Web Site Usability – Why Should You Care?

Everyone is talking about usability, it seemed to be a hot topic recently, but thanks to the crisis everybody seem not to care. I have covered some usability ideas in the past, but it just turned around and bit me in the back – again!

Yesterday I was paying my bills. By the way, just imagine how much of on open market is paying bills – banks play there, credit card operators play there, ISPs play there and still it isn’t a single way of doing things. But I digress. I headed to Banana Republic’s web site since I didn’t have a direct link to credit cards account login page. Click on Credit Card all the way at the bottom of the site. Redirected to a secure portion of Banana Republic’s site. Good. Now let me see where’s my account. Click on the big button with “HAVE A CARD?” question next to GET A CARD button (BTW, did you notice that it’s all ONE IMAGE MAP? With another huge image map below?). Imagine this – a new pop-up window opens, with totally random URL in it. The onlinecreditcenter6.com seem to be the flavor du jour, courtesy of GE Money Bank (has anyone heard about GE Water Bank? GE Blood Bank? GE Sperm bank?). Alright – no questions for GAP brands, let’s bash look at GE.

Aside from modern and very inconvenient way to log in the user (first you have to provide login only, then either answer two personal questions or provide password and identify an image), the whole idea of opening a new window with new URL seems strange. We seem to fight phishing wich partially based on deceiving the unsuspecting user that this new URL is the one he needs to visit – and you get something like this? No wonder banks keep being hit. And why do I need to provide a login only?

To protect your security, we ask for only your User ID to initiate access to your account. Then we show you the Personalized Image you selected before asking you to enter your Password. We do this to help prevent phishing, and to ensure your confidence that you have accessed the correct website for your account.

Right. With the proliferation of social networks it’s much easier to gather personal information about someone rather then guess somebody’s password. But nobody seem to care anyway.

But the turning point (and the reason for this blog post) occured a bit later. After filling all the fields to make a payment and clicking MAKE PAYMENT button, script found that I’ve made a mistake entering a date. Turned out I typed 2008 instead of 2009. Alright, I am not asking to fix such an obvious mistake for me, but WHY DID YOU JUST RESET ALL THE ENTERED INFORMATION? Instead of paying full amount I just made a minimum payment. And no – you can’t reverse it or make another payment today.

Now back to initial question – why would you care? It’s simple – because things like this matter in your personal and business life. It used to be 30 minutes to pay all of my bills – utilities, credit cards, etc. I use special software that opens login links for me, types in my passwords for me and submits it for me. The advantage is that I use one VERY complicated password to manage other VERY complicated passwords to my accounts – instead of remembering a bunch of simple ones). So with a single mouse click I can get right into account information screen. With modern ways to log in (that are just as prone to phishing as old ones) I spend over 2 hours for same amount of activities. An impact is kind of obvious.

The time is not the only concern here. It would take a really small distraction for the difference in amounts paid to go unnoticed. Next thing you know – you think the credit card is paid in full while it’s not. And we all know what a credit card company can do if you missed a payment.

Usability isn’t some form of useless science. It’s something that directly affects us in everyday life. The way we pay our bills. The way we interact with things. The way we achieve our goals.