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Not so much a directory, more a misdirectory

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The RIBA directory website (www.architecture.com) is proving fascinating. For a variety of reasons I tried to find the phone number of Michael Manser's practice.

According to the directory, I should not have tried Manser. It said: 'Sorry! No matches could be found, please try again.' Ditto with Michael Manser.

Er, guys, this is a former president and one of the nicest. And there is at least one other Manser, that is his daughter, Victoria, who runs her own practice. I could only get her if I put in Victoria Manser.

Then on the phone (I had his number in an old diary) Michael told me Alan Fletcher had got them to change their name to The Manser Practice. So I tried 'The Manser'. What a hoot mon: Michael of that Ilk.

Anyway, there at last was 'The Manser Practice'. A sharp lesson, smart asses, from RIBA to stick strictly to acronyms and names.

Aha, you point out, if you had been intelligent enough to check the box on the very first search page which reads plainly 'begins with' you would have discovered the hidden alternative imperative 'contains'and all would have been well with the simple Manser entry.

Yes but, I say. Once you have made the initial mistake, which is plainly easy for a simple user to do, subsequent menus offer 'try again'without the options and, as above, you are utterly lost.

Despite what some of my closer friends say, I'm not completely stupid.

If I can get it wrong, at least some potential clients will get it wrong too.

So look, you nerds in berets lurking down there in your 66 Portland Place bunker, this might have been permissible 20 years back in the days of CP/M, Personal Pearl and DBaseII.

But even the feeblest contemporary web search engine does not require you to know the phone number before you can get to ask the directory what it might be.

Sutherland Lyall, lyall@dircon.co.uk

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