Don’t make Life Difficult for your Customers

It’s all too common. We build online content and expect visitors to register before they can gain access. Aside from the fact that asking for personal data before giving away some free content typically halves the amount of data you collect, some organisations insist on making things even more difficult than they need to be.

It’s easy to criticise government bodies like HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the UK’s equivalent of the USA’s IRS) but sometimes they make life so remarkably complicated that they deserve to be pilloried. And they’re not alone. Countless other commercial sites make similar mistakes, but hopefully your site is better.

Take, for example, this HMRC form which invites users to set up some “Shared Secrets to allow them to gain access to their account should they forget their password. This form exists to collect some easy to remember answers that are less forgettable than a site password. Yet instead of making this easy, HMRC insists that every answer must be between 6 and 15 characters long and not contain any spaces, punctuation, numbers or special characters.


Why? Because, I presume, HMRC has an antiquated IT system that is only capable of handling responses in this very precise format. Yet this constraint possibly defeats the very purpose of the exercise: to create a trust mechanism where the end-user cannot possibly get locked out of their account because their answers are unforgettable.

Like you, I don’t know of many schools, names or even places that don’t include any spaces, don’t exceed 15 characters, and lack any punctuation. Yet HMRC’s lack of foresight inflicts these rigid constraints on every user turning what should be a simple exercise into a complex memory test.

The lesson: don’t make life difficult for your customers and never make them work hard to do something that ultimately serves you rather than them. They are your customers; treat them with the care, respect and love they deserve.