E-Commerce Remains Utter Rubbish (8th February 2011)

Ate lunch in Bedford Square today as it was a glorious day. They’ve planted some Daffodils around the trees, like last year, so they’ll be ready near Easter. A lot of positive things are happening, actually. But the rest of this entry is a simple rant about buying stuff online.


This is after enduring yet another unfunny comedy-of-errors where endless textboxes and dropdown lists conspire to prevent me from giving companies my money. Why do they make it so difficult? Providing lots of details over HTTP, sure. Using a variety of tiny text, MS Shell Dlg, boxes which are clearly too narrow for normal data, flimsy cross-domain handovers and callbacks…

It’s like the most important systems are made by the least sophisticated companies.

Success Rate

I’ve just made 3 purchases online. Well, so far 2 have actually completed and I’m in the midst of untangling the absurd web of interdependencies which are making the 3rd end with a big red error message. Getting to the bottom of it is necessary, simply so I can go and complain to the right entity in this daisy-chain of fail.

The 2nd purchase required so much data entry and re-entry that I had to serve my dinner before completion. After resuming and completing the remaining steps, the damn thing told me it had timed out! And that I had to “empty your shopping basket and start again” in those exact words.

It doesn’t inspire confidence that the best programmers in the financial industry can’t make a computer check the time. Time which is only being wasted because the neauseating (and invariably <table>-based) archipeligo of in-built, 3rd-party and intermediary interfaces for a simple transaction are so anti-designed by them. Sure makes things easy for cheap criminals to make phishing sites…

The less talent and professionalism you’ve got, the more your work looks like the common e-commerce systems.

Anyway, eventually I jumped through the unnecessary hoops, re-entered the same details and registered with the unnecessary (yet required) intermediary authority.

“These things happen in threes.”

Now I’m on the Transport for London website to and it won’t approve my auto-topup. I get a flash of the 10th-rate bold and serif 3rd-party message which thwarted my Xmas shopping last year. I had to use a different vendor to get that item; it simply doesn’t work in any browser. But TfL is the only show in town.

So now I have to waste even more of my time finding a way to work around their poor choice of supplier. Sigh…