February 4, 2007 5:57 pm

Beware of Loowa

:note: Gustav Holst – “The Planets: Mars”

I just had the worst experience on a website that I’ve had in a while. The website is called “Loowa,” and I saw it linked on somebody’s website so I went there to check it out. Do not “search” for your email if you go there! (More on that later.) If you visit the website, you are given a large shiny logo that says “Loowa – whose email is that?” I see this, and I’m thinking it’s some sort of Gravatar-esque thing where it connects your email to some sort of recognizable icon. Something of that nature. Something email related, at the very least.

What that so-called email “searching” form does is sends you an email that says “create your Loowa profile,” and if you are like me and don’t read what the link text says and just assume you are confirming you searched for your email, you click on the link in the email and it activates your account and creates a profile for you. The form does not search for your email address. At least not in the sense that it gives you a search results page or tells you “your email has not been claimed yet!” It just checks its database for your email address and if it doesn’t find it, triggers the “set up your profile” email.

Trigger Email

Nowhere in the trigger email does it say, “Thanks for signing up” (nor should it, since you haven’t knowingly signed up for anything) or “Thanks for searching for your email. Since your email address hasn’t been claimed yet, you can set up a free profile on Loowa, a new service where…” and it would go on to explain what the hell the website is about or why you would want to use it.

I would venture to say I’m not Internet Illiterate. I’ve signed up for services before. I can figure things out. Yet, I cannot figure this website out. They use words like “loofination” and “loofa” and talk about “hi fives” and “spying” on Loowah and, being a new user, I have absolutely no clue what those terms mean. They don’t have an “About Loowa” page anywhere that describes what they do or what those terms mean. I finally gave up and checked their Privacy Policy to see if that could shed any light on the situation.

I was stunned to discover a blurb describing what Loowa is. The only place it exists is in a page that is supposed to describe how they use your personal information. That is not an intuitive place for it.

(Supposedly it’s something akin to MySpace, but don’t say that there or else you’ll probably get pounced on. It still doesn’t describe their lingo though, and neither does their FAQ. The title tag of the Privacy Policy page says “Terms of Service” and it doesn’t mention why you searched for your email in the beginning.)

Still utterly confused and sort of wondering how I might delete the profile that I didn’t intend to create, I click on “Terms of Service.” Huzzah! I find what I’m looking for:

You may terminate your Membership at any time, for any reason, by following the instructions on the Member’s Account Settings page.

So, off to my Member’s Account Settings page (the one I’ve been to a thousand times) only to re-realize that there aren’t any instructions there, just some profile editing tools. I am fed up. I AM STILL CONFUSED ABOUT THEIR WEBSITE. I have been there off and on all freaking day and I cannot for the life of me figure out what is going on or why I can’t delete my goddamned profile.

I sent an email to them asking them to either point me in the direction of those “instructions” they speak of, or just delete my profile outright.

This is by far the most user un-friendly website I’ve been to in a long time. Sure, the design is nice, but it looks like every other social networking website out there. There is no explanation for the initial email search that isn’t actually a search at all. Their FAQ is woefully inadequate, describing only what their mascot is, “Such and such isn’t working” (which isn’t even a question), how you can show people your profile, how to change your password, and how to change your name in the system. When you log out, the page says “Tell your friends to come look themselves up!” which is a lie because it doesn’t actually look anything up. ARGH.

If they’ve gone for a user-centered website, they’ve totally failed in my opinion. I’d like to know the objective of a new service before I sign up to use it, I’d like to see more FAQs that actually help the new user, and I’d like to be able to delete my fucking profile.

(Plus, the owner misspelled “ridiculous” in a comment he made regarding (not) allowing porn on Loowa, and we all know how irritated that makes me. RIDICULOUS. It does not have an E anywhere in the word. That is all.)

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  • Tracey says:

    I got that before too! I totally had no idea what it was all about then, and I still don’t!

  • Katy says:

    I briefly looked at that site the other day and decided it looked rather dodgy…
    plus you can apparently link to your profile with loowa.com/you@yourmail.com which I don’t like one bit! random numbers and stupid usernames may be harder to remember but at least the spammers can’t do as much damage that way.. *paranoid*

  • It’s always fun to read reviews about yourself.

    Sorry for the hassle, but most of the site was built in a few afternoons as a gag to follow up a video podcast I did about the supposed horrors of myspace. The privacy policy was mainly a copy/paste job from myspace. I don’t really know what all it says as I haven’t read most of it, but I didn’t want to get sued, and I assumed they’d know how to cover for that. :blush:

    I’m just a guy tinkering on the web on his laptop… heck, I wish I were a creepy multinational sometimes… :o: