Laird Destroys Cushcraft

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I’m trying to save Fridays for writing about Fabulous things, instead of Frustrating things, but an experience I just had necessitates postponing my daily themes a bit.

At the Burlingame Red Cross office I’ve been volunteering with for the last three years, we have a Cushcraft 220 MHz antenna that we’re about to lend to the chapter’s Concord office, so they can diagnose their 220 setup. In the process of disassembling it, I broke one of the phasing stubs off. Since someone else had broken one earlier, this left the antenna with just one–not enough to work right.

So I visited the Cushcraft Web site, or tried to. But it was gone, redirecting to the parent company’s site, Laird Technologies site instead. Gone were all of the long-known URLs pointing to the Cushcraft product pages, support pages, and all of the careful tagging their Webmaster had done to get Google to present a helpful search result that could take you directly to the page you were after.

It’s fine to absorb a purchased company’s content into your site, but you must not break any of the URLs that search engines have, or that people have bookmarked (or memorized). Doing so is fundamentally egotistical, arrogant, and self-destructive. Laird has instantly alienated all of their existing Cushcraft customers. Why would you spend $90 million to buy a company, and then two years later, tell all of their existing customers to bleep off?

But it gets worse, and indicates how clueless Laird is about technology. The problems I’ve found are numerous, but here are the highlights:

  • Going to takes you to the Laird homepage, which has no mention of the former company and no link to its products. The casual visitor infers they killed the product line.
  • Using the search engine (surprisingly easy to find) results in “Your search for “Cushcraft” returned 0 results.”, as does searching for the ARX-220B antenna in question.
  • Their site’s Contact Us page does not contain a number for a parts department, tech support, or one that’s appropriate for antennas. The person who answered the obvious match, Wireless Systems, informed me I did not get the correct department.
  • When the gentleman who answered helped me find the page for the ARX-220B, it took no fewer than 10 clicks to arrive at the correct page.
  • After the fourth click, all of the 14 product links on the page pointed to the same top-level, online, outsourced, catalog page, requiring me to start over again.
  • Some of my clicks resulted in being shown raw, ugly, oversized HTML error messages.
  • After all of this, I could still find no indication of who to contact for replacement parts.

Note to Cushcraft customers: Use the frustrating new Laird site or the Wayback Machine to find and download all of the manuals and technical information you need before Laird’s clueless Web team deletes the last remnants, and start looking for another antenna supplier (not Larsen; they’re owned by Laird now as well).

Note to Laird stock holders and fund managers: go look for signs the company is making life difficult for customers in other ways. It may be that this stupidity is contained within the IT department, in which case the problem is easily fixable. But if it’s origin is in marketing, that’s likely going to be an entrenched mindset that will continue to do stupid things like this, and not just with the Web site.

Note to Laird: Keep these idiots away from the Radiall-Larsen Antenna Technologies Web site and products. I’m a huge fan of the Larsen antennas, and you don’t want to destroy a key asset of yours. The antennas are very well made, aesthetically pleasing, and the company has come up with some real innovation (such as the NMO-HF system) that you want to encourage, rather than squash and hide.

Author: Peter Sheerin

Peter Sheerin is best known for the decade he spent as the Technical Editor of CADENCE magazine, where he was the acknowledged expert in Computer-Aided Design hardware and software. He has a long-standing passion for improving usability of software, hardware, and everyday objects that is always interwoven in his articles. Peter is available for freelance technical writing and product reviews, and is exploring career opportunities in interaction design. His pet personal project is exploring the best ways to harmonize visual, tactile, and audible symbols for improving the effectiveness of alerting systems.

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