Reviews of web sites

the brroks review

The Brooks Review


The Brooks Review (written by Ben Brooks) is an awesome commentary blog site on all things tech.

His latest post today on Google+ was classic.  Here’s his summary on various social media sites:

GeoCities: Was epic, and the best place to share animated GIFs.

MySpace: It was the place to go for crappily designed user profile pages and scantly clad pictures of women that you don’t know. To check out bands so that you could later tell you buddies: “I was listening to them way before they were main stream. It was the GeoCities of the early 2000′s.

Facebook: It is the place that you go to see what your ex is up to, if what’s her name from high school is still hot, and well who took a bikini vacation recently? It is also the place that will yield preposterous valuations, and shoot you an average of 30 clicks just for posting a link. Facebook made social networking an acceptable activity for everyone. Also: FarmVille.

Twitter: It’s the place where no one can deny your “friend request” and ADD heaven. Where millions can declare their allegiance to people they hardly know, and where a relative nobody 1 can get rather instant tech support.

Tumblr: This is basically the modern day GeoCities with better templates and (sometimes) faster loading sites. Also, it’s taking blogging to be a mainstream accepted activity.

Google+: …?

I have to agree with him on all counts (and funny too!). I do disagree a bit on his commentary on Google+ – from what I see so far I like it (well more than he does).

Black and White Version: Brooks review is a very informative tech site.  Read it.

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Prepaid Top-up - Telecom NZ Ltd

Telecom – great deal, but too many steps


Partly to show that I will call out Telecom when they trip up too (not just Voda), and partly coz I think on this one Telecom are just DUMB, here’s my commentary about Telecom’s systems for topping up mobile broadband.


Today I swapped my iPad XT sim from the 2GB post pay plan ($59.95 a mth) to a pre-pay plan (so 10c/meg up to $29.95, and then nothing till 500MB, and then 10c again till $59.90 and free till 1GB).  An awesome deal, especially since iPads don’t use THAT much data (esp when they are set up to use WiFi at home/work/airports etc) and I don’t use the iPad for massive data intensive applications (mainly email, web, apps etc).

The issue

Anyway, all was fine with the swap (very easy).  Getting a password set for my sim so I could log in and check data usage was a tad harder (since it sends a text  to the sim).  Lucky I had an iPhone 4 handy that I could throw the sim in – I wonder how others do this for data-sticks etc?    Why not have an option to email, or even just show it on screen?  Anyway , that wasn’t the big issue).

My main issue was with top up of Telecom Pre-Pay.  Firstly, finding it was not easy.  Why is a link not on the mobile broadband page?  I have to go through three more steps > click Pre-Pay Plans (top right) THEN at the bottom of the page click Topping Up Your Mobile Broadband THEN click on Top up Online (about a 3rd of the way down the page).  Why so hard?   Why so hidden? Isn’t topping up (i.e. paying money) one of the MAIN things Telecom would want to encourage people to do online – if not THE main thing. But that’s not the biggie.

The BIG issue I have is with the whole unnecessary step of providing my payment details and sim # on the web page, and then getting a voucher code that I then have to call an 0800 # to redeem, and AGAIN providing my sim # etc.  Why not just skip this 2nd step entirely?  I provide my sim # with payment, why not just top it up based on that? The whole system appears very 90s.  If was overseas and doing this, I couldn’t (since they only offer 0800 numbers to call).    Seams unnecessarily cumbersome.  I was also surprised I could only top up $60.  Why?  Why not $200?   I don’t want to be topping up every 2 months!  I would gladly throw 200 bucks on it now and let it remind me in 6 months when it’s running low.

The fix

All (and I mean ALL) of the overseas sim cards I have, allow me to top up online without having the sim on, or even in a phone, and I can remotely check the balance VERY easily.  Telecom should let me log in and then top up, any amount, at any time, from any location via their web page. They have my details, they have the ability to charge credit cards, and know my sim # (since I am logged in), so just do it!   Although I have to say the online usage check bit works fine now – I can log into it via the web page or via the cool wee Consume App on my iPhone and check how much data I have used.  Unlike when I was on post-pay, since Telecom are yet to allow any corporate customers the ability to check usage online – another gripe.  Surely this group are MORE important to Telecom!

Anyway .. enuf said.  Gripe over (for now).

Black and White: Taking money of people should be made EASY, not hidden in 3 levels of web page clicks.  And it should be one step, not two!

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A while back I blogged about the misleading prices shown on a New Zealand web site 1-day.

Well today I saw another classic misleading “ERP” (estimated retail price I can only guess) on a similar site (it’s up today only).  Image on the right.

This was for a refurbished iMac 24″.  The supposed ERP is $2499. Now I know my Mac prices, so thought that sounded steep for a refurbished unit of that age (24″ are the last generation).   So I checked on the NZ Apple site, and for $2499 I can get so much more than this unit (and for a lot less you can get better on most specs).

