“mailto” script bug with multiple email addresses (on PC)

14 05 2009

Note:

If you are here only to see the bug and solution, please skip the following paragraphs in italic and go straighahead to the content below line “+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++”.

It is pretty common to include an “email us” button on a page. The behavior of most of  “email us” buttons is that when user clicks on the button, their default email client will popup a new window to compose a new email, probably with pre-populated “to” field, “subject” field, etc. Pretty standard stuff.

The simple code that needs to be attached to the button looks something like this:

[1] <a href=”mailto:johnDoe@example.com?subject=Hi”>email John Doe</a>

If you need to include the alias of the email address, use carrots before and after the actual email address. Something like this:

[2] <a href=”mailto:John Doe<johnDoe@example.com>?subject=Hi”>email John Doe</a>

If you need to include 2 email addresses in the “to” field, use comma to separate the addresses, like this:

[3] <a href=”mailto:johnDoe@example.com, maryDoe@example.com?subject=Hi”>email John and Mary</a>

So it is natural to think that you can combine the 2 techniques above to include 2 email addresses with their aliases like this:

[4] <a href=”mailto:John Doe<johnDoe@example.com>,Mary Doe <maryDoe@example.com> ?subject=Hi”>email John and Mary Doe</a>

Ha.  There. You are about to run into a problem that I did yesterday.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The bug is when you include multiple email addresses with their aliases in the “to” field. If you use the code as the above line [4] in red, you are gonna only get the first email address (John Doe’s) prepopulated in the “to” field of your Outlook window, if you are on one of the following browser/OS combinations:

[+] IE6 on Windows XP
[+] Firefox 2 on Windows XP
[+] IE7 on Windows Vista
[+] Firefox 3 on Windows Vista

I have tried to replace the spaces with “%20” and the carrots with “&lt;” and “&gt;”, “%3E” and “%3C”, tried to replace “,” by “;”, but found little help. Below are the “solutions” I have come up so far… Obviously I am not happy with any of them.

[Solution A]:
Get rid of Mary’s email completely from the script. Set up the mail server so that all emails John received will be forwarded to Mary by the server automatically.

[Solution B]:
Get rid of both the aliases and the carrots, so the script looks like line [3] in green above.

[Solution C]:
Tell your users that it is time for them to get a MAC.  🙂

Please let me know if you have other solutions in the comments. Will be much appreciated.

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How to frustrate a (responsible) user (a little bit)

13 01 2009

I like Facebook a lot, but I just had some unexpected user experience on the popular site. Please see below for the screenshots.

I was looking to download the facebook toolbar for my Firefox, I found the download page (using Google) so I clicked on the big blue button where it says “Download Facebook Toolbar”. I was taken to a page where it says “The page you requested was not found.” As a responsible user, I thought I’d use the “report the error” link on the page to let Facebook know about this issue. so I clicked on “report the error”. The best part of the story is the end, the “report the error” took me to a page “not found”. As responsible as I am as a Facebook user, I don’t know what to do but to post this entry here. (Facebook developers, hope you are reading this. Currently I am on Mac OS X, Firefox 3.0.5, T1 connection. Also tried Safari and IE on Parallel, got the same experience. )

So lessons learned? If you have a “report the error” page, make sure it works otherwise take the links down. Or better yet, before you release anything to the public, QA it again and again.

page to download the Facebook toolbar

page to download the Facebook toolbar

informing user page not found, encouraging user to "report the error".

informing user page not found, encouraging user to 'report the error'.

informing user the error reporting page was not found

informing user the error reporting page was not found





YooStar – the next Wii?

8 01 2009

[UPDATE] Somebody just posted the CES opening video clip on Youtube. I have embedded it at the end of this post for your convenience.

This is absolutely amazing. YooStar just made its debut @ CES today. Personally, I think YooStar could be the next Wii and many families will soon have the YS systems in their living rooms and/or bedrooms and grandparents will buy these for their grandchildren as birthday gifts.

What is YooStar? If you are familiar with the concept of “Karaoke”, you can think of YooStar as “movie-oke”.

