As long as the web's been around, it's frustrating how many goofy website issues I still encounter. A catalog of a few that have vexed me recently...

For lack of a compelling alternative, I still use Citysearch to look up restaurant locations from time to time. Their map links are terrible. From a restaurant page, when I click on the map link, I expect the resulting map to show me a close-up of the restaurant's location. For a long time, all I'd get was a giant map showing the United States. That really narrowed it down. Thanks a lot.

Now that bug has been solved, but the map view they send you to now is zoomed out so far that you have to click a few times just to be able to see the cross streets around the restaurant. Furthermore, instead of just showing you a red star for that business/restaurant you want to locate, you get a map showing all sorts of local businesses near that address. On that previous link I was searching for Urth Caffe. Can't see the red star showing you the location of the restaurant? That's right, it's hidden behind the huge flag indicating some place called The Galley. Who designs these sites? Citysearch was never going to set the world on fire, but it used to be mildly useful. Now it's the equivalent of an aging movie star who underwent a botched plastic surgery.

On that topic, I decided to try Yelp since I've heard a lot of buzz about them. I tried putting in Urth Caffe in the search box and it brought back two locations, but not the one I was searching for in Santa Monica. Apparently Yelp Los Angeles uses Los Angeles, CA as its default search location, but that doesn't include Santa Monica. Yelp! Oops. I meant Help!

The top search result, by the way, was a huge sponsored search results for some yogurt place. I hate how sites like these make the top search result a massive ad banner for something totally unrelated. What are the odds if I'm searching for a specific restaurant name that Yelp is going to pick out another restaurant that happens to be more interesting to me than the one I just typed into the search box?! Put that damn ad banner off to the side. On a positive note, at least the map on the page for each restaurant location was useful, zoomed in at a level where cross streets are visible.

Yelp's tagline is Real People, Real Reviews. That's a pretty thin proposition on which to differentiate that site from dozens of others city guides.

I placed an order for a book through Amazon.com. Subsequently, I was told the ship date had to be pushed back over a month. So I decided to see if it was available sooner elsewhere on the web. I found a copy at CafePress and was about to add it to my cart when I read the availability message more carefully: "Books will ship in a minimum of 5 business days." What does that mean? It will take at least five days to ship, but it's the maximum I'm interested in. The book could ship in ten years and still live up to that vague message. Needless to say they didn't get my order.

It's finally getting hot enough in LA that shorts are a necessity. I ordered a pair from Cordarounds about two weeks ago. I'd nearly forgotten about the order, but a nagging feeling that a some package hadn't arrived yet led me to follow up in my e-mail. Since Cordarounds has no online order tracking you'd better keep your order confirm e-mail or you'll be forced to call them to even get your tracking # or order status. Fortunately I had kept the e-mail, and through it I checked the UPS shipping status online and got the cryptic message: Billing Information Received. Just another customer-friendly message from UPS that means absolutely nothing to me.

Today I checked UPS again and received another informative status message: Manifest Pickup. If it read Manifest Destiny at least I would have felt hopeful about annexing some territory. Maybe "Manifest Pickup" would mean more to me if I were wearing a trucker hat. It reminds me of some of the error messages I used to get in Microsoft Windows. I don't mind if they include the technical terms for those who understand it, but a plain English explanation for the rest of us (who make up most of us) should've been up on the site ages ago. Anyhow, it's been two weeks, I don't have my shorts, and I don't know who to blame, but everyone involved elicits little black cartoon clouds over my head.

(UPDATE: Chris Lindland, the founder of Cordarounds himself, looked into my order and resolved the situation and knocked $20 off my order for the inconvenience. It's surreal to have the founder of a company answering your customer service e-mail, but suffice to say I'm happy for the personal touch and resolution. It's the old business adage that you can get a customer even more loyal than the one you might have had with a smooth order if you resolve an order gone awry with a quick apology and resolution and some compensation for the customer's trouble. It's well worth the customer goodwill in the long run. I'm still not happy about the UPS status messaging, however.)

It just reminds me that Amazon does with its online retailing experience appears simple but is in fact quite rare. I worked there for so many years that much of that I just took for granted, but being reliable and not doing goofy things with your website messaging and functionality are still enough to differentiate you on the web.

Most days I can't imagine how I used to live without the web, but somedays, like today, I just glare at my screen and shake my head in disapproval.

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