Heres what you CAN get for $2499 from apple.

Heres a comparison table. (I have edited the text on each so they use the same terms, but not changed anything).

First in offer

$2499 ERP (selling for $2199), refurbished 24″ iMac

New Zealand Apple Store

$2499, refurbished 27″ iMac

New Zealand Apple Store

$1699 21.5″ refurbished

  • Mac OS X 10.5
  • Intel Core 2 Duo  2.8 GHz processor
  • 2 GB DDR2 SDRAM (supports up to 4GB)
  • 320 GB 7200 RPM Serial ATA hard drive
  • ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO graphics w/256 MB GDDR3 memory
  • 24″ screen
  • Wired keyboard, mighty mouse
  • Mac OS X 10.6
  • Intel Core Duo 3.06GHz processor
  • 4GB (supports up to 16GB)
  • 1TB Serial ATA1; 7200 rpm
  • ATI Radeon HD 4670 with 256MB of GDDR3 memory
  • 27″ screen
  • Wireless Keyboard, magic mouse

  • Mac OS X 10.6
  • Intel Core Duo 3.06GHz processor
  • 4GB (supports up to 16GB)
  • 1TB Serial ATA1; 7200 rpm
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory
  • 21.5″ screen
  • Wireless Keyboard, magic mouse

So, for a start, the $2499 ERP is totally misleading.  For $2499 you can get SO much more machine than they claim – a whole generation up (i.e. latest generation), faster processor, 3″ larger screen, double the ram, more than three times the hard drive, a new wireless mouse/keyboard combo, and a better graphics card.   Even the special price of $2199 seams like a rip off since for $500 LESS you can get a machine that is FAR higher in specifications in every respect except it’s 2.5″ smaller screen and graphics card (and this unit the latest generation from Apple too, not like the one from First in).   The later gen units have extra wee benefits like having dual-link DVI inputs, so you plug your laptop in and use the monitor from the iMac. Either way, the ERP is just wrong.

As an aside, both the $2499 for the 27″ is a SUPER deal, as is the $1699 for the 21.5″, but I guess it all does depend of if you like (or need?) a larger screen.

Black and White Version: The claimed discounts on so many of these “super deal” web sites are way over inflated.  We warned!

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2010-16-04 1-day scam Bluetooth car kit

1-day pricing very misleading


You may have noticed a proliferation of limited offer for 24 hours type web sites, often having only a handful (sometimes as few as one) product for sale at a super reduced price for a very short time.

Well the idea is fine, but unfortunately one of these sites in New Zealand is just plain misleading with their claimed discounts, using inflated retail prices to show discounts that aren’t there.

My mate Anton did some digging and came up with the follow comparisons for 1-day.

First of all this one on 27th May 2010 selling Jet Planes (lollies, or as Americans call em – candy).

Implying a normal price of $52.95 is just misleading, as it could be purchased from another store for $20.97 at their REGULAR prices.  Click on the image on the right to see more detail.

As Anton explains:

It looks like they 1-day seem to take the price of the most expensive configuration or store and call it their Why pay price. I calculated the regular price of 20 x 200Gram bags at $53.80 on

In my view this is misleading.  All they are showing in this example is how one can get discount for buying a larger bag, not an actual reduction in price.

If 1-day are relying on the Why Pay as simply a comparison, and not the actual regular price others charge, then why not just make up any number.  Why not say: “Why pay $200 for a can of baked beans when you can buy it here for $2″.  Misleading rubbish I say!

Here’s another example from April 2010

In this case the product was sold cheaply, but the supposed discount was not as great as it would first appear.  Two major retailers (Dick Smith and Noel Leeming) had regular retails prices well below the Why Pay rate.

Anyway, it’s a pity, since many of the 1-day prices are quite good and are below retail, it’s just they are not THAT much below retail at times, and unless you know the regular price you might be included to grab it now (they push the “stock running low” thing a lot) when there wasn’t that much of  saving in the first place.

So the moral of the story is don’t believe everything you see online, and do your own checking (Google does a great job of that) to check prices.  In face in New Zealand pricespy also has a great search function for certain products (mainly electronic) so you can compare prices for a product at almost every major retailer in NZ.

Here are some other useful limited super special sites in New Zealand:

Black and White Version: Be aware of inflated prices to show discounts that aren’t there.  Do your homework before buying anything.

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Web site reviews


I have commented on (reviewed if you like) a couple of web sites recently (here and here) and noticed a trend: they are crap.

It appears the most common mistake is also the most fundamental issue for any web site – what’s it for? (ie is it info?, trying to get sales?, or like this site providing a vehicle for me to vent?).