With Yoostar, you can insert yourself into famous movie clips with minimal efforts, right in your living-room. From what I have read on the site, the package comes with a (video) camera, a green screen, and software which you can install on your PC or MAC. You can pick which role you want to perform in which movie, the camera will record your performance against the green screen, then the software will insert you into the movie clip and even upload it to a website for you to share with your friends. Check out the keynote speech video (starring the CEO of CES) here. More about the price and details here.

The concept is simple and fascinating, isn’t it? I think so. But does it mean the product will be a guaranteed success? Hard to say before we look at it more closely. Similar products had come and gone before. The video creation station got lots of attention at first but you just don’t hear about it any more. I think whether Yoostar will be a success depends on the following:

[+] If the system actually works. We haven’t seen the real product yet, so we don’t know if the hardware and the software works yet. In my opinion, it doesn’t need to be as sleek as iPhone, but it needs to be (close to) as easy as AIM. Compatibility with different OS-es and platforms is also key.

[+] PR and advertising efforts. Since they are already out @ CES, I have no worries here.

[+] Selection of movie clips. Users need to have easy access to almost all the movies just like how iTunes is offering all the songs. This will assure the system is actually interesting to everybody, at all ages.

[+] Social media aspect. The site where the users can share their performances needs to be a YouTube plus some features of Facebook. I imagine users will continue using the product only when they start acting competition among family and friends. Again, this is still unknown to me.

As I am writing, YooStar is getting a lot of attention from the press. If everything works out, we’ll be seeing the system for sale in BestBuy in 3 to 4 months. I cannot wait.





What I was working on – My Magic Circle

5 01 2009

Happy New Year. (better late than never.)

I had been working on http://my-magic-circle.com during the last weeks of 2008. It is a funny video generator. User can join the Magic Circle by uploading their own pictures. The target audience is Harlem Globetrotters’ fans and non-fans really. Below is a sample Magic Circle video. We have been seeing pretty good conversion rates on Google Analytics since the launch of the site. 🙂 Check it out and create your own if you like.





Comparison of online marketing methods

31 07 2008

We are trying to start a campaign to generate lead for a particular client. The goal is to either get new users to download their application or to get existing users to use their application more. After some discussions, I made a diagram to compare 5 key factors of 4 online marketing methods: social media widget, AIR application, banners, and text alert.

comparison online marketing methods

comparison online marketing methods





Flash or HTML website?

20 05 2008

/* Please note the term “Flash” and “HTML” in this post should not be defined as their precise technical meanings. The target reader of this post should be anyone who needs a website but cannot decide whether to use Flash or HTML and why. */

When it comes to choosing the right technology for your website, the following question comes up a lot: “Should we have a Flash site? Or HTML is OK?” It is not an easy question, but I am gonna talk about the pros and cons of them both, from a couple of different perspectives.

[LOADING] A Flash site typically preloads a good chunk of data (site structure, some visual assets, etc.) up-front before it can show anything at all, while HTML sites pops a small part on the page right away (some text, an image, etc.). So the initial wait for a HTML site to load can be less than for a Flash site, however Flash sites can display better-designed and more detailed loading information and can better handle user expectation.

[DESIGN] Flash sites offer much more flexibility to designers than HTML sites. Animated transitions, audio, video, 3D, fullscreen, etc., you name it. This is probably the best strength of Flash sites. HTML sites tend to look more “box-y” by nature, which could be good or boring.

[USER EXPERIENCE] One of the biggest difference b/t Flash and HTML sites is that HTML sites, by nature, are page-based. When you click on a link in an HTML web page, chances are the current page is gone within milliseconds and a new page which might look completely different will pop up. You might say the experience is jarring. In comparison, on Flash sites, instead of the entire page gone, visual elements on the old page can fade out nicely or fly out one by one, depending on the design, then elements of the new page can fade in nicely or fly in one by one. Or, even some of the elements will stay on the page, will just resize themselves, or reposition themselves to make room for the new elements to come. In one sentence, Flash sites typically offer much smoother and more pleasant user experience, if designed well.

[BACK, FORWARD, and BOOKMARK] HTML sites are page-based, so users can use browsers’ built-in “back” “forward” buttons to navigate through different pages in a site and can bookmark any page of a site. However Flash sites typically do a poor job integrating these functions. (There are ways to make them work with Flash sites, however it requires the Flash developers to plan ahead, and to spend extra development time.)

