Thursday, March 3, 2011

Nutritionally Dense

ZAAZ serves up bagels from Noah's for breakfast about once or twice a week. The other day, I ate a one. (Yay!) Being the neurotic nerd I am, I wanted to log it in my food diary. (If you want to read about my data driven life, go for it.)

So I go to the website for Noah's to scope out what the nutritional information is. Up to a point, the scent of information is pretty strong, and I coast right along.
Oo. Fancy!
A menu!
Huston, we have uh-oh.
Huh. It's a list of bagel flavors... not presented as a list. Why not? In fact, they're not even in alphabetical order - or any sort of identifiable order at all. This makes it harder to locate the particular bagel I'm looking for than I would've expected. Oo, but I see it, right near the bottom: "Whole Wheat." I click... nothing happens. Damnit, and here I thought I'd found what I was looking for. Now I'm forced to scour around to find another way to get the nutritional information. Just as I'm about to close the bagel menu box, I see it in the lower left:
This image is actual size.
You can barely read it. You know what that tells me? They consider nutritional information unimportant. Or, perhaps even worse, they don't want me to find it. Which begs the question... why not? Is it really that bad? Are they afraid that it will actually turn me off of eating the food? You know, I have no way of knowing whether or not the implied answers to those questions are true, and yet here I am already asking (and implicitly answering). All I'm trying to do is retrospectively look up some nutritional info for a bagel I have already consumed - that's it! - and here I am, suddenly and unexpectedly questioning their ethics as a purveyor of fine baked breakfast goods. The things that they don't want me thinking about are the very things they caused me to think about as direct consequence of their design choices. This is known is irony. (As opposed to rain on your wedding day. Which isn't.)

But now we come to the crux of the matter. I'm at the end of my hunt, about to get the information I came here for. When I click on that link, what do you suppose I'll find? If you've ever looked up nutrition info on a website before, you know exactly what I'll find, and you also know it's not what I want to find:
Fuck You.
Restaurants, food manufactures, chefs of America, hear me: this shit needs to stop. Aside from absolutely breaking the user experience of the rest of the site, its just plain irresponsible, because you know that this isn't what we're expecting. You know this, without a shadow of a doubt, for two reasons:
  1. Charts like this are impossible to read. I'm not even going to link to research, because it's just obvious.
  2. Every product I buy in every supermarket in America has their nutritional info displayed like this:

    Is this the most readable, usable way to present nutritional information? I doubt it, but it's standardized and fit's familiar, which counts for a lot.
More to the point, there's just no good reason why it isn't presented with the same interactablity as the rest of the site. There is just no way in the world that someone made that chart by hand in, like, Photoshop. That would take days. Someone typed those numbers in. As long as they need to by typed in, why not just type them into a database? Then, all you have to do is make the food item names clickable, use AJAX to retrieve the appropriate row, format it into something presentable and bam: you're done. That's maybe - maybe - a day's worth of development work. But they didn't. Because they don't care. Or, even worse, they don't want you to know.

I'll leave you with a question: every food product in the supermarket (save produce) is required to have nutritional information printed on it in a standard format. Why doesn't food you buy in a shop or restaurant have the same requirements?

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