Warning, this is a personal view and I’m sure doesn’t reflect the views of the trustees or directors of yadayadayada. Actually, it probably does, but I’ve not checked because they’ve got grown up day jobs and stuff.
Today is the 31st January 2008. That means all around the UK millions of people will be trying to pay their tax – it’s the last day before you start having to pay the government interest.
Where do you go if you want to pay your tax then? How about the HM Revenue and Customs Website?
Brilliant, there it is. Right…. now, erm…. hang on. How do I actually pay my tax? There’s no obvious button! In fact, the link to help you pay is below the fold on my browser, is in about 3 point text, being link number 8 in one of no fewer than 5 lists of links on the homepage. Once you click through the experience becomes even more unforgivably awful. In fact, I can’t actually bring myself to write it up.
Hilariously, there IS a great big homepage link to apply for online tax returns “In time to do it”, even though it’s now too late to apply. Genius – why not warn your users with menaces only to show your own ineptitude in the process: that way they’ll love you more!
This sort of incompetence isn’t as high profile as the loss of those two famous CDs, but it drives people away from the more efficient online services towards more costly phone and paper based transactions, and inconveniences millions of people at the same time.
I’m concious I’ve probably just blown any chance of mySociety now ever doing any usability improvements for HMRC, but some things just have to be said. It’s a bit like the former NHS home page that had over 100 links, none of which was “I’m sick – what should I do?”, but at least they’ve improved that a bit…
The total cost of the HMRC IT systems of which this is part is apparently about £8bn over 10 years. That makes it about as expensive to run per year as Google’s general running costs (exc R&D) in 2006.