I subscribe to Canada Post’s epost service, which promises to consolidate delivery of all your bills. It doesn’t quite manage that, largely because not all vendors support the service. That may change; in the meantime there’s a certain convenience to it, particularly in that it’s apparently the only way to get my Vancity Visa bills in PDF format rather than paper.
I’ve been thinking recently about usability issues related to this kind of regular but infrequent online experience. It seems that it’s often the simple things that cause frustration: the details surrounding getting to the desired or promised information. Destinations can be obscured by giving equal or greater weight to tasks and audiences not directly related to the notification. Memorability is an important aspect of design in this case, and it seems that this it often not well supported due to a lack of focus on the interaction initiated by the email.
The following screen shot shows the body of the email sent by epost when a new “mail delivery” is ready. Where would you click? Notice the prominence of the big blue “Remind Me” button, compared to the link to the service itself, where the bill can be accessed. Every couple of weeks I have to think consciously about where to click. How many people want to be reminded again, rather than just retrieve the bill, or leave the email in their in box, flagged or unread?
After remembering to click the link, the main epost page is displayed. The email notes that they don’t link directly to the log in screen from the email due to security concerns. I’m not sure what value this really has, as a phishing attack could simply replicate the main screen as well as the log in page. So the epost customer is delivered to the same page that any new user would see upon first going to the site, which is focused on getting people to sign up for the service. The “Sign in” button is also in a non-standard location, and perhaps even below the fold for some people.
Given that the security concern is a real one, why not pass a parameter via the email’s url so that the page swaps focus from “sign up” to “sign in”?
Simple changes to the email and landing page might prevent thousands of people from having to stop and think—twice—every time they receive a notification from epost.