Sunday, 7 March 2010

Is it Me?

I admit, I am not a webdesigner, but that doesn't mean I can't spot incompetance when I see it (although in fairness to the poor codemonkys, I suspect that a lot of this is due to being designed / approved by committee, and a government funded committee at that, rather than the individual involved in sticking it together and sending the poor, maimed thing ut into the world)

We have (at work) to apply for a new contract to continue to provide publicly funded services. This has to be done via an e-portal. Which, as I say, appears to have been put together by a large group of people none of whom are on speaking terms with each other. We spent most of Thursday morning doing this. Time I could have spent doing something more interesting and enjoyable, like watching paint dry or repeatedly stabbing myself in the eye with a blunt stick.
  • Some parts of the application can be filled in directly on-line
  • Despite the fact that most of the information required for this part of the form is information which we have already submitted (mainly in electronic form) and that we have unique reference numbers identifying ourselves to this organisation, they have no auto-complete functions (even for non-sensitive information such as our address)
  • at random intervals in the forms which can be filled in on-line, there are further forms which have to be downloaded, saved, filled in offline then up-loaded as attachments to the exisiting on-line forms
  • about half the random forms requiring downloading and reuploading are in the form of microsoft excel spreadsheets and the other half as Word documents. There is no discernable reason for this given the type of information required. The notes for guidance are in adobe. Because nothing is more fun than having 3 different formts open at once.
  • where the forms can be filled in online, each question requires clicking through 3 different screens, plus one more to get back to the list of questions (and for the record, these questions are mostly only one sentence long. Two at the most) But it is:Screen showing list of questions (not actual qustions, it literally says "Question 1, Question 2, etc.) Click on the number of aquestion. See a screen telling you what the question is going to be. Click to next screen. See the actual question (which is slighl differently worded and therefore has a signifigantly different meaning to the one on the previous screen). Select multiple choice answer. Click to return to list in order to be able to move on to the next question. Repeat until you reach the end of the list, or lose the will to live, whchever happens sooner.
  • My personal favourite? The question offering accessibility otions for viewing the site is the FINAL question in the registration process, which is designed so that you can only answer the questions in chronological order . Just as well I didn't actually need the accessibility options.

And the purpose of all this? To see whether they will gie us a new contract in order to continue to do the work we have been doing for years (and have been assessed by them as doing extremely well) but at lower rates of pay....

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Their main website is possibly the worst-designed website in the history of websites, and has a search acility which frequently failes to find things even if you know the exact title (and reference number) of the document you re looking for...

Still. It's not their fault. They only have a £200million annual budget. It's clearly unreasonable to expect them to spend any of it on making dealing with them rational. So much better to use the admin budget for really important stuff, like re-re-redesigning forms to ask the same question in three slightly different ways instead of two..

it does make you wonder though, whether somone once tried to imlement the thought experiement with the monkeeys and the typewriters to see if you get Shakespeare's works, and found that ctually what you get is government websites... It would explain an aweful lot, don't you think?

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