Its been a while since I last posted a Worst UI Ever entry. It seemed like most of my posts were about error messages and here is another one for the list.
This was an error message I received when activation a gift card. The form itself could not be much simpler, but the error message left a lot to be desired. What lead me to the error message was another seemingly simple set of instructions. In order to fully understand the situation, here is the quick back story. Stay with me, I'll be quick. As you have read on my blog I recently bought an IPhone. When I did so, my wife and I both switched to AT&T. When we got our phones we got gift cards in the mail as rebates for some accessories we each purchased. So we each got a gift card in the mail today.
The instructions said that you needed to go to this website and enter the card number and you will need to use your phone number ending in 8... yes that's right, the phone number ending in 8. Now, I'm no statistician but it seems fairly likely that you may have two phone numbers in a family that both end in the same digit... as was our case.
Given the situation, one of my phone numbers was correct, the other was wrong so I was presented with this form with a 1 in 2 chance of "failing". My first flip of the coin was incorrect, resulting in the error message. The first problem with this process is the failure of the system to understand users beyond the data associated with the card. It is true that the card in question was associated with a specific phone number ending in 8, but there is more to my and my account with AT&T than just that. If that level of consideration could not be built into the system, then at least the system that prints the letter that is mailed with the card should give you more than the last digit of the phone number. Using the last two digits would dramatically reduce the liklihood of getting this error.
The second, more obivious problem was that the error message was obviously written by a programmer. The fact that there is nothing on the screen labeled as a PassCode is more than a little confusing. Here is a rule for anyone involved with delivering a software product:
"Don't let programmers write text that is presented to the user."
Chances are, they don't want that responsibility anyway.