I Need a Kill Switch.

I am a huge proponent of usability standards when it comes to software. I’m not advocating that everything be the exact same, but there are certain basic functions that should be included in every modern software package available today. Here at work, we have a software updater called BEAM. It is a home-grown software package that violates one of the most basic usability functions every software designer should follow. There is no “Not Now” button. What I mean by this is, there isn’t a button that allows you to cancel the updates, and there isn’t a function that allows me to schedule my update for a more convenient time.

Some of you are probably saying “so what? Does it really take up that much of your time?, and it is nice that your IT department checks to see if your computer needs updating or not.” Well folks here it is, I work with video and multimedia applications that require me to leave my computer on for days at a time. When I have an unfortunate incident where I am forced to restart (thank you After Effects for crashing my system), the last thing I want to do is wait for an update so I can get back to work. Especially if I am on a deadline.

I just don’t get it. I know that there is probably some thinking that says if we give them a “Not Now” button, no one will ever update their computer systems. Or maybe it’s a “This way we can make sure all computers have identical software loads which will minimize tech support issues”, kind of thing. I don’t know. What I do know is this. Every modern piece of software designed in the last 10 years that does automatic update checks has a “Not Now” button. That is good usability design. That is good software design.

Oh, look my computer just restarted. I’m going to wrap this up so I can get back to work.

Written on WordPress for iPhone.

It Just Shouldn’t Be This Difficult.

OK I just got off the phone with the help desk for my FLEX plan provider at work. This is the 4th time in less than 24 hours I have been on the phone with them trying to submit a claim via the Conexis website.

The reason I am talking about this is website usability, and interaction design. When it’s done right this process should have been a piece of cake. When it’s done wrong, (and the Conexis site is seriously messed up) it’s really wrong. So I’m going to outline the steps I had to go through, to submit a simple claim for eyeglasses.

Step 1. Go to the Conexis website. At the site you are greeted with two fields: Enter your work ID. Enter your password. I assumed this was my enterprise login and password for work. I was wrong.

Step 2. Call Conexis. Help desk tells you to go back to the site, and register.

Step 3. Fill out registration form and click the Submit button at the bottom of the page. Error message “That user name is already in use”. I figure that someone else with a similar first and last name has chosen what I submitted (my enterprise login ID) so I choose another. Error message “That user name is already in use”. Repeat this for 4 variations on my name, give up, call the Conexis help desk.

Step. 4 Help desk tells me that I need to check my email and open the one from Conexis. After opening the email I need to click the link to activate my account. I ask the help desk guy, why the website didn’t just tell me that, instead of giving me an error message. The help desk guy gets all pissy and tells me to check my email again. I tell him I have, and I get what I am supposed to do, but the site is giving me an error message and he might want to pass that on to the dev team to get it fixed. Help desk guy gets really mad and tells me to check my email. Realizing this guy can’t vary from the script I hang up.

Step 5. Click the email link and activate my account.

Step 6. Login

Step 7. Choose if I want to use the interactive claims form, or print the form out to mail in. I chose the interactive claims form.

Step 8. Look at a blank page. Start over. Choose Interactive, Look at a blank page.

Step 9. Call the help desk. Help desk lady tells me I need to quit Firefox, and log out of my account. Then I need to log back in, restart Firefox, open my preferences, delete all cookies, and flush the cache. Then login to Conexis and select submit a claim.

Step 10. Interactive form or print a form out. Reluctantly I choose interactive. This time I get directed to a page with a field that allows me to attach a document. I choose the receipt for my glasses and click add. The document is added. I click the submit button and get a confirmation screen for the claim. I think cool it’s done.

Step 11. An hour later I get an email with my claim number and a link to the amount being reimbursed. I click the link and see that only $20.00 of the total was accepted.

Step 12. Call the help desk. Help Desk lady tells me that is not for my glasses but for a dental claim filed over a month ago. So while I have her on the phone, I decide to have her walk me through the process. This is where it gets good. And yes this is how I have to submit my claim.

She tells me to go to the submit claim link and click it. I do and I go to the page where it asks me to enter the amount of the claim, and the date of submission. Then she tells me to click the link for interactive or print a form. At this point she tells me to click the print form link, and when I do, I get a pop up window with a PDF file that has the amount I submitted along with the date. She then tells me to print the form out. After the form is printed, she tells me I will need to sign and date it, then scan the form back onto my computer and save it as a JPEG. Once I have the form on my computer, I need to log back into Conexis, click the submit claim link, and on the first screen click a link that says “Attach corresponding documents”. After clicking that I will see a form that will allow me to attach both the scanned form, and my receipt. Then I can submit the whole thing to Conexis.

Now here is the kicker. I have no idea if this claim is right, wrong, accepted, or rejected. There is no immediate feedback, and I won’t know until this afternoon if I did this right, and then only after I get the email confirmation, and click the embedded link to see if my FLEX claim has been processed. From a usability standpoint this is a huge fail.

Now lets contrast that with Kristy’s FLEX plan. Step 1: fill out an online form and say how much you want to FLEX. Step 2: receive a pre-paid credit card with that amount on it. Step 3: Use that credit card for any appropriate FLEX spending at your leisure over the course of the next year.