Phone numbers and memorable questions

Two IT based moans in one day – must get back to fluffy posts about London history as soon as possible!

Today, the London 2012 website started trawling for email addresses to contact with information about various Olympic happenings and details of when tickets go on sale.

You’d think it was a simple case of just giving them your email address and maybe a little bit of demographic data? You’d be wrong.

In fact, the form on the website is an example of two of my biggest gripes about website forms.

Firstly, they want my phone number.

No explanation as to why they want my phone number, or what they plan to do with it. I am not buying anything, simply signing up for an email newsletter to be told when Olympic thingies are available. The associated FAQ also failed to explain why they need my phone number.

Generally, I don’t give out my phone number unless there is a good reason for it — and despite many comments on Twitter that “tickets to the Olympics” is enough of a reason, that is simply the end goal I seek to achieve. Why do they need my phone number to help me achieve that goal?

This is not explained.

Actually, I doubt I will want tickets to the Olympics, but some of the associated events may prove interesting.

In addition, they require that you enter your country code, which they do helpfully note is +44 for the UK. I know the country code, as it is something I use a lot, but many people will probably have no idea what that is, so why wasn’t the form auto-filled in for me, especially as they know my address from information I entered further up the page?

A final rant, and boy does this infuriate me — the webform insists that I only use numbers when typing in my phone number. Now to their credit, if you try to break the form and do what most people will do, which is to put spaces in between blocks of numbers, their website won’t collapse in a gibbering heap — but many do. Quite why so many websites can’t strip spaces and dashes out of phone numbers if their database needs number only fields is a bit bizarre as it is quite simple to do.

However, we get onto the issue of security questions and passwords.

Note, all I am doing is signing up to be told when something is available — no money is changing hands, no tickets being brought (yet) and no top-secret information is being provided.

Yet, despite that I have to provide not only a username and password, but also a “memorable question”. Or more accurately, I have to answer one of three options they provide me with.

Personally though, I don’t really have a Best Friend, a Favourite Food or Favourite Sportsperson — and even if today, I did have something as a Favourite, it is quite likely that it will change next month.

Can I type in my own question and provide an answer? Nope.

This is the core problem which seems to becoming prevalent in some websites, they decide what the questions will be and often limit the options to questions that I simply can’t answer.

I had to go through a huge hassle recently with a US based website where I had apparently provided an answer to questions to which I had no way of answering (they were very US centric).

The UK’s National Lottery is the same — except they require that I answer THREE questions from the following list:

  • What street did you first live in?
  • What is your pet’s name?
  • What was the name of your first school?
  • Who was your best friend at school?
  • What was your town of birth?
  • What is your mother’s maiden name?

I can answer the last two — but I really have no idea what the answers would be to the rest of the question. Who thinks of these things!

It really isn’t that difficult to let the customer type in a question and provide an answer where it is vital that an extra layer of security is needed.

But do we really need that level of security simply to sign up for a newsletter about the Olympics?

I don’t think so.

So, dear website designers and database planners — stop asking for irrelevant information and when asking for information learn to deal with human foibles rather than expect us to type data into websites in your preferred format.

One note of praise though — the website doesn’t insist on a county for people living in London. Websites that insist on both a city as well as a county/state tend to break for Londoners, and it is especially galling when it is a UK based website making the mistake. In case you think I am moaning for the sake of moaning (again), the problem with requiring a state in the address caused me a lot of problems with US mail arriving in the UK, as typing in London twice or other variations I tried often resulted in the post being returned to the sender.

A pain as most of the mail contained a cheque for my wages!

Tags:
« « Previous Blog Post Next Blog Post » »

Sign up for my free weekly email newsletter

Sample Issue

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this article!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

web