The Incomprehensible Failure That Is ScottishPower's Website
Executive summary: do not under any circumstances sign up as
an online customer with ScottishPower. If terrorists burst in and
demand that you sign up, threatening you with death otherwise,
take the bullet.
Why? It's the website. ScottishPower's gas and electricity are
perfectly good, and i'm sure they're lovely people, but their website is
a failure, and when you're an online customer, that's a problem.
Let's have a little run-down of the problems, shall we? And let's
give them a star (ie asterisk) rating - two stars for showstoppers, one
for major inconveniences, and none for merely highly irritating
- [**] Web server is often unreachable. When i tried to log in one
evening, i got nothing - 'net reset error', Firefox told me; never seen
that before. Pings vanished into the ether; a telnet to port 80 would
open, but abort if you tried to send anything down it. It did come up a
bit later, and let me log in but then went silent again when i tried to
give it a meter reading - that timed out and i had to start the whole
thing all over again (which is not easy - see below). Another timeout
happened later. Two timeouts in the course of paying one bill; this is
not an exceptional case. I realise they have to cut costs, but how about
connecting to the internet with something a bit more robust than A PAIR
OF BAKED-BEAN TINS AND A LENGTH OF STRING?
-  Login page opens as a popup from the home page. This is
completely unnecessary, but a very common element of web 'design'. I can
only assume their web designers do not actually use the web
- [**] Users can neither log in or get into the site if already logged
in. So, If you're logged in but lose your place on the site (eg when -
not if - a connection times out, and a reload takes you back to the
login page), you're fucked; you can't start again and log in, and there
are no links leading into the working pages of the site. Empirical
evidence hints that a second attempt to log in when already logged in
will kill the previous login. Without then logging you in, of course -
that requires a third login.
- [*] Website is inconsistent with email directions. The emails they
send out to remind you to give a reading say "Simply click on
http://www.scottishpower.co.uk and log onto the site. Select 'my
account', which leads you through to 'my energy account details'. Click
on 'calculate bill' to submit your meter readings.". Sounds good.
However, if you have an outstanding balance (as you often will if you
pay by constant monthly direct debit), then when you do log in, there's
no 'calculate bill' link; there's a 'recalculate' link, which i think
does the same thing, but it's not at all obvious from the context. To
even get to that link, i have to follow 'view outstanding bill'.
-  No bills by email, no plain text bills. You have to log in and
read the bill on screen. The bill is crudely-formatted text, presented
in a <pre> element; there is, however, no way to get just the
text, or even a page with less 'design' cruft. There's a 'print this
page' option, but that does actually print something, rather than giving
you a printable version.
- [*] Website is basically just very badly designed. Everything about
it makes it a challenge to understand what they mean and what you're
supposed to do - the phrasing, the layout, everything..
-  Nonsensical messages. "If you have just recently applied to
become a ScottishPower customer, input your opening meter readings by
clicking here.". Surely they know i've been a customer for six months,
and have already paid a bill? "This bill is due and payable now.". I pay
by monthly DD; how can a bill be payable? I don't pay individual
- [*] There are no words for this. "Please note: You may see a white
screen for up to 10 seconds while we retrieve your account
information.". Fair play, i've never had to wait that long, but this is
-  Inappropriate fixed-width layout. The whole website appears
inside a box in a giant, blank turquoise field; the box is not quite big
enough for some of the pages, notably those where there is preformatted
text (and there are a lot of those - all the bill details are like this,
output from some sort of legacy system, perhaps). I shouldn't have to
scroll right to see the totals column.
- More to come - probably next time i have to give a meter
Verdict: monkeys. This website is simply gratuitously bad. I honestly
do not understand how any human being could create a website this bad.
The only explanation is that they used monkeys. Retarded monkeys.