Email from Company Admits Usability Problem

I recently signed up for a website to interact with fellow bloggers. Upon sign up, I was confused as to what to do next, and gave up as I had more pressing tasks to deal with. But no worries, I got an email from the company admitting they have usability problems:

Hey jendavislever, 

One of the most frequent complaints I hear is that our site is hard to figure… which is partly true because we have too many quite unique features. Today’s step will help you make sense of the service.

Interesting approach to a usability problem, but obviously not one that helps me use the website. Granted, admitting the problem is the first step, but they have justified it by indicating they have “too many quite unique features.”

The next part of the email introduced their remedy to fix the problem:

We are doing our best to create a clear, easy-to-understand structure, therefore we have introduced “Categories” to somehow categorize and organize new offers.

But I’m not convinced categories are the right answer, even without looking at the site again because their own wording does not convince me: “to somehow categorize…” The word somehow does not show confidence in this fix.

The email continues by telling me how to use the categories in the different areas of the site. But it adds to more confusion as in one area I am supposed to “look for ‘Category’ drop down” but in another area I am supposed to browse by category using the “icon navigation on top of it.” In looking at the website, and sure enough, one area it is drop down, the other it is a set of icons, but the categories are the same. There is no apparent reason for the difference.

Next, there are four different search options on the website. In some ways this may be good if using advanced options but in this instance there are literally four separate search pages which is not good. Give the user one search, and provide advanced options to search the site vs. user forums for instance.

And this point I have pretty much abandoned even attempting using the site, as it isn’t worth my time to try and navigate it. And even it I was still considering it, the next paragraph of the email completely turns me off:

Reporting users and threads – We are a friendly community and we are willing to welcome everyone. However some people want to abuse our tools and we can protect ourselves by reporting those users: When do I report users and forum?

What follows is more text about reporting others, more text than was used to explain their usability problems. If bad user behavior is such a problem that it has to be address in an email, this is not a community I want to part of.

This email is listed as the second of a five-step course. I’m already turned off at step two and have completely given up on this service.

Making a great user experience should be the number concern of running any website. Using email to apologize for user experience is not a way to overcome any usability issues.

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