Monday, March 31, 2014's usability fail

Some of the 4.2 faithful readers of this blog know that, in my other life, I do stuff with web sites. Build 'em, plan 'em, project manage 'em. I've done a little bit of everything with web sites, actually, including strategy development, visual design, information architecture, site-building, programming, all that kind of stuff.

I've been trying to buy health insurance for the better part of the day, and technical problems aside (like we didn't expect those), one of the most bothersome things about the website is the complete inattention to UX. There are convoluted instructions, conflicting information, vague "help," inconsistent labeling, on and on  and on. I'm told that my email address will be my  user name when I log into my account, but the email address does not for some reason get me into the account, and at that point I'm told the information I've entered is invalid. I try to change my password, and receive the promised email link to instruct me how to do so, but following that link leads to a page that simply says the operation can't be completed. I attempt to see if there is some problem with my user name, but when I click "recover user name," the page asks me for the email address I signed up with ... which, if I'm remembering correctly, actually IS my username, and then after I type it in, it promises to send an email letting me know how to "recover" my user name ... which never arrives. Subsequent attempts to log into my account result in a screen that says the account is blocked or disabled and provide a number to call ... a number that goes directly to a recording informing me that there is a "high volume" of calls and telling me to call back later. Awesome.

The biggest problem with all this is of course that the website is clearly on the fritz again. But that could have been mitigated by some sensible UX decisions. Clear directions, any kind of opportunity to leave at least the impression that a concern or complaint could be articulated to someone who could hear it, that efforts to resolve problems independently would not automatically lead to other problems ... so many opportunities, all of them blown.

UX is not rocket science. Good usability is common sense. Apparently, though, common sense has been in short supply in the development of