Monday, August 24, 2009

A leisurely rant

I was considering live-blogging my attempt to register for some of Winnipeg's Leisure Guide courses Monday morning, but my readers should be thankful I didn't. It would have looked very much like this, only much, much longer:

9:00 Web page tells me too many users are trying to access the system. Can't get in.
9:01 Registration by phone impossible. 311 number busy. Can they not use some queuing software?
9:05 Repeated attempts to access the website and 311 line prove fruitless.
9:11 Now, even the City's "too many users" webpage won't load.
9:15 Back to the regular error message.
9:22 Ditto.
9:29 Still no luck.
9:37 Same thing.
9:50 Ditto.


10:57 Same thing.
11:00 Ditto.
11:01 Wow, just got in. Okay, first step after clicking "English" is to log in. How to do so is not so obvious. Found help page which told me I have to click "my basket" as the first step. Okay, in. Found my course and clicked register and got... oh no, the "too many users" error message. I've been booted out after trying all morning to get in.
11:25 Trying the website continuously for 20 minutes. No luck. 311 still busy.
11:34 Registration by phone still impossible. 311 number busy.
11:39 Ditto.

Finally, sometime shortly after 12, the e-gates opened and I was able to register. It was hardly a hassle-free process, though, as finding and registering for a few courses took me nearly 30 minutes. A few of my experiences:

- Some of the courses listed in the Leisure Guide had incorrect ID numbers, which meant having to manually search for them to find the real numbers.

- Often, clicking on the "details" button for a course provided no information or gave me an error message.

- When clicking to register for a course, the site took me to my shopping basket where the next step was to choose the "client" or course taker, assuming you have more than one person in your account. For one of the courses I added, I had to click the name of the course-taker more than 20 times before the site would accept my selection -- it would otherwise load a blank webpage; browsing back to my basket showed the person selection still not yet made.

- After selecting one course brought me to the "my basket" page, I chose the user and was informed by the site that the course was no longer available (yet checking it showed many spots still open).

Now, I love taking the fabulous courses that are offered in the Leisure Guide each year and find the quality of instruction to be very high, but can we not get a proper registration system? The site and process would have looked and felt archaic ten years ago. And the 311 phone line -- can I not just be put on hold, even if I am kindly told by an electronic voice I will be there for 30 minutes?

Websites have been around for over 15 years. While we can afford to suffer the bugs of brand new technology, there's no excuse for having a website that wonky. The standard these days is that sites are user friendly, bug-free, and linked to databases thoroughly checked for errors. With hundreds of colleges and universities in this country that take course registrations every day, there are sure to be some best practices that can be emulated.

In the meantime, assuming the folks that went through what I did didn't just give up in frustration, you can bet that the courses in anger management, blood pressure control, and meditation are now all full.


Fat Arse said...

Re: post

My sentiments exactly.
Regrettably, I was one who, owing to time constraints, had to give up.

At supper tonight I then had to announce to all four children (ages 9-13) that they were NOT in fact registered in their traditional seasonal extra-curricular activities. Oh, it was so much fun!

Though I tried to explain to them how both the online and 311 options failed me; and how it was a failure on the part of the tall-foreheads who run the system. Guess what? They didn't care. All they know is I (Dad) failed & now they are upset.

Thanks a lot City of Winnipeg 311, et. al - a pox on your houses!

Prairie Topiary said...

Well, I wish you luck, FA. Hopefully, the courses you're looking at are still open.

notzippy said...

Fall & Winter 2009 same story, except now they updated there "server to busy page" to say "please wait at least 5 minutes and if you don't you will have to wait even longer". Makes you almost feel threatened ! When in fact while your waiting other people are logging in. This is the biggest BS I have seen so far from that site, get a real programmer and drop the M$ crap ware your using...

Prairie Topiary said...

It's good to know that it's not worth trying to log into the system now -- an upgrade to this system would have been overdue ten years ago. I was planning to register for courses again this session, but I'll cross my fingers and hope that they don't fill up while I wait.