Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How to throw usability out the window - Part 1

Sometime between when I paid my Rogers bill last month, and when I tried to look it up this month, the Rogers site was "upgraded" to portal. I'm not sure what it used to be before, but I think now it sits squats on top of the BEA Weblogic portal - now owned by Oracle.

Note: This is only part I, the Rogers Portal went offline while I am writing this. To be continued when its live again...

The Loading Dial Syndrome

Who hasn't seen one before? its a great little technique to let the user know something may take some time to come up - note the keyword is "something" not "time". If in your site's case "something" is replaced by "everything" then something is definitely wrong. Sometimes you just can't make things any faster, especially today when portals by nature provide seamless integration between different internal and external applications. At some point, its just out of your control. However, if your site suffers from the Loading Dial Syndrome you are definitely doing it wrong, and its just not out of your control.

By the way, when the loading dial in the middle disappears - after a minute or so-, nothing actually loads. I end up with all this blank space in the middle of my screen. Obviously a bug of some sort, but hey I'm trying to pay my bills here, not QA your application. For the record I wouldn't mind doing it if it was optional (i.e. I choose to jump to the Beta version) plus I receive a reduced bill.


So after going to the "Bills & Payments" tab I see a list of my previous bills and I can dive into any of them by clicking the "Bill" link next to each. I then see the screen below:

Whats the problem? How do I go back to seeing all my bills again? I can't even click on the same tab again. The only way I found is to click on another tab, and then click back on to "Bills & Payments" and then the view is reset to the initial state. Almost like driving a car that can't be put into reverse.

The other thing about this screen, is that effort was spent on meaningless details, such as the red dropdowns with the white gradient background.

The thing about usability is that when you get too deep into something, you miss these obvious issues. I'm sure they looked like non-issues during develeopment, but take a step back and Don't Make Me Think. Sure, there's rounded corners, pretty shadows and loading dials, but none of that will make me login more often if its too darn slow. Now I have two things to dread about the end of the month, finding out how much $ I am about to spend, and trying to use this PoC. - and that doesn't stand for Proof of Concept.


  1. This is a great dissection of some of the real life problems that plague online billing portals Nael. Wouldn't it be better to have your bill emailed to you as an encrypted attachment?

  2. I don't think so. Online billing portals need to move away from the "mail your bill" paradigm and use the web as a platform. Give me tools to make sense of my bill, index it, let me search it, present it differently, dissect it. All the data is there and available, we just need more creative people to look at the data besides rows in a table.