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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Thoughts on an ISP web site's usability - VSNL

Category: Misc Thoughts on an ISP's web site usability.

VSNL's (Tata Indicom’s Internet connection) web site needs to be more usable.

It needs a FAQ page, a Payment Mode FAQs page, and a clear, easily available, and visible Log Out button.

For example, I renewed my account online, the amount has been debited from the bank, and the status in my VSNL account still says transaction pending? So for this status quo, if I want to read a FAQs page, where is it? If I want a telephone number, where is it? If I want to send an email, where is it? Why aren't the email, contact, address, and telephone numbers accessible from each and every page of the web site? Don’t they want business?

Do they expect a user who logs in to not log out? Shouldn't the log out buttons/links be available at any point of time during an online transaction, and also on all the pages while surfing the web site?

What is the use of a small Log Out text link at the bottom left-hand side of the page, and that too on the log in page only, when everyone knows that normal (English) text is read from top to bottom and from left to right, so when a person's vision is at the end of the page, he/she would be on the bottom, right-hand side of the page and when the gaze moves upwards, it will be at the top, right-hand side of the page, so shouldn't they be providing a Log Out button at the top and bottom right-hand side of the page and on all the pages, instead of a plain text link on the bottom left-hand side of the page, and that too on only the log in page.

VSNL's web site has a good color combination. A beige background with crimson colored buttons and white text looks good. However, one column has text that has 'A Lot Of Caps' and another column has ‘Another set of words without caps' so consistency is lacking, it is minor, but does reflect on the company's customer service (if they can't check on their content would they have the people to check customer service emails).

The homepage should have the Quick Links table (the text links) on the top instead of being at the bottom. If a person wants to renew his Internet account, he won't look at what flashy graphics in fluorescent green you have, but a link that says Renew Account, that's what he has come there for, and which is kept at the bottom of the page. The big graphic with the buy, renew, and register buttons takes a lot of prime space and the alt tag says nothing except talk at 99 paise

The top of the page does have a DHTML menu bar that has drop-downs with links to various pages, however, instead of keeping a my account drop-down that says Login, there should be a separate, visible, and easily available login link on the homepage.

The blue background looks good, but a lot of colors - light green, fluorescent green, and orange at the bottom aren't required. A web site's color scheme should be consistent with its logo, or to put it the other way round, a logo should be consistent with its web site color scheme. If you have logo that shows the globe/world in blue and white colors, it will help if you let users identify with your logo and your web site consistently by keeping your text black on a white or a sky blue background, instead of putting five different colors on the homepage.

My reasoning is, set the brightness of your monitor to minimum, put a protective screen on top of it, and now check the links that are in the orange colored background, the contrast between the background color and the link in blue is very little, although they have given an onmouseover that makes the link white.

The customer service Contact page needs improvement.
Why isn't there a separate email id for each city wherein one can send emails? Why is the telephone number mentioned only on the Contact page, and not on the Address page?

Shouldn't there be plain text links that are clear, visible, and easily available on the homepage itself, especially when they're catering to a big market that surfs from a 56 Kbps dial-up telephone line?

These were some points on VSNL's web site. Atleast Vsnl is better than Bsnl. Bsnl has a link that says register online and on clicking that link one gets the message, 'Please enter your 12 digit serial no', so shouldn't they have written on the previous link itself, 'For an online registration a 12 digit serial number is required. You may buy a new registration pack from these stores (link stores.html) at these locations (link locations.html)'.

Some thoughts on the usability of ISP web sites from the point of generating more business by enhancing the surfing experience of users.

Just follow Google maan for anything and everything. That’s the way to make money, earn millions, work hard, play harder, go public, and be good too. :-)

Personal: Sometimes there’s just no way to stop a river, and I’m going to be in that mode from next week. I’ve a great chance, and I’m going to grab it, so I’m feeling happy today. I’ll go for a movie tonight. Anyone for company, I’m alone in these beautiful, romantic, pink winter (gulaabi thandi) evenings of Pune. Before that, catch up on some reading from econtentmag.