Archive for May, 2003

About the world’s worst web site

Tuesday, May 20th, 2003

I would like to know if anyone has ever managed to book a flight on the site alitalia.it. If I was trying to make it as difficult as possible to book a flight, this would be pretty much how I’d do it. It breaks every rule of good web design and user-friendly commerce. Does anyone have any theories as to why they haven’t noticed that it’s impossible to book a flight on their site despite having a “user poll” and a “new user friendly design” last year. I would also be interested to know why they don’t just use the design of alitalia.co.uk which is perfectly OK.
Here’s a typical example of a work flow I go through on the site
1. When I arrive, I have to click once to even start on the site to get past a fancy picture.
2. I get to the home page where I can search for a flight (in the previous version you had to log in first). But it defaults to a date 3 months ago and a single flight. I search for example for MXP – ATH, with the airport codes. Then instead of getting a list of possible flights with prices, as you do on most sites, I get more choices asking me to confirm that I only want it for one person (I really want to know the prices and the times)
3. I press search again without changing anything because I obviously didn’t want to change anything.
4. There is a message saying “Error:Sorry the Service is currently not Available.” (it’s supposed to be an italian site) but then a list of possible flights with no prices and no button at the bottom.
5. I suppose that it doesn’t work in Opera perhaps so I try it in IE.
6. I go through all of steps 1-3
7. This time there is no error message and a submit button. There are however no prices on the flights so I have to choose one by time without knowing whether it will cost a fortune or be cheap.
8. I am asked for a log in!!! “To complete the booking in you must effect a log in” (I didn’t want to book necessarily)
9. I scramble around for my login details (I have actually done this before once in desperation but of course I don’t remember them). I have my loyalty card number but this isn’t enough. There is some PIN number which they sent me by POST ages ago and I don’t have it here. I assume that the username must be my airmiles number and try the lost PIN link. Eventually a mail does come with my PIN.
10. I go back to the login screen and log in. It works but my original search has been lost.
11. I do the search again (steps 1-3)
12. I pick the flights again without knowing the prices and this time the next screen is not a login but a form asking me to confirm my phone number, personal details etc…
13. Still without knowing the price, I am told the flight is being booked (some people would panic at this point but I assume they won’t actually take money out of my account without telling me the price, even though they potentially have my credit card details linked to my airmiles number).
14. Finally I am given a price and told that the flight goes via Rome to Athens and is ridiculously expensive (350 Euros for a flight that goes over a sat night). I am given the choice between tariffa normale (which is 660 Euros) and tarriffa speciale with no explanation of what the main difference is.
15. I am again told that the booking is being confirmed and booked (I hope not)
16. Now I am shown a new price (397 Euro) which includes all the taxes etc… and is even more ridiculously expensive.
17. I click on “payment options” and get the same price again saying it will be an e-ticket and that I should choose between e-ticket and paper ticket (but there is no way to make this choice).
18. I make the only choice I can and am asked for my credit card number (but not the expiry date). There’s no way I’d go beyond this point but no doubt there are another 20 steps or so before I’d ever get my ticket if at all.
(Total steps 24 – many more if I didn’t already have a PIN, total confusion 100%)
One theory is that’s how Italians like it. For example to catch the bus 2 km from the nearest town to where I live, I have to walk 0.5km to a bar and back to buy the ticket. This is not written anywhere on the bus stop or on the outside of the bar. You just have to know. Yet there are people on the bus when it goes past. To buy an ice-cream in some places, you have to first (without seeing what’s on offer) queue up at a cash desk for a ticket, then go and queue up again for an ice cream. If you decide it wasn’t what you wanted, you have to queue up again at the cash desk to change it. This even happens for buying a beer at the bar in some places.
My final theory is that because the Italian banks are so rubbish, nobody in their right mind would have a credit card (at BNL, the bank I am forced to have an account at to get my salary, I have to pay the bank to have money in my account – there is no such thing as interest. You also have to pay to close the account and to have a credit card). This explains why some Italians just stick money under the mattress instead of putting it in the bank and having a credit card. So nobody would use an e-commerce site anyway.
End of RANT.

Get revenge on junk mailers and make money

Monday, May 19th, 2003

I recently heard a funny story about a US marketeer who went on TV to defend the business of direct marketing. Anti-marketing organizations found out his name and address. They then wrote a script to crawl the internet and sign him up to over 250,000 physical catalogues. Now he has to move house or employ someone to unsubscribe him. Poetic Justice I’d say. Anyway this got me thinking that maybe you could make money like this. Just set up a paper recycling plant and then run this script with the address of the paper recycling plant and Bob’s your uncle – an unlimited supply of paper to recycle and zero collection costs.