Usability Testing with my Mortgage Adviser?
I had a meeting with a Mortgage adviser last Saturday. I’m hoping to get my first house this year but I had absolutely no idea where to start, so this seemed like the logical place to start. It was quite an interesting meeting and I’ll admit that I was a little nervous beforehand. I assumed it would just be a meeting where they would spout a load of figures and percentages at me and I would just smile and nod politely back at them.
I’m quite good with money as I have no debt and plenty of savings, but on the other hand, money really confuses me. Money really confuses me because most of the time it comes down to quick fire mental arithmetic.
It’s not that I’m bad at maths, I did great at maths at school, it’s just when you are dealing with money, you’re expected to do it all in your head instantly and it looks a bit bad when you’re trying to divide a bill and whip out a notepad and start writing out equations. If I’m given the time to work it out I can do it, it just takes me a while.
Anyway, back to the point.
The meeting went really well and it wasn’t as painful as I had expected. She didn’t hypnotise me with figures and just came out with a grand total and the cost of monthly repayments which is exactly what I wanted from her. One thing that stuck out in the meeting was the system she was using to enter all of my information.
I could see her screen and the information she was entering about me and I couldn’t help but notice that she has struggling a little with some of the pages. She even moaned about it a couple of times and when she did I couldn’t help but go in to Tester mode and talk to her about it. It probably wasn’t my place to make comments but once the testing cap is on, it doesn’t come off easily!
Here is are some of the things that stood out:
ME: Software Tester.
MA: OK, well we’ll see if it’s there. *1 minute later* No it’s not there. Can I just pop you down as a programmer?
I’ve always wondered how important an occupation is on an application form. My Car insurance and my future Mortgage application both state that I’m a programmer. Does this make them invalid as the information isn’t accurate? Should you be given the option to enter an occupation, or if your individual job title isn’t listed, should it have something more generic like “Information Technology”. Or if it’s not required, why not just have the option to give an employment status (Employed, Unemployed etc)?
A few minutes later:
MA: *Enters my mortgage claim number as “00000000000”*
ME: Why have you put my mortgage claim number as “00000000000”?
MA: We have to put something otherwise it doesn’t work.
ME: Why? You can obviously enter “00000000000” and it assumes that that it a new mortgage claim. Why not make the field optional and if it’s blank assume it’s a new claim?
MA: That’s a good idea. I’ll tell them that!
It just seemed really faffy. She obviously didn’t need to enter a valid mortgage claim number and it obviously didn’t validate the claim number once she had entered it… which is a bit worrying. If it doesn’t validate the number, she could enter any old figure, or even worse, someone else’s mortgage claim number. If I were testing this, I would say that the field should validate any claim number that’s been entered, but treat it as a new mortgage claim if the field is blank.
MA: Sorry this is taking so long. There’s lots of information to enter!
ME: It’s not that there’s lots to enter, it’s that their are fields everywhere! And one screen only had ONE input box! Surely it makes more sense to have it on one or two screens and either have tick boxes or drop down boxes to help you?
MA: That would be nice.
Literally, one screen only had one input box on it. The other screens had input fields on opposite sides of the screens with the submit button in the middle. I would describe the layout as poor at best.
ME: You’ve also entered my information about 4 times. Doesn’t that get a little annoying? It would me…
MA: Oh yeah, that really annoys me! It would be great if I can enter your details once then click to get what I want. I have to enter your details in to lots of different systems at the minute.
Apart from being annoying, entering a customer’s details multiple times in to multiple systems increases the chance of incorrect data creeping its way in to the system. If I’m having a Mortgage for the next 35 years of my life, I would like to think the information they have about me is at least accurate!
So I left my meeting with a big list of figures and a folder full of forms, and she left the meeting a list of possible improvements for her system that we agreed would make her life easier.
Everyone’s a winner!
I regularly used to sit down with my clients and just watch them go about their day to day tasks with my Software. Half of the time they would raise usability issues and the other half would be more process improvement. Both proved incredibly valuable for both the client and for me as they would get a system they would be able to use and for me because I’d learn how real people use the software that I tested. Learning about usability on the Internet and from books is great but doesn’t compare to actually sitting down with the user and watching what does and doesn’t work for them.