Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Water Bills and Online Payment Services in Boca

This is about a decent application that fails in its effort to assist the average every day person. In this case, that person was me.

The website for the City of Boca Raton
, a city which we are not part of since we are in unincorporated Boca Raton, but we pay the city for our water and sewage usage. Fine, I can live with this. I can also live with them not letting us use their libraries, although I do anyway for their free wi-fi, even if it is only an hour of it a day, sometimes you just want to go someplace quiet to work. But I digress.

On the website there is a E-Services tab and under there is Water Bill Payment.
Simple UI, does just what you want, takes payments, uses a Login and password which work fine, can show the details of past payments and what is owed and when.

The problem starts when you want to pay the bill. You are presented with 2 options, one for immediate payments, the other for On-Demand Payments. Personally I do not see anything different in these 2 options, yet this is what the explanation says under On-Demand:

* We save your credit card or bank information in a secure location.
* You tell us when to charge one of these accounts.
* No need to re-enter this information every time you want to pay on-line.

And this is what it says under Immediate:

* Enter your credit card or bank information in a secure location.
* Immediate, on-line authorization of this payment transaction.
* No credit card or bank information is stored for your use in future payments.


So under Immediate it stores nothing but you can pay right now.
Under on-Demand it stores your data so you don't need your credit card every time and one can define when to charge their account, just like most other online services.

HOWEVER, that is not what the application really does under On-Demand. Instead it stores your credit card, but doesn't tell you that it can not store the little numbers on the back of your card, sometimes called CSC numbers.

Then there is an immediate request for payment. Huh? Hang on a sec, didn't it just say "You tell us when to charge one of these accounts." OK, so where do I do that?

Nowhere. Instead of scheduling my payment for while I am away, I paid it just now.

Suffering through bad application workflow is not a way to endear you to a customer and in this case the development house, SunGard HTE, Inc., also called SunGard Public sector, should fix it or at least edit the page so it stops LYING to customers.

The moral of the story is you can have a great UI and great functions but if you say you can do something on a website, you should really test that you can do so, otherwise REM it out until it works.