Do you want me as a customer or not?

I just had to assume the rant position on this one. I just had the worst web site usability experience ever. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. The worst website usability experience in over a week. A month at the outside.

I signed up for a free trial of an online software solution, as you do, and wanted to ask the customer service department if they supported PayPal as a payment method as that’s my preferred mode of operation for online stuff. Seems to fit well: online service, online payment.

Contact form

The unbelievable, stupid contact form

Off to the contact form I go. The US 1800 was unattended as it’s out-of-hours right now but there was what I thought would be a helpful link to ‘Contact Sales’. Man, was I wrong.

If you’re running a company, what comes first? Getting the customer to engage with you, or nit-picking at them to fill out stupid forms? Hands up all those who say filling out forms is the way to go. Back of the class, all of you…

The helpful contact form in this case had morphed into 12 mandatory fields, with a particularly annoying pop-up on submission when you didn’t fill in a relatively irrelevant bit of information. What’s up with these people?

At least there was some gratification to be had though. Their website has one of those nifty semi-anonymous feedback tools, which as it happens was not written by a usability challenged developer and let me pen an abbreviated version of this rant right there.

This gaff was after I was already annoyed at having to supply credit card info to get access to the free trial in the first place, which is another really odd synthetic hurdle to put in the way of prospective customers.

To slip sideways into sports jargon their website is almost an own goal, and if it weren’t for the excellent quality of the product these two niggles would definitely count as three strikes.

Mandatory fields

You must be kidding. Mandatory fields a plenty!

I got this far down the article thinking I wouldn’t name the website, but what the heck, this might serve as a review of sorts for some people: The service in question is GoToAssist Express.

I’ve been evaluating their remote support tool against a few of their competitors and it is head and shoulders better than many of the ones I tried and at nearly half the price of the elephant in the market it’s very good value.

I’ll be purchasing a subscription for work despite their website, not because of it. Maybe they were growing too fast and felt they could reduce the growing pains by annoying prospective customers?

Rant off.

The evil Super Admin Password

So you’ve survived a disaster, fire or other adverse event, and you need to shift staff home to work because the office is a pile of smoking rubble. Their PC’s from work are by a stroke of luck usable, and they’ve got broadband. Two thumbs up there.

But about that printer driver you need… It requires admin rights. The domain controller, well it’s at the bottom of a crack in the earth, or in the IT guys garage.

No problem, log in as Administrator, give the local user admin rights, and you’re in business. Oh, they’re an hours drive away, and you didn’t have the fore-sight to install and test a remote control tool.

This is about where you discover why having a single administrator password that is re-used for multiple purposes in the business is considered poor practice. Or, in layman’s terms: down-right silly.

To get the accounts clerk printing, and the receptionist able to configure the network card you’ve now got to give away your precious uber-password over the phone. The kitchen staff can now access skype, but they can also access your bank accounts, the encryption keys for your VPN, the payroll system and the cleverly protected documents with the formula for your world beating popcorn recipe.

You know they will write it on a post-it note and stick it to the fridge, but it beats driving 50k’s across town to fix a 5 second problem… Deal with the fall out later.

So, how many places do you re-use the same passwords? And after the last major outage, did your IT staff have to give it up to the cleaner so he could access Ebay and not tell anyone for fear of having to change the uber-password in 300 hundred different places?

This is part of a series of articles that have come about from my experience in shifting the IT operations for a business after the recent destructive earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.