We recently discovered a blog post that complained about one of our web forms. We have tried to leave a comment on the blog post several times but kept getting the message “Sorry, but it seems you are a Spambot.” And there was also no email address available too. So we will repost the blog post here and hopefully the response will make its way back to “Electric Fairground” blogger.

Copy of the blog post “The Worst Example of Web Form Validation Ever”

Link to this blog post: http://www.electricfairground.com/2009/11/20/the-worst-example-of-web-form-validation-ever/

I make websites. I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to make websites more user-friendly and efficient. As a result of this, whenever I see a website that has an extraordinarily bad user interface it makes me angry. This particular example of eye-watering inefficiency came in a letter from Camden Borough Town Hall (my local council).

Letter from Camden

I’m sorry for the poor quality but this was taken on my phone. For the sake of accessibility I’ll copy out the important bit below:

“Thank you for registering for my revenues and benefits.

Unfortunately I am unable to process your request for the following reason(s)

You have not provided an email address.
Please try registering on-line again and ensure you provide a valid email address.”

I’ve also included a screenshot of the page this validation error came from. The email field is not marked compulsory. I wonder how many of these letters they have to send out and how big a dent in the council’s budget this makes. Perhaps if they stopped sending out these letters they could afford a half-decent UX Designer.

Web form

Words cannot describe how st**** this is. This form is five pages long and I didn’t find out it hadn’t processed properly for a whole week! Infuriatingly, I was trying to pay these people tax, some of which has presumably previously been used to pay whichever “web professional” came up with this crackpot system.

I couldn’t help thinking what would happen if all websites took the “Secret Compulsory Fields” (SCF) approach to form design. Instead of a book from Amazon you get a letter two weeks later listing the errors on your registration form, or you try and order your groceries online and instead of a food delivery you get a polite letter informing you that your password didn’t meet the minimum eight characters.

The only way this form validation could have been worse is if it had been sent by f****** carrier pigeon. If you’re reading this Camden Council: that wasn’t a serious suggestion. For God’s sake please don’t waste any more of my time and money.

Our response

First of all, we apologize for not noticing your complaint sooner. We do encourage our users to give us feedback using our feedback form so we can improve delivery of services in a more efficient and timely manner.

In response to your complaint, yes we do feel that this service could have been delivered more efficiently. We try not to use validation unless absolutely necessary, especially in the case of requiring emails address from groups of people that might belong to the most socially-deprived sections of the community. It is likely that many people using ‘register for my revenues and benefits’ come from just this group.

We have spoken to the service to understand why they think they need an email address to provide the online service. They have agreed to remove the mandatory email field and contacted our supplier. The necessary adjustments will be made soon. If you have any further suggestions or complaints about our services, please follow the complaints and suggestions link to see how you can do this.

Many thanks for your feedback.

The Webteam