Getting the details right – ACC’s ActiveSmart doesn’t

Years ago I had a boss at Mobil Oil who had a mantra – “Retail is Detail”. He was all about getting the little things right, and right every time, in order to maximise sales. It was pretty smart, though it helped to have the big stuff right first!

Web sites are the same. The greatest looking websites can fall over in a screaming heap if the little usability things are not done well.

Today’s victim: ACC’s ActiveSmart website, which looks oh so nice, but using it is not so easy. I’ll walk through my experience. Each interaction is a chance for the site to build (or destroy) my trust in the site, the service, the developers and the owners

I arrived there by clicking on an advertisement, which looked pretty cool. I got this landing page which also  looked  interesting.
I just started clicking stuff as unfortunately I couldn’t see a way to check out a sample plan, which was not a great sign – but I nosed around a bit, and eventually clicked the home button.

and got this:
It’s different from the first home page I saw – and I was confused and my trust in the site dropped a bit.

So I went back to the original page and decided to give it a go, and entering the login process.


Whoops – it seems that I failed to create a sufficiently long password. This is for a site where I am unlikely to want a password that I can’t remember, and where you didn’t tell me to make the password long and complicated. More loss of trust.

But whatever – I guess for some fitness can be really personal, and so out came the industrial strength password, and on I went, a little miffed.


Whoops again – it seems that I didn’t click the T’s and C’s box. More trust gone and I am more miffed – why didn’t the website tell me this when I got the last error? Despite the cute website I am beginning to suspect all is not well.

But I plug on, and get told that I have been sent an email.

I suppose that’s fine, but why not log me in now so that I can keep moving? If my account isn’t verified you can always delete me right? It’s not as if this is a bank or anything.

But off to me email I go. Can you guess what I see?

my email, munged a bit
That’s right – there’s my top secret password. In the clear. Thanks a lot you lot – now everybody on the internet can see it. My trust in your site just went from 80% to 20% in one hit.

Losing all hope I clicked on the link in the email, and got this:

So although I’ve just seen my login and password in the clear, the included link does not result in a populated login screen? That really dumb, and I am clearly feeling that you are not with the program. Say goodbye to yet more trust.

But still – it is cute looking, and I do want to see what I get, so onwards I go to create a plan.

Next, well it’s an ACC site I know, but really – do I need to tick this many boxes to get to a plan? (I’ve reduced the size to save space – the questions are things like “do you have a heart condition”). More trust gone.


Next you want some details. I understand you need my age and weight because this is a fitness thing….
But I don’t understand why you need my birth-day. That’s personal. I’m getting pissed off now – I don’t trust you with my details any more and you are getting a bit too personal.

Now I need to choose what sort of plan I want. I wanted something across multiple sports – running, walking, cycling and so forth. Sadly that was not an option, and more sadly it took until now for me to realise that.

I chose cycling but by this stage had lost all hope and trust – and was just making stuff up. The site was no longer potentially useful to me, nor was the resulting pretty but useless plan.

So I decided to cancel my account. To ACC’s credit this was actually pretty easy – trust enhancing even.

First I “archived” the plan (why couldn’t delete it?)

and then I canceled the account:

Great – I’m done. It seems that canceling accounts is a strength. That’s a little worrying.

Well no – not so fast. When I tested by creating another login with the same name, my old one was still hanging around:

So now my information is on your tables for posterity – I’m not really deleted.

What part of delete don’t you understand? This certainly sounded the death knell in the “do I trust this site” stakes.

How to fix it?

It’s not really that hard as the website is fundamentally there.

It needs to be tweaked, and constantly, which needs ownership, resources and a mandate.

Somebody that ‘gets it’ needs to own the user experience, looking constantly for the sort of stuff I have mentioned above. That person may already exist, but they need a mandate for the  time, money and people required to make the continuous improvements, and those people themselves need to have the time and talent to make the changes happen.

I would firstly fix what I have mentioned above, but more importantly do some usability testing. Don’t spend any money, but sit individuals down and simply watch them use the site, without prompting, aside from asking them to do tasks. Get them to talk as they are doing stuff. The results can scare, but will also give obvious ways to improve. This advice should not be surprising to anyone in the industry.

Buy and read Don’t make me think. It’s title says a lot, and the text is even better.

Overall I am worried that this site was built with a budget and then left alone. I cannot stress enough that websites are living – they need to be constantly improved. I like to think of the ongoing spend on website tweaks as a maintenance budget, as just as with a large piece of equipment if we fail to spend enough on website maintenance and improvements then the website will ultimately fail.

Published by Lance Wiggs


One reply on “Getting the details right – ACC’s ActiveSmart doesn’t”

  1. And you haven’t even mentionned accessibility for the site, which is rather not really good at all, and considering the e-government guidelines and the fact ACC is (still) government…. A big FAIL.


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