Kevin Barkes of KGB.com sent around an amusing Web site design story several weeks ago.
I was on the Verizon website the other day attempting to get information about some of their advanced services. To get to the FAQs, you're presented with a screen in which you select the state, then enter your area code and local exchange.
If you enter 412, you get a message that it's not a valid Pennsylvania area code, and you're stopped dead in your tracks. There's no way to proceed. The information you need is inaccessible.
Despite the obvious problem -- Verizon has cut off access to one third of its Pennsylvania customers to web-based information about its services -- it's also embarrassingly bad web design. I had logged in to pay my bill online. The site already knew my phone number. For that matter, it had access to all my account information. Why force me to re-enter data that leads me to a defective function?
Of course, there are no links on any pages to report problems with the site. I eventually went through several screens, dutifully filled out a contact form on the most closely-related subject I could find (again, re-entering information the site should already know about me), and clicked the button to send them my message. I was presented with an error screen -- and was told to contact Verizon either by phone or snail mail.
Of course, it was 1 AM when I was doing this, and their Call Center was closed.
So I call first thing Monday morning, and after going through several menu choices and transfers, I get a recording that says all of their operators are busy and that I should call back or *go to their website for additional information*!
Nothing like a nice recursive plunge on a Monday morning.
In addition to paying my bill, I was on the website to sign up for Verizon's Iobi service. It went live last on my account last night -- sort of. It forwards voice mail messages to me on my PC, but none of the other functions work.
Unlike Verizon's main portal, Verizon Iobi has a prominently positioned toll-free number on its support page. So I called the Verizon Iobi phone number this morning, was promptly connected to someone who reviewed the problem, gave me a trouble ticket number, and said the situation should be resolved within 24 hours.
While I was on the phone, I asked for the number to report Website problems. I called that number, and related my experiences to a sympathetic customer support rep who, of course, has no real way of reporting my problem, since she admitted they have no mechanism to directly contact the people who are responsible for maintaining Verizon's Website.
She also said that they've been aware of the 412 area code problem for three weeks.
Another example of a large corporation that hasn't quite figured out that people really use its Web site -- and that it should maintain it with the same speed that it uses to send out bills to its customers. (When was the last time you received a 3-week late bill from Verizon? My point exactly.)