Friday, September 22, 2006

Mildred Philpots and the terrible, terrible Web design

When I first started working for NewOrder Media (an interactive shop which morphed into HealthStream) in the mid 90s, we were too small to have an actual receptionist. That wasn't going to stop us though. Mac Hardcastle and I fabricated a receptionist, Mildred Philpots!

Mildred was an elderly woman, and it seemed she was frequently absent in order to take her husband Archie to the doctor. But she was a hoot!

Mac and I referred to her often with very straight faces, such as "If you can't find me, hit zero and ask Mildred to track us down." Or, "I asked Mildred to schedule that meeting. I guess she forgot." We even set her up a desk and lovingly draped a sweater over the back of her chair.

The Mildred jig was up when a client realized she only existed in our imaginations.

Fast forward to 2005 when I had the bright idea to put together a NewOrder Media reunion. I had kept in touch with most of the old gang but there were some people who had left town without a forwarding address and others I purposely didn't invite. I set up an Evite and as I tracked down each person I would add them to the Evite. It was actually a fun exercise to find some of my long lost co-workers.

Well, Mildred had to be invited. And in order to give her an appearance of reality, I set her up with a profile on Evite in case someone clicked through. (Several guests admitted later that they had not remembered working with a Mildred Philpots.)

But then, she had to have her own Web site! Shocker, wasn't taken. I then set out to "design" the worst Web site ever, one that made me long for the days of 1994. Since Mildred's favorite song was "Top of the World" by The Carpenters (in reality it was Mac's mother Fran's favorite), her site had to have a bad MIDI version that you couldn't turn off.

That Mildred!

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