The power of User Interface

I am an avid user of the internet and one of the things I do month after month, online, is to pay my bills. This is what I have done last December too (in 2006 that is); I paid my bills and along with that I paid a subscription to a professional body I belong to.

The “paid” subscription, though, has never reached its destination. This was only discovered this year when I received a letter from the professional body I am enrolled to, saying that I owe not only the subscription of 2008 but also the one from 2007; which I thought I paid at the end of 2006.

After many calls to my bank and to the professional body, I was let to know that my payment was wrongly submitted (by me), since one field on the bank’s website was not filled in correctly when I was carrying out the transaction.

The field was and still is simply named “Description”. This field requires a special value to be filled in when making a payment towards the specific professional body and not just any description, as implied by its name. I have missed this, which was noted somewhere on a letter I got from the professional body sometime in 2006. A simple human error. For “Description” I put my own description of the transaction.

My question is why the bank’s system did not catch this error? Shouldn’t it? What would have happened to the payment and associated money if I never bothered to look into the issue of the lost payment and make those 5 or 6 phonecalls left and right?

The answer I got from the bank’s customer sevice representative was that I (the user) did a mistake and therefore it was all my fault and not the bank’s system; or the professional body’s problem that did not bother to work out with the bank the details of such possible erroneous cases.

Damn bad computer systems (and the idiot designers behind them)! Another case of bad Interface Design.

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