About a week ago, I got wind of a press release about Siri getting "her own dedicated website." I only read past the headline because I thought it was something Apple had created. As it turned out, it was a third-party website developed by a man named Jodi Dery in Boca Raton, Florida (didn't see him on Twitter, strangely enough, but here's his Facebook, I think).
It wasn't really exciting news—Siri is everywhere, and his website is definitely not the only one "dedicated" to Apple's iOS 5 feature. But when I visited the webpage, I was shocked. It was hideous, although that's not necessarily what shocked me (after you visit Yvettes, your standard for good design lowers). My main surprise came from the fact that this guy, who doesn't seem to run an actual startup or anything that I could find, went through the trouble of concocting and distributing a press release for something that was just not very newsworthy.
So I decided I'd write a quick piece on the launch to point out some of the obvious, major flaws to the website. It wasn't a particularly articulate article. Mostly it was just my first impressions, contrasted with Jodi's own words. I said the header was awful—what was with that mask, Jodi? I said the way his links to the Apple page kept you on the 4Siri site was a seedy tactic. Overall, I really didn't have anything nice to say at all, besides the fact that a Siri website is a decent idea (a good Siri website, I should say).
The post didn't generate much buzz, which wasn't a surprise to me. I never reached out to the guy, so I had no clue if he even knew I wrote it. I forgot about the whole thing by day's end.
Then, yesterday, he fired me an email.
It's not the first time I've gotten an email from a person or startup I've written about or mentioned in an article. I get them daily. When it's not exactly a nice post, sometimes they want "corrections" (*cough*). I get that—it's natural to turn defensive if you feel attacked. If it is a nice post, sometimes they just send a brief thank-you note. When I read the subject line ("4Siri.com"), I groaned. What would Mr. Dery have to say about my criticisms?
Interestingly, he opened with, "I appreciated your very negative review of my new website." (The "very" is justified; I did say something to the tune of "design flaws that will make visitors want to gouge their eyes out.")
"Your comments were actually very helpful to me," Jodi continued. "You helped me to recognize several shortcomings in our initial page design."
In hindsight, my criticisms should have been more constructive—then again, that's not my job. Even so, Jodi was able to swallow his pride, take the value out of my insulting comments, and improve his project. More important, though, he did all this without lashing out at me for my article.
I revisited his website and it's not a night-and-day change. Honestly, it's still mediocre on the overall design. But, to his credit, he did improve the header dramatically, and he did change how he links to Apple's official website. He also made a number of other subtle enhancements, some as a result of my article.
While we may not be able to learn from Jodi's design talents, we can certainly take home a lesson on how to handle being flamed on the blogosphere. Bad publicity is still publicity, after all, and making good out of bad is always a skill worth having.