I recently purchased a new car. It’s fun to drive – a nice change from my crossover vehicle. One of the features of this vehicle is the ability for it to email me monthly diagnostic statuses. That’s pretty neat. I’m a techy guy, and my car knowledge extends about as far as adding wiper fluid and filling it up with gas. Having had the car just a month now, I got my first email over the weekend. I opened it to find this:

You’re not seeing the wrong thing – you’re seeing an email with no images. Even after telling Gmail to turn them on, all the status icons point to a server that’s returning 404 errors.

So basically, this email and the service is useless to me because of a server being offline. The reality is this is something that could have been handled easier if a bit more thought had been put into the design. For this email in particular, there are ways that you could show a particular service was working using something as simple as a style=”color:green” declaration. That way, if the image server is down or the user doesn’t have images turned on, it will still show a prompt to the user.

See, simple? If a little thought had been put into the design of the email, I wouldn’t be an unhappy customer today.

Set Godin had a good take on this recently, blogging about simple issues could be fixed with a bit of design. The key takeaway from his post is this:

My thesis is that digital interactions demand more organized and situationally smart displays. My other point is that it’s not hard to avoid broken if you pay attention to the way people actually use what you make.

Something to think about as more and more of our communication with our various constituencies is electronic.