Some websites have an excuse. Websites I design and create, for example, have no choice but to suck kinda hardcore, because I know nothing about back-end website design (tee hee, back-end). Similarly, I don't really expect anything created on geocities or associated in a "web ring" (remember those? old school.) to be all that good. No offense. There might be some out there that are good, but I don't expect them to be.
However, if you're a large company that everyone knows, I expect that you have at least enough cash to create a functional website. Nay, a *usable* website. EGADS WHAT A CONCEPT. Let me start by saying that I may be a bit too retarded to use websites and maybe I'm just completely blind to the ease of their use. However, I'd consider myself to be at least mildly technologically-literate, so let's pretend that most people might make the same mistakes I did if I'm just missing something. Or we can pretend everybody should be able to use websites even if they have a hangover. Just sayin'.
To the point: let's say you're a company that sells insurance. Your goal: to get everybody to insure their everything with you. You want them to have different policies for their home, boat, car, motorcycle, anatomical monstrosity, compost heap all with you. That's great! Let's say I've signed up. Let's say also that I want to use the internet to keep track of them all and make changes. That's great for you too; you have a record that doesn't require a lot of gross filing and paper cuts etc. as well as the ability to back it up real easy-like. GUESS WHAT NOW I HATE YOU. Why? Because you've forced me to create a new login/pass combination for EACH policy. (And your site also has cookie/login/logout problems, I might add)
Yeah not only am I not creative to come up with that many distinct login/pass combinations, but I'm not nearly awesome enough to remember them all (Which letters did I capitalize in aZNinvAzN2002n00bsluLZ567?). Why on earth would you do that to your customers? Do you want to drive them away? But that's not enough; no, most certainly not. That's an easy problem to solve. Here are some suggestions: Forgot your password? Send it to me. Too much of a security risk? Send me a randomly-generated temporary password that expires in 4 hours with a captcha required before submission. Still too much of a security risk? Force me to go through an awful voice-activated/touch-tone system only to have it assess after 10 minutes that I need to talk to an operator to reset my password. Oh... you... want me to reset my password by mail?
...Yeah f*** you.
No joke. This website - as its first suggestion after my unsuccessful attempt to answer security questions (another story altogether) - suggested only I reset this password by mail. No other suggestions. That's a problem. You're basically suggesting to me that not only does your website suck, but that you don't trust your phone system to solve my problem and so you want me to WRITE IN to reset my password. Now I understand somewhat, because it seems given this tribulation that the folks who work at your company are ILLITERATE, but see the reason why I was using the internet as opposed to, say, smoke signals, was not because it had just rained and there was no dry tinder. Interestingly enough, i just wanted things to move a bit faster than that.
Now maybe I'm entirely in the wrong here. Maybe there is a way to have one online account at your website for all these policies. And maybe I could've figured out my obscure reminder as to what my other passwords are. But I don't see a way to do it on the site. Seriously, the link should be able to slap me in the face somewhere in my account management section or whatever it is. As should the "login/logout" section. Not only is the login/logout placed in different places depending on what page you're looking at, sometimes I really can't find it. But hey, maybe I'm retarded, and I'll just have to write you a letter and then you can laugh at me and call me an idiot, but somehow I get the feeling that
"Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"
isn't quite so effective through the mail, especially after it takes two weeks to arrive and I've already replaced you.
Rule: Have people test your site for usability.