I briefly worked for a company which specialised in usability tests on websites. They had all the big banks and telephone companies among their clients and many household product names. It opened my eyes to how people interact with web pages and how they so easily get lost and abandon the effort. But it’s impossible to please all the people all the time. Several times I’ve watched in amazement at the convoluted path taken to reach this blog. There is a prominent link on the front page but the combination of a small screen and a browser set to 200% zoom for so long the setting has been forgotten will send it off the screen and no one seems to like scroll bars. So I have a little sympathy for whoever it is who designs the council’s web site, but even so I don’t think I was quite prepared for the unhelpful procedures adopted for purchasing a Resident Parking Permit on-line described by a reader. Over to you John…
“Skipping by the fact that two different reminders arrived by post the same day… Oh no, I can’t do that because one contradicts the other, so on to the web to see which might be right. OK, I see, apply on-line and pay at the library; not too difficult, but still not sure whether to follow the instructions on my ‘Permit Renewal Reminder’ or the ‘Permit Renewal for May 2011’.
The instructions I decide to follow say type in http://www.bexley.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=7237 but it doesn’t say where I should type it and Im not too hot on computers, I’d be bound to type something like that wrong, but Google I do know. That does the trick and I start my application. A few minutes down the line I realise the system is making assumptions about me and my car that I can’t edit, like the car maker and its colour. But I don’t think that detail is on the permit so I carry on. Then I get a payment request that has left my name off. The car registration number is correct, the grossly inflated fee is there to frighten me, but my name is missing! What now? It is also demanding payment by card immediately and I was planning on paying with some cash due to me tomorrow and hand it over at the library as the letter says. Dash upstairs for wallet and cards. Phew, the page doesn’t time out.
Im then forced to read the Terms & Conditions, fair enough but the linked page doesn’t have any Terms & Conditions on it so have to tick the box anyway or I shall waste my entire day. I press the buy button and get an email by way of a receipt. Now where is my Permit? Why doesn’t the email set my mind at rest by telling me what will happen next?
Back to the council’s website but no joy. Take a look at the second letter received in this morning’s post. Ah, I see, if I had followed the instructions in the ‘Permit Renewal for May 2011’ instead of those in the ‘Permit Renewal Reminder’ and the council’s webpage I might be less confused than I am. It will be off to the library for me next time I am off work, if theyve not closed it by then. Meanwhile the council has my money but I have no Permit and Craske and his gestapo team are ready to pounce."
Hmm, that’s bad John. I’m glad my neighbours told Craske where he could shove the suggestion to extend the local CPZ to my road. Sorry that was before Craske’s time but you will get my drift. Maybe you will be happy to know that your unfortunate experience with Bexley’s ‘Parking Permit Self-service Portal’ could be on its way out. The bad news is that it looks like costing several million quid!
Tomorrow I shall bring you another reader‘s experience of Bexley council but far darker and worrying than John’s. Is crookedness the norm?