A few months back, ComiXology had a sale on some digital Superman comics. There were a lot I was contemplating getting, but I decided to wait one more day to mull over my decision because it would have been a pretty big purchase. The next day, I went back to the app to buy the comics and the sale was over. I couldn’t figure out what happened. In the end, my wallet appreciated it.

It wasn’t until a little while later when another sale came along that I realized what had happened. Many of the ads in the app announcing the sales gave an end date or a date range. A sale starts on 7/5 and goes through 7/7 so the ad says “7/5 – 7/7.” But I began noticing that the ads for sales on DC Comics did not include an end date, but rather gave the duration and start date. Having studied usability in grad school and worked in the area of info architecture, design, and usability since, I thought I’d pass along some feedback to ComiXology figuring they’d appreciate it.

@comiXology Hey, on your sale graphics, could you put the end date instead of the start date? Just some feedback. pic.twitter.com/FTsSMWDb1l
— CT (from Nerd Lunch) (@nerdlunch) June 28, 2013

No response. No worries. They’re busy. But then there was another sale from DC and the same thing happened again. And I got to thinking, maybe these ads are supplied from DC or their marketing firm and it’s not a ComiXolgy issue. So I tweeted them again and this time copied DC Comics on it.

@comiXology @DCComics Serious #usability tip: Put the end date on these graphics, not just start date. pic.twitter.com/lgq0olwfHe
— CT (from Nerd Lunch) (@nerdlunch) September 2, 2013

This tweet was also overlooked. No big. Maybe they saw my tweet and took care of it, but just didn’t let me know. Nope. It happened again. So I mentioned it again, this time calling out DC. And maybe I also came across a bit more stern (okay, whiney).

.@DCComics, I don’t care when your @comiXology sale begins. I care when it ends. Stop making me do math. #usability pic.twitter.com/F5NAfhTo4h
— CT (from Nerd Lunch) (@nerdlunch) September 10, 2013

After this tweet, ComiXology got back to me:

@nerdlunch It’s a 7 day sale, not sure what the problem is?
— comiXology Support (@cmxsupport) September 10, 2013

I replied again, but I don’t think the Twitter venue appears to be the correct venue for this with the 140 character limitation. And I honestly doubt ComiXology or DC cares at this point (and perhaps any other readers who have been sucked into this now), but I feel like I should at least make a case since for whatever reason it’s got me worked up. So to sum up, here are 3 problems I have with the DC ads on the ComiXolgy app and site.

1. The information given is not vital to the end user.
Once a sale begins, it no longer matters when it begins. It only matters when it ends. If I go to a grocery store, see that they’re having a sale on corn and I want to buy corn, I have just a few things that I am looking for information on. I want to know how much the corn is, what I am getting for that money I’m spending, and how long I have until I need to make a decision. Once the sale has started, I no longer care when it began. Giving me that information as a prominent point in a graphic is wasting my time.

2. Not giving me the end date makes me do the work.
We live in a culture where things need to be force fed to us. Giving me two pieces of information and then making me have to figure out a math problem to get the information I actually need introduces frustration and potential errors. Look, I’m a smart guy. I’ve got a Master’s degree. And I’m not horrible at math, but I can still make silly arithmetic mistakes. Way back when I wanted to buy those Superman comics and went back to check on them and they weren’t on sale anymore, I realized it’s because I had to add a certain number of days to the start date. But I did that math wrong and thought I had one more day to make a move when I actually didn’t. And when I did that math wrong, DC and ComiXology lost out on the purchase.

When I tweeted yesterday, I got a funny response back from Twitter pal Elliott Serrano. I think he was trying to be a little snarky back at me, but all he did was prove my point.

@nerdlunch @DCComics @comiXology 10 + 7 = 17 There, did it for you. 😉
— Elliott Serrano (@ElliottSerrano) September 10, 2013

Funny. Except he’s wrong. The sale doesn’t end on the 17th. It ends on the 16th. The seven days begin on the 10th. We have to count that as one of the days. And you’d think that adding 10 to a number is easy, but what about a sale that starts on August 27 and goes 7 days? Now I’m not only doing math, but I’ve got to back up and remember how many days are in August then do the math.

It sounds absurd because these are such simple tasks that we should be able to do and can do, but when “average user” is assaulted by thousands of tweets/posts/ads/calls/texts/interruptions a day, is “average user” going to put that much thought into it and do the little story problem correctly? I’d guess not.

3. “Why make a fuss? If you want them, buy them when you first notice the sale. Problem solved.”
Right. Except some of us have budgets and paychecks we have to wait for, or spouses we ought to consult, or myriad reasons why we can’t pull the trigger right then. Or maybe we bought the first three issues early in the sale to check it out and make sure it’s something we’d like. And then we want to go back to buy the rest later if we like it. If you’re going to set up a sale to be a predetermined amount of time, then the end user should fully understand what that time period is and get a chance to use it how they’d like.

Okay, I’m probably making a mountain out of a molehill, but I really think I have a valid point and quite frankly ComiXology, I expected better from you than your flippant response. I think what you do is great. And overall, your usability and design has been phenomenal. But your tweet seemed to indicate that you wanted to better understand what my problem is…so here you go. I hope I have sufficiently explained it.

Alright. I’m done on this topic.