[SEO] SEO = search engine optimiz(e)/ation. It is normally expected that your site is search engine optimized so that users can be directed to your site from Google. HTML sites are much easier to be programmed to be SEO-ed. However, search engines are not doing a great job indexing Flash sites, at least not yet. Again, it CAN be done with Flash sites, but it requires a good Flash developer a good amount of development effort.

[CROSS-BROWSER and CROSS-PLATFORM] Compared to HTML sites, Flash sites look and perform much more consistent and predictable than HTML sites. It takes a good designer and a good HTML developer to make HTML site cross-browser and cross-platform the way you want it.

[MAINTENANCE] There are ways to make content of HTML sites and Flash sites dynamic and easy-to-update. Which one takes more effort totally depends.

[COST] Typically, to develop a Flash site takes 2-4 times the time needed for an HTML site, even longer if you want to include SEO features in your site. Not to mention the fact Flash developers are more expensive than HTML developers in general.

As an Internet surfer for fun, I love the varieties in Flash site design styles. However as a site visitor looking for information, I don’t have a preference one way or another. It all depends on who your target audience is, what message you want to convey and how much your budget is. Let me end my post with a URL to a site I like, which includes both an HTML version and a Flash version. Check it out here.





Flex-built Flash editor – everyone can make sushi in 2 minutes

8 05 2008

Ever since Aviary made its first appearance, it has caught the attentions of thousands of web users’ and reviewers. In my opinion, what is great about the tools Aviary has to offer is that they are created by Adobe programs (Flex, Flash, etc) but to some extend they are becoming competitors to Adobe programs (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc). So… my biggest question was, will Aviary (or anybody else) release something that will become competitor(s) to Flex or Flash?

Admittedly, I was half joking when I asked that question. There is no way you can create a Flash IDE built with Flash technology, right? That didn’t make any sense to me.

However my jaw dropped when I saw a online Flex-built Flash editor. The tool is called Wix. Basically you can create a simple-structured page-based web site or widget using Wix’s web-based editor. Read the review, or even better, get an account and check it out yourself. (Find the button “CLICK HERE TO GET INVITED” on the page.)

OK. Let’s step back. It is not a Flex-built Flash authorizing tool per se. I still don’t think that is possible yet. At least not now. But think about Wix, it is opening many doors to all the Web 2.0 users.
[+] It publishes Flash sites, thus is taking advantage of all the benefits Flash player has to offer. It is the most widely-distributed plug-in, it is cross-platform, cross-browser. It can be multi-media. It offers powerful interface. It’s RIA.
[+] It solves an issue common Flash sites (at least most of them) encounter – SEO.
[+] It is free (for now). For people who want to build simple Flash sites, but don’t want to spend $700 on Flash IDE, this is great.
[+] It is easy to use. The UI is beautifully-designed. It hides the confusing Flash IDE’s timeline and library from the users, instead users have in-context tool boxes. I think it won’t take long before anybody could manage to make a website in Wix, compared to a pretty big learning-curve in Flash IDE.
[+] Better than Flash IDE, it comes with ready-made clip-arts and pre-built slideshow and video players for laymen. You can also embed media from popular sites such as Flickr, Youtube, etc. Soon, the entire www will be your library.

Wix is an easy-to-use web-content editor. It is great for:
[+] people, especially pre-college teenagers, who want to make good looking and multi-media presentations, but cannot afford (time- and money-wise) expensive IDEs.
[+] small businesses that want to build quick online portfolios to show case their work.
[+] personal albums and newsletters, especially when you are already sharing content on social networking sites such as Flickr, youtube, etc.

Wix is not for me, or any professional Flash designer/developer. What I cannot live without in my Flash websites includes:
[+] Scalability with dynamic content. I have been using XML as my data layer in almost every project I do, be it small or big project. I enjoy the MVC paradigm.
[+] customized transitions between clicks. To me, nothing on a webpage should pop in/out. That is a big differentiator between RIA and (most) HTML sites.

To sum up, I will use the following video of this Sushi machine as my comment to Wix. Hats off to Wix.