Sometimes you come across something which is so bad that you just have to expose it.
As the Government Digital Service has done such a great job improving the quality of online transactions over the last couple of years, I was horrified to come across this hideous example of a digital application process designed for citizens who want to get a new electronic payment tag for the Humber Bridge.
It’s ironic that my story (below) is offset against a really good digital communications campaign by the Humber Bridge Board. They even produced a YouTube video on how to go through the form but they just forgot to embed or link to it.
I suspect I am not alone using search as my first way of locating the website. If you do this, you get none of the contextual information contained in the official Humber bridge website.
That includes this important caveat “Please Note: The HumberTag website has been optimised for Internet Explorer, use of alternative browsers may result in incomplete transactions”.
Latest figures I saw indicate that Google Chrome is the most popular browser (circa 45% of users) followed by IE at only 25%. Chrome is a great browser used on many mobile devices so I can’t argue with these statistics. So it looks like the website has already set out to fail the majority of users.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the website is so dull, you start to doubt if it is the official website and not a fraud. There is no call to action so you have to guess that “open an account” means “apply for a new tag”.
Thankfully the next screen helps…a bit. Apparently the new Humber tag is “tolling product”. However, you still have to select it despite there being no other options. It’s unhelpfully labelled “HumberTAG v1” for some reason. By the way, when you get on to it, “credit/debit card e-commerce” means pay with your bank card.
After you accept the T&C’s (which is just an accessible, downloadable PDF when you click on it!), some more fields are revealed. None of the sections on this page have any contextual help so you’re left wondering what you should do with the various number boxes where you can enter cash amounts.
It is at this point, if you use anything other than Internet Explorer, the fields under “payment method for future payments” don’t work. Abandon ship!
Of course, you’ll find this out when you hit submit. Only then do you get some hints such as the limits of the fields you just tried to fill out. You might also notice the capture (to avoid spam)…hard to distinguish between the letter “o” and a zero and no audio option to make it accessible.
If you manage to get onto the next page, this is where you enter your details – presumably so they can post you a tag.
Now think about this, the Humber Bridge spans the counties of North Lincolnshire with East Riding. Why is it then that “North Lincolnshire” is not is listed as a pre-defined county?
Of course, you could just select “Lincolnshire” but many villages have the same name in both counties and you risk your application getting lost in the post. Of course, there’s no way to manual edit this later! Epic fail.
The next screen allows you to enter details about your vehicle. This is where form validation is really shown up. If you enter your registration plate as you see it on your car (e.g. AB11 ABC) then the form fails because you have use a “special character”.
While most people would have quit by now, geeks like me understand that a space is a “special character”. In other words, you can’t have a space between digits when you input your details, it doesn’t tell you this and it doesn’t strip the space for you to stop all the hassle. As you can see, the make, model, year and colour fields are broken so I’m not sure why they appear.
At step four you get a summary (phew!) and click “finish account creation” to reveal more jargon on the next page about “payment through an external interface”. I guess what the developers are telling us is that the payment is processed through a third party.
As if that wasn’t bad enough there is yet another confirmation screen to click through.
At this point you have a long form about your card details and address to fill out. You got it, all those details that you just provided have not been pre-filled into the new form.
To make things extra exciting for those who don’t type at 40 words per minute, there is a meagre five minute count-down timer to do this.
There couldn’t be much more wrong with this online process, it clearly hasn’t been though through or tested properly and I have no doubt that it will be the poor cousin to going and visiting the offices out of pure frustration. Actually, that’s the experience of most of my friends who have tried and failed to register online.
I advocate digital first and digital by default but this sort of clumsy implementation is embarrassing, both for the Humber Bridge Board but also for our efforts in convincing people online is the future.
I fear that if the design is this poor then security will be lapse too. Let’s wait for the data leaks in due course…