I thought it may have been me, you know being picky and all. But it appears the issue is more wide spread than I thought. So, to save the day (well OK, it won’t actually save anything, it will just highlight the issue) I will post regular reviews of web sites using my newly developed and ever evolving web review criteria.

I intend to finalise how the criteria will work in the next few days, and then use a standard review format between reviews.   I will also add a new reviews page at the top menu bar so they are easy to navigate too.

Anyway .. watch this space.

Black and White Version: I will review web site.  Yes, really, I will.

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Modern businesses with stone age web pages


As you will know I think some web site are crap (aka Hoyts cinemas).

But it still amazes me when modern businesses (BIG businesses, like Smiths City) have web pages out of the stone age.  OK, I exaggerate, they are probably out of the 90s, when the idea of Front Page ’97 and having a separate “email us” swirly gif was cutting edge.  And in case anyone is wondering, I don’t go looking for bad web pages, I go looking for stuff to buy and FIND bad web pages (I was looking for an LCD TV in this case).  But I can say I will be unlikely to buy anything from this company since I cant get any info on products online (that’s how I like to do my initial research).

The image on the left shows their products page.  Hmmm, I think your missing info, like ummm .. info on your PRODUCTS!

So I thought I would check out their store locater – since it was obviously a people focused store, with a philosophy of one on one personalised attention with great customer service, not a flashy web site.  Ummm .. WRONG AGAIN.  Their store info didn’t even have a map, or info on their hours, or .. well ANYTHING useful.  (Image on the right).

It’s REALLY not hard.  For a few grand a good site could be set up.  For an extra zero, and e-commerce site.  Even a pdf of your latest mailer might be a good idea (remember all those people with “no circulars” that might never see one?).    Oh I give up!

STOP PRESS: Wait, there may be hope! I saw “Wedding Register” at the top of the branch info – does this mean thay have online details of what people I know might want for a pressie for their wedding, or maybe I could upload what *I want* when I get married?  COOL!   So I click on the link and get … wait for it .. a bunch of text, with this at the bottom

To further discuss this with us, please call our Kitchenware Department on 03 983 3130 or email us at Smiths City Colombo St wedding register.

I would link to a page for you, but I can’t since their web site doesn’t even charge the url at the top so I can do it.  Yeah .. well … hmmm, par for the course.

Black and White Version: Some web sites are crap.  Some are even worse.  But they needn’t be, a basic site with good info (and SALES info) isn’t hard!

PS: I finally see what’s wrong – the site is (c) 2001-2007.  Looks like no one updated it for the last three years, although design wise I am thinking more like 15 :-)

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Hoyts – how NOT to do a web site


I decided to go to a movie tonight. I also decided (quite incorrectly) that the easiest way to find out info and book would be online. I think the first part (info) was easy enough, but online booking was both difficult, had a surcharge and overall quite unprofessional. Here’s why:

1) The site layout is VERY cluttered. Click on the image on the left to see what I mean. There is WAY to much going on here. (Btw .. there is more to the main page that shown – it wont all fit in on my screen even!)

I just noticed there is a banner ad, and a large ad at the bottom right that’s not even for their products!. There is even a “dating” link at the top right – WTF?

What marketing school did these guys go to? Ads work to help generate revenue for sites that have CONTENT, but generally not a thing to “sell”. In this case ANYTHING that distracts the end user from their products is counter productive – I think they need to ask the question “Whats the objective of the site” coz it’s not clear they understand. In my view the objective is to provide info on movies, and allow bookings. Not sure what they are thinking.

(2) They charge a $1 per ticket surcharge. Again what are they thinking? The whole ideas is to ENCOURAGE people to book online, not discourage. Web sites are primarily fixed costs media (ie whether or not 1 or 100,000 people view a site it costs the same to code it, host it and update it) as opposed to personal service via staff which has a far higher variable (in this case labour) cost. So the way web sites PAY for themselves is to AUTOMATE them, and get ECONOMY of SCALE. If Hoyts ran a supermarkets is appears they would charge people MORE to use the self checkout kiosks – CRAZY!

(3) Actual bookings are clumsy and awkward. After clicking on a movie, I had to search for the “buy now” button, and then it takes me to a screen where it asks me what movie I want to buy. Clearly the persons that designed this never tried to actually USE it. There are only two things to get right here – info (movie details, times etc) and BUYING tickets (and the later, IMO, is far more important coz it helps make them MONEY).

(4) The final bit is just amusing, and at the same time unprofessional: I received an email after I booked (took me several tries to get it to accept my seat request, and booking). The email refers to “Vista Cinemas” even though I have no idea who they are, there is no address or map, and the “instructions” are clearly from a stock piece of software with the “edit this” notes still there! Click on the image to the right to see what I mean.

Black and White Version: Get your act together Hoyts! Know what your web site’s purpose is, and then at least TRY to achieve it!

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