Your insurance quote web site is annoying

If you don’t have an insurance quote web site, look away now; this is just the annual grumble about buying insurance!

Is a simple form really so difficult?

None of the sites I tried were pushing the boundaries of HTML5, yet apparently browser support is still an issue. #fail

I don’t need help typing a date!

Actually, with a few less drop down lists around, this is one area that has improved a bit since last year. Top marks to the sites that just let me type the date in, but points for trying if the year isn’t a drop down; I don’t need reminding how old I am by scrolling back through the years thankyouverymuch. Having said that, I might need a little help typing the right date but ironically the only time I got it wrong was with a drop down, where I put the current year in for my date of birth by mistake. I was helpfully told that I was too young when I hit submit, but if you insist on having a drop down, what’s the point of including invalid values?!

On the subject of dates, is it really critical to know the exact date I got my license? I think ‘a while ago’ should cover it after this long. A few sensible companies agree, just asking how many years you’ve had a license, up to 3-5 years ago.

Are you trying to catch me out?

Forcing me to negotiate a confusion of check boxes to opt out of your exceptionally interesting marketing communications is just rude. Please choose check boxes or radio buttons and stick to one or the other, and don’t keep swapping the meaning of yes and no. A single opt-in check box would be favourite.

What did I say?

If you want me to verify that all the information I entered is correct, it would be really useful if you showed me all the information I entered! (The paperwork arrived through the post today, and luckily it was all correct!)

“Other, please specify”

The subject of another post that has been resting in my drafts for ages. The most trouble I had was specifying what claims I’d made in the last 300 years. One or two included ‘hit an animal’, while the rest had a bunch of more or less accurate choices. After initially doing well to ask me what I thought of their site, Aviva were the recipients of a QI style klaxon: unfortunately the questionnaire stumbled when it asked for my phone number should I be happy to discuss further. Maybe they don’t have email… or reply to blogs… Basically, let me answer the question accurately.

“I’m Not Here To Be In a Relationship”

Insurance companies should probably read about The $300 Million Button. At least John Lewis got this right.

How much?!

Maybe it’s just me, but an option to enter a voucher or special offer code is a blatant reminder that you’re not going to get the best price. Not to mention the annoying trend for ‘cash-back’ sites, which never really fill me with confidence. I think a grand total of one managed to show some sign that the hand-over had worked and some cash back might therefore be forthcoming. Even then it was a rubbish quote sadly. I guess it’s just an online continuation of getting renewal quotes that are more expensive than new customers, or all that no claims nonsense.

Who am I?

Straying worryingly close to the day job here, but despite discounts for taking more than one insurance product from the same company, I don’t think any of the sites gave me confidence that they were connecting the dots. Some reference to other policies at best, but not really much use while looking for an all inclusive quote for three new policies. The three separate letters that arrived today confirmed my suspicions. I expect I’ll get three renewal reminders again next year as well.

Ok, ok, I’ll stop now… until next year!


Creating user interfaces another way

The paragraph about the user interface generator in my last post, or my other recent attempt to explain what it does, don’t really tell you very much. I hope this quick festive example provides a better idea about how user modeling and code generation can speed up user interface development.

First I needed to think of something Christmassy that might need a simple user interface. I apologise in advance, but I chose Christmas cracker jokes!! On the plus side, they’re really simple, and a basic create, read, update and delete interface makes perfect sense. So, I got started by creating a CRUD Joke UML diagram… and about five minutes later I stopped laughing to myself! Well, it’s funnier than most cracker jokes!

Anyway, the UML tools we provide for user modeling enable you to create a new user object with the default CRUD tasks in one go. Here’s what it looks like:

User model

Next, because the user modeling is focused on the roles and goals of users, I added a few other bits just for the demo:

Roles and goals

Perhaps a better role would have been, “Joke quality monitor”, with a goal of, “Maximise Christmas laughter”… or should that be minimise… well, you get the idea!

That’s pretty much it, I can then click the “Generate User Interface…” menu option, deploy the EAR it creates to an application server and fire up my web browser. It took longer to get this far through the blog post than it did to get a working user interface (admittedly I’m a very slow writer, but still, I think that’s pretty good).

Generated user interface

(Thanks to a very old BBC article for that joke!)

The activity diagram behind the modify task above looks like this:

Activity diagram

At some point you need to put real code in for the commands to interact with the back end system, whatever that might be, but to start with the tool will generate a default implementation so you can quickly prototype and test the UI.

So that’s all there is to creating cracking user interfaces.