Thursday, December 08, 2005

Usability errors in anti-virus service

Usability errors
in anti-virus service

There are two serious usability errors in the anti-virus service I use. I've sent a message to the company, so I will not mention their name here.

The errors are not catastrophic, but they are flaws that need to be corrected.

When I was filling in the billing information for the service subscription renewal, the only option in the drop down menu was "Chicago, IL". However, I don't live in Chicago.

I had to click on "Submit", letting this error remain. There was no way to change it, or to select a different city. The correct city is "Peoria".

So I went to "Help and Support", then to "Billing Problems". To my shock and dismay, there were drop down menu options I was forced to select. You know, the kind where they try to categorize the type of problem. Not good, when the options don't cover everything.

How do you cover every conceivable option?

You can't.

So...then what do you do?

You provide a simple, two-banana solution: "Other". Processing and fulfillment services don't like "Other". They want the user to select a topic. It supposedly makes their job easier.

The problem reporting form contained the item "Describe specifically what is wrong" or similar wording. You have to select an option from a drop down menu.

But the option "Incorrect Billing Address" was not available to choose. This is a mistake. So, I had to choose something, and I reluctantly chose "I need a copy of the invoice". This was not even close to what my problem is.

Before choosing that invalid option, I had attempted to skip that particular drop down menu, but I was forbidden to complete the report in this manner.

I was told "You must select an option in all categories" or similar wording. The program would not let me continue, to complete the message delivery to the company. Bad usability error.

So I just selected a random option. I repeat: none of the options were anywhere close to what my actual problem is, which is "incorrect billing address".

Web designers: when you create a web form, be sure to provide "Other" in those drop down menus that specify the problem the user is trying to report. Don't assume that your list of options will cover every problem.

Another solution is to allow users to type, in a text entry box, the exact problem. Of course, this is obviated by the text entry form below the drop down menus, where I am able to type in the message I want to send to the company.

What makes this form dysfunctional is the fact that I am forced to pick an item in the "Please indicate specifically what your problem is", and the list of possible problems doesn't include my specific problem. Nor is any item anywhere close to it.

[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate


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