Monday, January 30, 2006

How hard is it to change your name?

My new wife has spent the last two weeks researching what she needs to do to have all of her accounts, records &etc with insurance companies, banks, motor registry office and work updated to show her married name. She put together a very detailed spreadsheet for each company showing what information she needed to present, proofs etc and where she could go to make the change be it online or at one of the branch offices.

Last Friday she went about visiting those Web sites and branch offices attempting to get her name changed and it's been interesting to see just how easy or difficult it has been in each case. In some cases, the online forms have been so poorly designed and implemented that she gave up and called them. Vodafone, for example, presented an unsecured form, poorly labelled, which required the user's account security code for submission.

Mostly, it was pretty straight-forward. The motor registry (our RTA) visit was painful only for the amount of people present, but in less than an hour she had a sparkling new license. NRMA was also painful, but in their case because the counter staff chose to use their lack of systems knowledge as an excuse to chat to the support staff about their plans for the weekend and the weather. In a much longer period than should have been required, those accounts were updated as well. The staff also fully expected my wife to be lacking some form of documentation required, and so approached the whole exercise with the slow, methodical questioning aimed at discovering exactly what it was she'd forgotten.

St George, ING and the Teacher's Credit Union were all painless, quick and trouble-free and only one of those were carried out online. Which goes to show that a good service process doesn't always have to be an online one.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Holidays are well and truly over!!

After a nice and mostly relaxing break over the Christmas holiday period, where I spent a good deal of time watching Australia take on South Africa in the cricket, I started back at work on the 9th. In the lead-up to the break there'd been signs of a build up in demand for Web development services - across the board: design, IA, strategy, development - and I was expecting a busy start to the year.

Instead, it's been more than simply busy. I haven't seen the year start off in this way for nearly five years. And I'm not alone. All across the local industry we're seeing the same thing: companies with more work than they know what to do with; and difficulty finding experienced staff.

Clients are expecting more than they have previously, but not without expecting to pay for the service. Happily, among the most frequently-asked-for 'extra' are information architecture and user experience services, a sign that the Australian market has well-and-truly caught up with the global trend we've been witnessing for the last few years.

The local IA professionals I've spoken with have uniformly seen the same increased demand for their services, which further supports the belief that this is neither isolated nor short-lived.

Closer to home I've been working on formalising an integrated UCD approach that places more emphasis on the characteristics of the clients' business as a means of counter-balancing the requirements derived from direct user research. Perhaps counter-balance is the wrong word. It's more a sense that those user requirements can be addressed in a variety of ways and the most appropriate way for a particular business is that which is most closely-aligned with the characteristics of the firm.

Anyway, you may get the opportunity to read an article on the subject in an up-coming issue of UX Matters ( - if I can produce a draft worthy of being published!

That will have to be all for now, but if I can I'll post some exerpts for comment.

Bye for now.