design


There is of course loads of chat about MVC and how to leverage it into web app design. I like the counter-point given by Andy Wordley here:

In fact, there are plenty of other design patterns that are equally, or
more relevant to web applications and to writing good, solid code that
clearly separates concerns. For example, the Chain of Responsibility
(to implement a pipeline processing model), Mediator/Facade (to abstract
internals behind clean interfaces to ease SOC), Strategy (to define
a general strategy for all web applications that can be specialised
for different requests), Abstract Factory and Factory Methods (to
allow different implementations to be switched in/out) and so on.

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bt.com is frying my brain

BT have skewed their landline rental prices to make it more expensive if you don’t go web-only for billing. I’m all for reducing unnecessary paper, and in principle a web interface should be more convenient to me, so I signed up for web-only billing. I received an email saying to get the most out of bt.com I should sign in to my account on every visit. In fact there’s nothing of use to me on bt.com that doesn’t require signing in. Then I received an email saying I had to commit to another twelve months to minimise the price hikes in April (~10%). This is the sorry tale of my efforts to engage with this obligation. If you’re involved with ecommerce and having a bad day, come back and re-read this to remind you how much, much worse other teams are doing.

I clicked on the link the email says I need to follow in order to make my commitment to another twelve months. The link contains a GUID, so I’m expecting it to take me to a useful page that already knows who I am and makes the route swift and painless. It doesn’t. I’m taken to a page saying “Find out why we’re right for you” and knows nothing about me; a little offputting since I’ve been a BT customer for many years so the title is suggesting I’m at an inappropriate page. On the plus side, the text is clear, well laid out, and no more burdened with smallprint than I’ve come to expect from this company. I click on <Sign up now>.

My heart sinks; I’m faced with a large page giving two options: am I a brand new customer or am I a cable customer? Erm, neither. Just before I abandon the trek as another BT wild goose chase, the page redirects to a page that actually contains a relevant option.

After stating how much of my phone service is with BT, I’m asked for my phone number & postcode. Maybe I’m back on track. Still hard to tell; I’m now told to log in to my account. I’m disappointed I couldn’t just do that in the first place, select my option from a short list, and get on with the rest of my day. So I elect to log in to my account. Another page asks for username & password. Succeeding with that, another page asks me to “Enter your PIN”. Now, I don’t remember a pin with all of this, nor understand why one is necessary after all the authentication information I’ve just given them. For a process that should only involve a couple of clicks, I’ve ploughed through ten pages up to this point.

There’s a link for <Forgotten your PIN?> so I use that, hoping all can be forgotten & forgiven. Another page asks for my place of birth. This is getting crazy; the only things they haven’t asked me so far is my blood group and the first album I bought. The next page says they’ve emailed me a new pin, but I’ll need to change my password when I use it. (In fact I didn’t get asked to change my password on this occasion.)

Up to now the experience with bt.com has been poor and overly involved. But this is when it gets really bad.  After ten minutes a pin arrives in my inbox.  After entering it I get a page asking me to choose a new pin, which I duly do in duplicate.  Almost there.  I click on ‘continue’, and…

I get a page saying “We’re sorry” “Sorry, we can’t change your Calling Plan at the moment.”

Now, I’m fully aware that a more sensible person would give up at this point or earlier, but there’s money at stake.  BT are about to inflate my line rental costs by 4 times the current rate of inflation; I need to do everything I can to minimise the impact on my wallet.

So I tried to achieve the same end by going via the front page option <Choose a Calling Plan>.  After a bunch of pages I get to the point of identifying my phone line; next page: username & password; next page: pin.  Aha, I know my pin this time because I entered my new one above, and I have it noted.  The screen says “Invalid PIN”.  I try again; nope.  I dig out the temporary pin from the email they sent this morning.  Nope.  Incredulous that I’m going to have to request a new pin every time I want/need to log in, I go back to the homepage; this comedy needs to be written down.  But on this second attempt it reckons I have an active session and doesn’t ask for a pin.  Great authentication software there guys!

So I’m in, and have gone via the publically available route rather than the customised link emailed to me in the first place.  And…

“We’re sorry”

So the web interaction has been a complete and utter waste of my time (~two hours thus far). Time to register my complaint.