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Clipper Direct usability issues

Living in San Francisco means that I take public transit on a daily basis. To make payment easy, one can sign up for a Clipper Card monthly pass.

Clipper Direct is a program which allows employers to deposit part of your paycheck into your Clipper Card every month. This is useful because it is tax deductible.

Signing up for this program is overcomplicated by poor UI choices.

Incorrect URLs

After your employer signs you up an email is sent:

The URL appears correct, but when you visit it your browser redirects you to https://directbenefits.clippercard.com/clipperdirect/index.do instead. The login form on this page is for employers only, not employees. This caused me to attempt to sign in multiple times only to be told that my username/password was incorrect. The URL should be https://directbenefits.clippercard.com/clipperdirect/employeeLogin.do

Failure to use placeholder text correctly

The login box for employers looks fairly straightforward.

Unfortunately the creators of the login box attempted to use placeholder text, but instead of using the HTML5 placeholder attribute they simply used the placeholder text as the actual input for the form elements.

This means that if one is in a rush and simply copy and pastes their username/password without deleting the text that is already there they end up submitting their data with “email address” prefixed to their email address and “password” prefixed to their password.

This is especially unusable if you delete the placeholder text. Now you have no clue if the first box should be your email or username.

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Social bookmarking icons have gotten out of hand

I’ve never been a fan of the social bookmarks at the bottom of articles. They often take up excessive space and cause my browser to make unnecessary web requests. If I need to share something, I’ll copy and paste the URL myself.

The Sexy Bookmarks by shareaholic have never bothered me since they remain mostly hidden until you move your cursor over them.

Pre Hover

It appears that even these can be misused. The widget on John McAfee’s blog reveals 85 icons upon hover.

Post Hover

This is pretty excessive.

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Paying your bills like a boss

I’ve come up with a simple approach to bill paying that works well for me.

  1. Make a list of all your financial obligations, noting the statement date and due date for each.
  2. Pick a recurring day of the month. The first of the month is a good choice.
  3. Every month on the designated day, go down the list and pay your bills one by one.

The key to this is picking a good day of the month. This can be done by examining the repayment period for each of your bills. Here are a few of mine.

Name Statement Date Grace Period
Credit Card 1 15th of the month 25 days
Credit Card 2 End of the month 25 days
Rent First of the month 0 days
Water Bill 23rd of month 25 days

Credit Card 1 is always due around the 10th of the following month, so this eliminates the 10th through the 14th. Credit Card 2 is always due the 25th of the month so this eliminates the 26th through the end of the month. Rent can be paid any time before the second of the month. The water bill must be paid before the 17th of the following month.

This means that the first of the month and the last of the month are the only two days that I can pick. If I pick the second to the last day of the month then Credit Card 2 will be paid late, if I pick the 2nd of the month then my rent will be paid late.

If you are unable to find a day that you can pay all your bills on, there are a couple of things you can do. Credit card companies often provide an automated way to change the statement date. If you can arrange it so that all of your bills are due around the same time then you should be able to use this approach.

Another option is to split the month in half. Pick two days that are around 15 days apart and pay divide your bills between them. This would work well if you are paid biweekly.

This method has improved my life more than I ever thought it would. Before this I kept a mental note of when each bill was due and hoped that I didn’t forget one. While I never missed a bill this way, I often worried that I had missed a payment. This led to checking that each bill had been paid every couple of days.

With this approach, I no longer worry that I have forgotten to pay something. I now spend a single day per month paying bills and put them out of my mind the rest of the time.

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Unforeseen Gmail lock-in

As Google adds more and more services it becomes increasingly difficult to change one’s Gmail address.

When Gmail came out one of the best features was the apparent lack of vendor lock-in. By the grace of Google, every Gmail account could be accessed via POP3 or IMAP for free. It took till 2009 for Hotmail to make POP3 a free service. To this day Yahoo still requires a premium account for POP3.

Since the beginning of Gmail, the one piece of information that users can not change is their email address. This makes some sense. If a user really wants to change their email address they can always register a new one and transfer their emails using a desktop email client and IMAP.

Today, ones Gmail address is used for much more than email. It is the token that provides access to one’s Google Account which is used by Google Reader, Docs, Google Plus, YouTube and Picasa.

Since Google does not provide a way to change the email address associated with a Google Account, if one truly dires a new Gmail address they have to create a new Google Account as well.

While Google makes it easy to liberate all of your data, there is a great deal of it that one can not import back into the system.

Some Google services make it easy to transfer data from one account to another. Google Docs allows multiple users to be associated with a Document. Picasa photos can be downloaded from one account and uploaded into another. Google Reader feeds can be exported and then imported.

Other services make data import impossible. Google Plus posts are created at an instant in time. There is no way to transfer those from one account to another. Google Latitude information is also gone as well.

So while it is nice to be able to use a single Google Account to store information for various Google services, be sure that you are super happy with your Gmail address, otherwise you are going to have to keep due to necessity.

Tags: gmail