Posting Date: September 30, 2002
In This Case, Two Cents Was Worth A Lot -- "In other words, now the company said, instead of being short 2 cents, a computer had misread her check as $249.24. Her account was 2 cents short, but it was not Judy's fault." (Mac comments: Should Usability Folk take some responsibility for these kind of 'features' because of their focus on the interface, or is it just down to lazy programmers? )
I'm not really suggesting that UF should test every aspect of a system, but when people start talking about the 'user experience' shouldn't it include this sort of thing as well?
I think this is more of a customer relations issue. They cancelled a policy over two cents, first off. Next, even when the policy was cancelled, it was (apparently) not reviewed and automated messages continued to go out about it. I know big companies can't personally review each policy from month to month, but they can allow a certain leeway in amounts. It should be $10 minimum, to allow for common transposition errors that usually amount to $9.00 Then, if it continues over a few months, someone could personally review.
In a way, even customer relations are based on usability, but that would be too simple an explanation for CR.
I agree with Lydia and take it a step farther and say it is a QA issue.... QA does nto stop once a system is in place...it needs to be constantly reviewed, tested and refined.
But from a PR perspective - ouch!
The software should have been designed to accommodate certain discrepancies. Since usability people are supposed to be involved in the design of software (as opposed to simply testing it after it has been built), some fault should lie with the UF.
I actually had an emergency appendectomy while on COBRA myself in 2001. What a small world. But it does not give me any expertise on this topic.
I would guess that the process in place was "rushed" and not thoroughly tested. Big insurance companies have a tendancy to do that kind of thing at the expense of their customers.
Even being in this industry, I don't have a good solution. Government regulations make things overly complex, by law and the margins are unbelievably small so companies are naturally going to be looking to save a penny at every stop.
Ultimately, there needs to be additional choices so that consumers can vote for (purchase) the best product for themselves and thereby improving the position of that company. How we get there? I'm clueless.
That's a good point, JB. QA could have caught a transposition issue or a small-discrepancy problem like that.
I also like MadMan's point about building in fail-safes. A good usability consultant will research the industry they are designing for and have a list of common errors and problems when they go into a project. However, I can easily see how that type of expense would be the first to go by the wayside in negotiations. I can almost hear the client say "WE'LL tell you if there is anything you need to worry about."
A year ago I worked on an intranet app for a financial services company. As part of the 'user testing' we insisted on following the paper trail and including that in our testing. Because of that we were allowed to re-design the printed matter and change the fulfilment process, all under the 'usability' banner. Maybe we should visit the warehouses, call centres etc. a bit more to try and get a feel for the wider usability vista?
"Maybe we should visit the warehouses, call centres etc. a bit more to try and get a feel for the wider usability vista?"
I've done this kind of field study. Pitching it as an ethnographic study worked well in my case. Well, actually, it was sort of an ethnographic study so I wasn't telling a lie.
I've often said that I think that usability is much more than usability. It isn't so much about running tests and doing evaluations, it is more about understanding people and improving life for them. Kind of idealistic I guess, but my gut tells me it is the right thing for everyone.