Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Web Site that Just Works, and One That Doesn't

In Chapter 2 of Why Software Sucks, I showed you a way in which Just Works. When you type into your browser's address bar, Google's servers figure out the country from which your request is coming and automatically serves up its home page in the correct language, with English available with one click in the few cases where that selection might be wrong. (Swedish shown below)., on the other hand, makes you select your country manually, and won't let you do anything at all until you have done so. This takes 30 clicks for Swedish users, and even 3 clicks for US users, who send 90% of UPS's packages. And you have explicitly check the box if you want it to remember your selection so you don't have to do it next time. (Example shown below)

This feature of Google is a great example of software that Just Works. And UPS is a great example of software that doesn't. But it's actually even worse than that.

A reader recently informed me that Google Just Works EVEN FOR TRACKING UPS PACKAGES! I tried it myself, and it's TRUE! When you type a UPS tracking number into Google, Google recognizes that it's a UPS tracking number and offers to look it up for you, as shown here:

When you click on that link, Google automatically fetches it for you from UPS's web site, as shown here:

No language selection. No need to check the "I agree to the terms and conditions" check box. Two clicks and you're done. This leads to the following more-than-faintly ludicrous situation: Not only does do a better job at its own business than does at's own business, but Google does a better job at's business than does.
Google Just Works. UPS doesn't Just Work.