Darwin's Theories Blog

New Theories for a New Time

What's wrong with the web, Part 43

This is a cleaned-up version of what I sent to a major Canadian corporation's web team after trying to use their site.
One thing that really sucks about some web sites, including yours, is the designers' wanton disregard for users' time. For example, I tried a simple thing like updating my address (because my May issue of [your print magazine] arrived June 17, after most of the offers had expired). Yet after I entered the correct address, it repeatedly failed the request with the message "A correct postal code must be entered". But NO GUIDANCE about what format to use - is it ANANAN or ANA NAN? Neither worked! Either should be acceptable - adding or removing a space character is hardly beyond the capabilities of today's computers. Or was your little Struts Action trying to say that it thought the postal code disagreed with the street/town address? Not that any city-built database would have a clue about rural addresses anyway. What is wrong with your web people? Don't you know how to word a simple error message so it actually contains a dram of useful information?

Thank you for listening.

In the end, fortunately, I was able to contact a live human being via the hundred-year-old telephone system and get him to change the address. At least, he said he had changed it, although an hour later it's not yet made it to the web site's copy of the database.
We'll see if they even reply. Or if the updated address makes it.
After  an hour, I got two replies, the usual auto-responder acknowledgement, and, this gem:
Due to circumstances beyond our control, we are currently unable to respond to your request electronically. Please visit the Help section of the [Company Name] Website or contact [Company] at 1-800-bleah-bleah.

I wonder if anybody actually reads their emails, or if the second is an auto-responder as well?