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Published on December 3rd, 2005 | by Rahel Bailie


XM Radio User Experience Starts with its Web site

Either I’ve just crossed the threshhold into “too old for new technologies” or I’ve become discerning enough that I expect a good user experience from start to finish. After buying an XM radio, I discovered that I needed to activate the radio service by going to the XM Radio website and entering my radio ID code. What I found there was a user experience so constrained by the technology that I may use this site as the poster child for poor user experience.

The first experience is a demand to install Flash. No Flash, no entry. No entry, no activation. End of story. If you’re in business, as I am, you’re always under the gun to get 18 hours of work done in your 12-hour work day. Taking a half-hour out to figure out and bypass all the security settings set up by your Rent-A-Nerd folks can definitely send a middle-aged business owner into a fit of pique.

The fact that I am forced, as a user, to install Flash just to enter the site feels like the epitomy of arrogance. What happened to vendor respect for the users’ time? What if the user doesn’t want Flash cluttering up their system?  It’s practically an invitation to send customers to Sirius, where they can get into the site without any problem whatsoever.

Then there’s the unwanted advertising. After being forced to download Flash, then the unwanted software is used to waste the user’s time with the booming advertising voice announcing that “across the country, people are tuning in to a revolutionary new kind of radio.” Well, duh, if I’m at your site, I already KNOW about XM radio. It’s not something I’d stumble across by accident.

Then, at the next click, the user is ambushed by thumping disco music. Picture the horror on a user’s face when, multitasking at their desk and on the phone with their supervisor, the user innocently clicks, only to be found out by blaring muzack. More clicks, less credibility, more user frustration. It’s only after that point that the user can find links to the station line-up or to activate a radio.

Bottom line: Users want control over their user experience, and on the XM Radio site, web designers have taken away all control on the site. With all the research done on the topic of Flash intros, there’s no excuse for such a poor user experience in 2005.

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About the Author

Rahel Anne Bailie is a synthesizer of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase the ROI of content. She has consulted for clients in a range of industries, and on several continents, whose aim is to better leverage their content as business assets. Founder of Intentional Design, she is now the Chief Knowledge Officer of London-based Scroll. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she has worked in the content business for over two decades. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits, and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy, and is working on her third content strategy book,

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