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Puzzle leaves readers puzzled

July 6, 2009 - Art Smith
I’ve written before about how we use software to gauge how important different parts of the Web site are to our readers.

A recent minor change though reinforced to me how sometimes it’s the little things that matter most to people.

The online crossword puzzle that you find on our site is a service that we subscribe to. The feature is neat in that it allows you to chose how you solve the puzzle. Many people do the crossword online, others though like to print it out and solve it in the same way as a traditional puzzle.

The provider of the puzzle recently made a minor change to how the puzzle displays. Readers soon started e-mailing me with complaints that they could no longer print it.  A reader called this morning and I told her I would work with her until we figured it out.

Many users have a pop-up blocker on their computer. In addition to knocking out some forms of advertising. The blocker will also eliminate any form of a pop-up. In this case it eliminated the ability to print the puzzle.

The puzzle loads in the second window in the form of a portable document format file, a PDF; it requires that you have the free reader downloaded on your computer.

All this is explained with onscreen messages. Many people, I mean most people, ignore such messages and get frustrated when things don’t work.

If you have the block-ups unblocked and the PDF reader on your computer, the puzzle should load and you should be able to print it.

The puzzle underscored to me how passionate some readers are about certain features of the site. It reminds me of how once years ago we thought of removing what we thought was a little used feature from the newspaper. We added a line at the bottom of the feature indicating that we were thinking of removing it. We asked the readers to contact us if they thought we should keep it. A few hours after the paper came out the vote was 72 – 0 in favor of keeping the feature in the newspaper.

As a trusted part of their lives, readers have always felt that the newspaper belonged to them, the same holds true now for “their” Web site. It should work the way they expect, and we will strive to make sure it does.


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