British Post Punk
27 June 2022 | 10:28 pm

Courting’s new track, Tennis, is excellent, and it looks like they have a new album coming out in September, amusingly titled Guitar Music. Popshop! is another great track by them.

They’re a UK post-punk band, which has been one of my favorite genres these last couple of years. Their new track inspired me put together a list of similar British post-punk bands I like:

With the exception of Dry Cleaning, these bands share a similar vocal style, more or less. I would describe it as enthusiastically wild, not quite sticking to the rhythm, yet still bringing it home where it counts. I’m not sure if this is a common trait of post-punk, or the British variety, but I love the playful style, and I’m eager to find more music in the same vein.

Dry Cleaning takes the loose vocal style a step farther, with spoken word on top of post-punk. And it works so well, that I said the same thing when I mentioned them in the April music section.

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Goodbye, Sam's
23 June 2022 | 10:36 pm

I canceled my annual Sam’s Club membership today. This is a Big Event™ warranting a blog post, only because my thoughts on it grew numerous enough to publish wholesale.

Anyway: Today, while enduring the choppy sea-like movement that results from driving The Spaceship1 down what Corpus Christi Texas calls “roads”, I realized I spend more in time, frustration, and wasted product than I save when I shop at Sam’s. And with that in mind, it doesn’t make sense to keep paying for it when there’s just two people (and six cats) in the house.

I’ve kept renewing my membership for the last five years because, hey, the gas was slightly cheaper, and buying things in bulk sounds great, especially with recent shortages. Buying things in bulk can be a big trap though. You’re spending less per item but more money up front, and there’s a rush to consume before the expiration date. Boredom is quick to set in when you have 25 years’ worth of ramen packets, and the storage requirements for bulk goods is high. You might tend to overstock unhealthier things, like Redbull and Arizona Tea, just because they sell them in 24-packs.

And big bulk stores are affected by the same shortages the regular ones are, sometimes in comical ways. For example, during the April 2020 shortages, bottled water became impossible to get – unless you spent $500 on a pallet conveniently shipped to your door from Sam’s. But hey, free shipping.

The gas isn’t much cheaper now, there’s a difference of 2-5 cents in my area. That adds up over time, but the lines at their gas station are often longer than the lines to the Port-A-Potties at a music festival after the last show.

Their MasterCard gave 5% cash back on gas, so I could fill up anywhere and still save some pennies, but you can no longer apply the rewards to your card balance. Instead, they force you to either spend your “Sam’s Cash™” on future store purchases, or you can make the trek inside the virus vortex store and wait in the long line at Member Services to get physical cash.

As a big fan of curbside pickup, with an allergy to the packed stores filled with screaming children whose ages range from 0 to 45, this simply won’t do.

So it was time to turn off auto-renew and let my membership lapse, which was a hassle:

Screenshot of a message from Sam’s Club saying to call or visit in person to cancel auto-renew

Due to my aforementioned allergy that occurs when there are too many centers of the universe in one convenient location, I dialed the number. After fumbling through an automated operator (those things never understand me), my telephone enjoyed a leisurely 15-minute wait for a real human to pick up the line, only to be promptly placed back on hold for the card provider’s specific set of humans.

This second hold was a lot faster, and the person on the other end sounded like they genuinely enjoyed their job, even if it involved manually turning off auto-renew countless times a day. While on the phone, I refreshed the page see that the message had turned into a convenient checkbox to enable auto-renew, confirming that it was turned off for me:

Screenshot of the Sam’s Club website with an empty checkbox to turn on auto-renew above a legal blurb

Amused, I remarked on the difference in effort involved between turning it on or off, while expressing awareness that it was part of their SEP field, and they chuckled. “Actually, I know why,” they said. “It’s only a thing for those who have the MasterCard.”

Wonderful, that makes me even more excited to cancel my membership, I thought to myself. Also, your ship decloaked.

Anyway, if you know anyone who loves Nissin Top Ramen, chicken flavor, please let me know. I have enough here to feed a medium-sized compound of college students for the summer.


  1. Ford Transit Connect, fondly referred to as “The Spaceship” by friends and hitchhikers ↩︎

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Dropbox banner UX
21 June 2022 | 9:43 pm

While I don’t use Dropbox, some of my clients use it send me files. Today I noticed this UX anti-pattern on their site with the banner at the top of the page:

Screenshot of the Dropbox file management webpage with a red banner at the top with a “special offer” message and two X icons

My browser window was wider than this screenshot. I immediately moved to dismiss the banner, and instinctively clicked the X icon on the left. The correct button to close the banner is on the right.

This banner seems to be originally designed to be an error message, but here it’s being used promotionally. My guess: Someone pushed for a site-wide promotional banner for the discount, and maybe they didn’t have a banner design for promotional use yet, so they just used the error banner.

Why is this bad?

  • The banner uses two icons that aren’t distinctively different from one another, and both could be confused for an action
  • The banner is red, and combined with the left X icon, communicates an error or problem, which doesn’t fit with the promotion they’re trying to communicate

How can we improve the banner?

There’s two ways I’d improve this: Use a banner better styled for promotions, and change the icons on the error banner to be more distinct.

Here’s a quick mockup I came up with, based on the colors present on the page:

Mockup of improved banners on Dropbox’s website.

The first banner is the current banner, the second is my idea for an improved error banner, and the third is my idea for an improved promotional banner.

Alternatives to banners

I’m not convinced banners are the correct pattern to use for advertising promotions, though marketers may disagree. The goal of running promotional discounts is to attract new users, and ideally, you would want as many users to notice the promotion as possible.

The top of the page is the most prominent place and would get the most eyeballs. However, when I see banners or modals, I don’t read what’s on them most of the time – my first instinct is to get rid of the annoyance, and try to close or dismiss them. I don’t think I’m alone in this, and for me, it’s almost like a reflex.

The top of the page is also a tired area for UI elements. That’s usually where the navigation lives, and unless I’m trying to navigate to another page, I’m not looking up there, I’m mentally blocking it out as I look at the content below it. If you’re trying to advertise something, placing a message in an area that users habitually ignore may not be the best place, even if it’s the first thing on the page.

This image illustrates what I’m talking about:

An image showing sentences in the following order: “And you will read this last”, “You will read this first”, “And then you will read this”, and “Then this one”

Some alternative patterns I’ve seen include notification-style toasts in a corner, snackbars that float on the bottom-center of the page, or a small card tucked away at the top of the sidebar. The sidebar card is a pattern WordPress.com uses, and I like this pattern because it’s out of the way, yet still stands out. Dropbox has a sidebar and I think this would fit in well.

WordPress.com sidebar showing a promotion with an “Upgrade” button

Summary

  • Use icons that are distinct from icons used for actions
  • Don’t use an error message banner for promotions
  • Ask if you need to use a banner, consider exploring less annoying and potentially more impactful alternatives

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