Yesterday I took the final steps in a process I had been avoiding with dread. I filled out a multi-part form on a website. Before you say “what’s the big deal?” Let me just say, I’ve had bad experiences with forms, and this one involved important stuff for me, and my information didn’t match the format required in the form. I knew that.
My task involved visiting an identity-confirming website to get the serial numbers for software I had obtained via an educational promotion. I had already purchased the software, which was in 30-day trial mode pending verification of my student status. The emotional dread was there for a few reasons, among which were that the pieces of ID I planned to submit were not the preferred pieces of info. I simply had to get the updated software before having all my student ID info available, and the cost savings involved in the promo were monumental from my perspective.
I expected first of all to have a miserable time with the Web interface. It always seems that I don’t fill out some field properly or a question doesn’t apply to my particular situation. I figured I would have to struggle with the Web interface until failure of my goal, and then I would have to make a phone call — something I’ve learned to dread even more than a Web-based form. I would certainly, I thought, have to go through a phone menu system. Invariably, I hit wrong buttons or the system just does not address my needs. I would — after some redials and a long hold period — finally get to talk with a human being. I would have to explain why I can only submit a letter from the registrar of the school instead of a photo ID. I would also have to explain any number of other things that appeared to me to be yellow-flags of incompatibility in the process. I would be told I don’t qualify for the promo.
I was somewhat relieved when I was able to get through the Web interface without any real problems. But I was still skeptical. A follow up phone call was inevitable I thought.
After a few minutes, an email telling me I would hear back within two days popped into my in-box. It indicated that I would soon be informed whether more identifying information was needed or my goal would finally be met and I would simply be emailed a serial number to activate the product. I expected the former.
Woohoo! Much to my surprise, my serial number arrived via email this morning! I was greatly relieved. Despite never finding reassurance during the process that the process was flexible enough to accommodate my needs, my goal had been fulfilled. Whew.
The process emphasized several things to me.
- How low my expectations have become of the quality of certain Web interactions.
- How much I have learned to dislike the kinds of interactions that are the norm.
- How much I distrust promotional offers.
- Yes, I am neurotic sometimes. and
- Maybe the practice of interaction design on the Web is actually improving user experiences, even though this interaction could potentially have been much better.
I’m sure I am not the only one who goes through processes like these. Processes that would seemingly be much easier if they were done the old-fashioned way: direct communication with a human being who can presumably respond with real intelligence to situations that deviate from the ideal. But heck, sometimes real human beings can use an interaction design overhaul.
My experience gave me the opportunity to ponder how the need for good interaction design is a serious need in everyday life. In starting this MSIT program at Marlboro, I’m excited to be making interaction design my focus.