Tirade on Stupid User Interfaces


I have several accounts with a credit card company: two cards and a merchant account. They don't want the expense of printing monthly statements for the merchant account, so they sent me a letter to enroll my merchant account in online statements to avoid the paper charge.

In my default browser (Safari), I attempt to log in. I can't (Problem #1). In fact, I end up in browser limbo, with some message about too many redirect (Problem #2). I try to log in in Explorer. I can't. It tells the me password is wrong (Problem #3). I call the 800 number three times before I get someone who tells me I need a new user id. I ask why. The nice lady says, “We keep our businesses separate, so you need a user id.” I say, “But (and I'm starting to rave here), the web UI looks the same. I have tabs at the top of each page that allow me to move back and forth. If you've integrated the web page, why not integrate the user ids???” (I'm definitly speaking loudly, because I'm so angry with the stupidity, waste of my time, and lack of documentation.) Poor lady just keeps saying they keep their business separate (Problem #4).

These are serious problems. I'm not a UI designer — I'm a user. This makes me an expert — in using computer systems, not designing them. The problems:

  1. If a user attempts to log in and can't, catch the error. Safari shouldn't have tried to deal with this error, the web site app should have. Catching an unable to log in error is basic programming. How could they have missed this?
  2. Why do you care what browser your users use? The world is full of browsers. That's why we have Java. Accomodate all the browsers. Sure it means that you have to write code more carefully and test on many platforms. Is it worth losing any customers because your developers were too lazy to write good code?
  3. Make sure the error text matches the error. There was nothing wrong with my password; they wanted a new user id. The problem is the text on the page. The text says “New user? Create an id.” But I'm not a new user. I manage my credit cards online every month. I'm an experienced user. The instructions were inadequate, as well as the error text.
  4. If you have a consistent look and feel to the site, and you're trying to seel multiple services to one customer, don't make the customer have multiple ids, one for each service. I'm sure that having multiple ids makes it easy for this company to track revenue by division. But it makes it much harder for me to manage my user ids and passwords. Who is the customer here?

To add insult to injury, I can't write this in an email and send them feedback. (Problem #5) I can call (and spend more time on hold? No thank you), but I can't write. So, I've now made a public example of a stupid website. Great. When I make mistakes, I want people to tell me, not write about it somewhere public. Gotta wonder why these people don't care.

Ok, tirade about stupid UIs off. Back to work.

4 thoughts on “Tirade on Stupid User Interfaces”

  1. Couldn’t agree more! This is a pet hate of mine as well.
    The problem as I see it is standards! Everyone is using different standards.
    Agreed there are so many browsers, but there are also so many style-sheets, versions of Java and thats just for starters.
    And to cap it all, I’m finding that many web-pages are now being designed by marketing departments and NOT developers, they just now do the plumbing.

  2. Frankly, that’s a bull. There is 90% of IE used on the market, why would I even care for accomodating the rest 10% of browsers? I’d rather display a download link to IE page and invest the saved cach into transferring my entire web application to a flash platform. It’s amazing how easy it’s to shoot oneslf in the foot while blaming the rest of the world for stupidity.
    P.S. You are not losing those 10% of customers in case you wonder – most of those have IE installed on their machine anyways.

  3. I’m a Java programmer, and I have to say that your comment about multiple browser being the cause for Java is incorrect. Java programs run on web servers and serve up web pages for you to look at and interact with. Java does nothing for different browsers. The interoperability of Java has to do with what machines you run Java programs on, not what browsers the people using those programs have.

  4. Old discussion, but to me as a customer, browser indeference means they are indeferent to me as a customer. I use Firefox because I want to. If I have a website that makes me use IE, I simply don’t use the web site period. The company can just send me paper statements and I will pay by check. If they insist even more, I cancel the account. Usually, browser indeference means a lousy web experience anyhow.

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