email, having me cut/paste some key, pressing buttons, waiting for the system, etc, etc, is not increasing my productivity or eliminating any inefficiencies. If you feel the need to do all this activation nonsense, do it one of two ways. First, let the app do it. Press button, it talks to the internet, presto, it is activated. Or, if you really feel some need to send a key via email, send it in the first email and just make it one time use if you are worried about it being shared. The process used by TripSync is not particularly well thought out. There might be a million reasons for the process but as a user, D- on the ease of use scale.
After getting this all activated and pleased with itself, TripSync is ready to do the voodoo she do. First, of course, we do the preferences thing and here is where we find out that the folks in White Plains, New York (home of Portaga) forgot about the rest of the world.
First, let me point out that the management of Portaga are some pretty smart people. Peggy Lee, the sales/biz dev person has been around the travel business for a long time. A two time founder/co-founder of companies in the space, you can expect she knows a thing or two about travel, meetings, etc. She had a stint working for British Telecom (Travel and Leisure) as well. The two co-founders of Portaga, besides Philosophy degrees, have successful careers in the internet space.
There’s a reason I’m highlighting this, stay with me.
Here is the box for the phone numbers:
If you try to type in any number in any other country’s format, you get this error message:
As you can see, Peggy probably was only calling British Telecom North America. And the Philosophy guys? Probably too busy reading Descartes or Kant to actually think about this or tell the developers about phones in the rest of the world. (Irony alert: Wouldn’t be funny, if this project was outsourced to India or the Ukraine?)
But there is more:
There is the address box, shown here:
Yup, makes sense. But what happens to the dialog box if you are in another country, say Canada. Well, you get this:
Still the Zip, not Postal Code. Postal Code, the term used virtually around the world, is not here. But wait there is more. After you change to Canada, and you try to actually type in the correct address, you end up with these weird situations:
As you can see, there is no ON for the province of Ontario. It takes a Postal Code and, when you press the apply key, you get no error messages for the lack of a “state” or the wrong format for the “zip code.” In other words, we validated the telephone number to the North American standard but here we have a pull down for countries which doesn’t change any other input, the application gladly accepts anything in the “zip code” spot, and bogus information in the “state” spot.
Nowhere that I can find does this application say, open to US residents only. The validation of the phone number would seem to indicate that it was open only to North American since the US, Mexico, and Canada use the 10 digit phone number scheme.
Point three: If you are a US Centric application or service, simply say so. I have zero problem with US centric applications, really. But this half breed stuff is annoying and smacks of amateurish programming and product management. You don’t do a pull down for countries if you aren’t going to let the nice person from China type in her phone number. Just cough it up. TripSync has a nice requirements page you can read before you download it. It would have been a simple matter of putting “We are currently available to US customers only” right on the page.
The co-founders and Peggy simply should know better given the combined experiences.
Of course, this puppy is coming off my system. Pop Quiz! Do you think the app I am un-installing is a) TripSync or b)Portaga or c)Something non-obvious. If you selected c, you would have been somewhat right. The actual app to un-install is “desktop travel agent” which is obvious, I suppose, but not exactly linked to the brand they are building with “TripSync”
Point four: Make un-install easy and dead obvious. In my opinion, it should have been TripSync I saw in the control panel. The company does have on the web site that the un-install you are looking for is called “Desktop Travel Manager” which is wrong, it is desktop travel agent. It would have been a lot easier/smarter to just have TripSync in there.
There is, of course, only one response the company can come up with (besides a catchy philosophical quote), that being, “Whoa, thanks a ton, we are in beta and this is great feedback for our team.”
Which makes point five: Keep things in beta forever, it makes you critique proof. I’m just kidding.
Things like phone numbers, postal codes, etc, all are part of the world we live in. I would hope by now that we’d start seeing a more universal view with new applications and services. Hopefully, as you design your application for the internet, you’ll remember that ‘the net’ is not just users in White Plains, New York.