So, I just had the opportunity to buy some documents from a UK government website, Companies House. For any non-british readers, UK private companies are required to file returns with Companies House so it is a cheap way to find ownership and financial information on private businesses.
The product was made for ecommerce – you pay your money and you get a pdf with your information.
In the private sector, you could see an elegant user experience materialize. It might be like downloading an ebook to your Kindle or iPad. Actually, it would be exactly like downloading an ebook to your Kindle or iPad.
Only using the Companies House website is nothing like using Amazon.
First, finding the company and then the documents you want to purchase can be (generously) described as dry but functional. The search screens look cutting edge for 1998.
Next, the credit card capture is on a different URL from the rest of the website and looks only marginally professional. Its the kind of credit card capture screen that would make you think twice before entering your details.
After taking your money, it still takes up to 30 minutes to download your documents – I can only assume that there is a batch process running in the background somewhere.
Given the potential wait, an acceptable user experience might be to send your documents to you in a email.
You do get an email. But, it prompts you to log into ‘your download’ area to get your documents.
Most ridiculously, to actually get your purchase onto your hard drive requires 6 steps when 1 mouse-click would do.
Literally, you need to (1) click on a link which pop-ups a small window, then you need to (2) right-mouse click on another text link and (3) select ‘Save link target as . . .’ Then, finally, (4) pick a file location, (5) type a filename and (6) save the document to your computer.
On the positive side, the site works. I’ve never had a problem with the functionality but everything else about it is chunky and feels more unmprofessional than any private sector business I can think of.
Even small businesses with a handful of developers can deliver a better user experience.
The problem is not technology or budgets. It has to be mindset.
Serving, delighting, the user is not part of the ethic and it shows from the first click to the last.