Cafe Witness

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Your Car Is a Poorly-Designed Website

I was stopped at a red light last night. I noticed the truck in front of me was dripping something from its muffler. I'm not a car expert, I have no idea what the fluid was, but it seemed unusual to me.

Then the light turned green and the truck drove away. End of story.


It didn't have to be.

404: Reason for Existence Not Found

When was the last time you noticed a broken link on a website? Did you take the time to email the site owner and tell him?

Could you even find the contact information for the site? (This is a problem Chris Brogan has railed about often, and justifiably.)

In a clean, well-designed site, a visitor should be able to do three things easily from the frontpage:

- Know what the site is all about
- Contact someone for help / questions
- Buy something / take action / drive business

If those three elements aren't present, your site is broken.

(Guess what: our STBD site is broken. Gotta fix that.)


A car is not a website. But, like all other aspects of our lives -- fashion, grooming, speech, personality -- it's a depiction to the rest of the world of who we are.

Most of these depictions are one-way conversations.

And, if there's a problem -- if that information is unclear, outdated or broken -- it's not always easy for a person who notices that to tell us about it. That's because we don't invite everyone into a two-way conversation about every aspect of our lives.

Maybe we should.


Cars are designed to transport us and protect us. They're not designed to exchange information.

But what if they were?

What if every car came with a built-in GPS system that was editable in both directions? Central command could update road conditions as information was reported back from the field by responsible drivers. And, in order to access the system, everyone would need an ID -- like their license plate number.

Now, everyone on the road is interconnected to one central system. And that GPS system could also receive incoming mail, audio, video, etc. -- all from other cars on the road.

Is there an accident? An onboard camera could record images and automatically upload them to the system. All cars that routinely drive that route, or who opt to receive information about accidents in that area, would receive those images and decide to drive around the accident. As the accident clears, the images would depict that improvement, until approaching drivers would now be able to maintain their original route.

Goodbye, traffic helicopter. Goodbye, "drive at 5" news updates. Hello, real-time roadside feedback.

Subject: Your Muffler Is Leaking

Likewise, individual car owners could easily (and safely) message on another if there was a visible problem with their vehicle. From a leak to a broken turn signal to an open gas tank, all the information which we, as exterior drivers surrounding that vehicle, can see but not currently relate could now be transmitted instantly.

Social networking, taken to the next level: not just self-indulgent, but now actually useful.

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  • OK so i have been looking at your blog for week now. While mine is no great masterpiece (and I have left it fallow for sometime) I do feel like I should keep it up. Anyway if you are interested it is all about coffee.

    By Blogger Norm, at 9:04 PM  

  • What I love about this is it encourages us all to be better citizens and take responsibility online like we do in real life.

    Thanks Justin!

    By Blogger wsh1266, at 5:51 AM  

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