I guess I shouldn’t expect much on a Saturday night, but first Wachovia’s got half their site dead (and while the online banking was up, the listing showed me each transaction 5 separate times in the transaction list), and now, while trying to create JTMac’s Coverdell account (which was about 15 pages worth of data to input), Vanguard spews forth a _great_ error message. (Note, I put these 2 in the category of place that should have “infinite” uptime, simply because the dev jobs I considered with Bank of America were for sites in that vein, at least by their description during the interviews :).
On a side note, one of those 15 pages was asking about the information about the minor. Since Mac’s SSN hasn’t come in yet, I was happy to see the checkbox for “SSN applied for but not yet assigned” (which is still sad, IMHO, as Mac’s now over a month old). The problem is clicking that checkbox starts what seems like full page refreshes on each change of focus to a new textbox after it’s checked. I’m mildly curious as to what check they’re doing there, and so I view source, only to see the first 5 pages of the source are blank text, apparently in a security-through-obscurity attempt (I’m guessing) for people to only see a blank page and hopefully not notice the scroll bars.
The Online Process Is Unavailable
Weâ€™re sorry; due to technical difficulties, the online application process is unavailable at this time. Please try again later or, for immediate assistance, print this page and contact us with the error code and time listed below.
Error code 12345678 <– changed just in case
Time Sun Dec 10 00:13:23 EST 2006
Note that this is loading a page that should have both created an account and initiated a $2,000 transfer from my checking account. Did the account get created? Did the transfer get queued up? I want to believe “no” for both, because while I hate the above experience, I’m willing to believe that they’re at least doing sane transactional logic (if financial services places aren’t getting _that_ right, then their customers should be leaving in droves).
So, I decide to be brave and reload the page (re-posting the same data). Now, admittedly, with many systems there are tokens in place for checking things like “hit submit twice”, but I would expect the second and later page loads to give something informative, or at least friendly. Instead, I get:
Your Online Application Is Unavailable
You can no longer access your online application. Click Continue to go to Vanguard’s homepage or contact us for assistance.
I try a few other variations, but the end result is the same – those 15 pages of information I put in are gone. Do I bother trying so again, or do I create JTMac’s Coverdell elsewhere?
Well, I’m morbidly curious at this point, so I go ahead and run through the entire process again (same data as the first time), and this time I get a very “we’ve funneled it to a human” kind of response. I hate those in an online system – go create the rows and tell me my account number (or whatever primary key is relevant) now.
We are processing your request. You’ll be able to view your new account number and account information online within 24 hours in the Accounts and Activities area of our site. Contact us if you have any questions.
Confirmation number W08675309 <– changed just in case
Thank you. Your request was sent to Vanguard for processing.
On the bright side, at least the account is likely to exist and be funded by the 12/31 cut-off. I hope. But, no doubt, I’m now stuck adding a todo item to my list to actually _confirm_ this as I’m not completely trustworthy of Vanguard’s processes. 🙂
Now, I’ve run the corporate web sites with the Sunday night maintenance windows and network load balancers and whatnot, and I’m sure I’ll get some flame-y response of “it’s far more difficult than you think!”, but I think it’s reasonable that the bar for online experience be pretty high for a large financial services site (especially account creation! Don’t they want new business?), and these two both smacked right into it.