It’s 2010. Isn’t it time to start demanding good user experience design?

I should probably get up, walk around, and have a cup of coffee before I write this post.  Or maybe a little righteous anger over something small is good for the soul?  I’ll go with the latter…  I recently ordered a 2010 calender from Runner’s World.  A few days ago I received the calendar, along with the invoice.  Their payment is handled through a company called Rodale.  I just went to pay my invoice at www.rodalequickpay.com, and the experience left me frustrated, and incidentally still in debt to Runner’s World.

I know this shouldn’t bother me that much, but let me walk you through the experience, and then make a couple of observations.

The Rodale order process

I typed in www.rodalequickpay.com (yes, the irony of the “quickpay” part of the URL is pretty thick), and arrived at this screen:

Immediately, this bugs me.  I just want to pay an invoice, I don’t want to have to create an account.  There’s also so much wrong about this design:

  • There are two calls to action, and the affordance is all wrong.  The first text you see is “If you are a new visitor…”, but the “Create New Login” button is too far away, making it look like you should log in if you are a new visitor.
  • The “Login” button… first of all, it’s “Log in” (action), not “Login” (noun), but let’s ignore that pet peeve for now.  The button looks different from the top button, and is also much smaller, resulting in a pretty confusing experience on this first screen.
  • I don’t understand the text “Please use this site to pay orders in full” at the bottom.  Not sure why it’s needed, and not sure why it’s not at the top of the screen.  Who is going to read that far down?

But ok, since I am a new visitor, I decided to create a new Login:

Ok, this is where things get really out of control.

  • I’m not even going to begin to talk about the copy.  “eMail” in one spot, “E-Mail” in another?  And “Thank you!”?  But I digress.
  • The first big problem here is that account creation and invoice detail information happen on the same screen.  I should enter my account level information first, and then move on to my transaction level information.  Especially considering that…
  • …It is extremely difficult to find your account number and invoice number on the paper statement.  First, the microcopy about where to find it is not useful at all.  There is no “appropriate button” to click, and the clickable text “On My Invoice” and “On My Statement” don’t look like links and actually don’t go anywhere when you click on them.  (Read this post at Polon, and this one by Joshua Porter about the importance of writing good microcopy on forms)

So anyway, I start typing in random numbers from my paper invoice just to see if I can get somewhere, and this is the error message I get:

Ok, now we’re getting somewhere.  Don’t know why it’s a browser error, but fine.  So I know I’m looking for an Account number of >10 characters and an Order number of >12 characters.  Turns out that’s not entirely accurate though.  The form doesn’t let you enter more than 10 or 12 characters depending on the field.  So those numbers should actually be exactly 10 and 12 characters.  Why doesn’t the error message say that?  “Can not be less than”?  But hey, we’re making progress.  Off I go to look for those numbers.  It appears I got my Account number right, because next I got this error message:

Ok, now we have in-line messaging, not browser error messaging.  But whatever.  I verified the crap out of that number, but I couldn’t get past this screen.  It actually makes me sad because I’m sure the payment page would have been a real treat to write about.  I tried to call the toll free number but no one’s there, so as of this moment I still owe Runner’s World $21.75.  I’m really sorry guys, I will pay you as soon as you let me.

The point I’m trying to make

So here’s the problem.  The Rodale website was put together to accept payment.  This is how they make money.  But there was absolutely 0 thought put into the user experience, so I was simply unable to pay them.  And look, I know it’s much easier to take a design apart than it is to create a good one, I get that.  But UX design is becoming a mature field now.  It’s 2010.  Shouldn’t we be able to get rid of designs like this, and demand something better? It’s not rocket science, it’s a methodical thought processes to design a good experience.  Form design is difficult to get right, but it doesn’t have to look like Apple, it just has to get you through the process without friction.

What do you think?  Is it too early to rise up in anger against designs like this?  If not, what can we do to “spread the UX”, so to speak?