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I Am Skooter
So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
Watchmaker steadies his delicate hand / I want you / For barbeque parties on blood red sands
— Peter Gabriel, And Through the Wire
January 6, 2007
Bell HotSpot’s Usability Problem

Bell HotSpot home page

I sat down in a Starbucks today and connected to a Bell HotSpot. Bell is runing their HotSpots as a user pay wireless service. With blocks of time that can be purchased by the hour, the day, or the month. Vacouver’s FatPort operates on a similar business model, and has been doing it for about five years now.

Here’s how Bell is making a big mistake.

When you connect, the HotSpot site defines a new Home for your browser. It does this by redirecting any request for a web page to the HotSpot service login page, unless you’ve already logged in. Basically it says “I’m not going to let you see that until you’ve done this first.”

This login page is, of course, the sales opportunity for Bell. It’s where you enter your credit card number and purchase a block of time.

One hour is CDN$7.50. This is a ridiculous price and too short a time frame. FatPort figured this out a long time ago and started offering a four hour block of time for CDN$9.95 (compared to their price for one hour of CDN$4.95.) This was a decent length of time for those who didn’t want to commit to a full day or a monthly account but was doing some work for a while in a coffee shop or some other, similar location.

But this isn’t Bell’s mistake.

A month of service costs CDN$35 and can be a pretty good deal if you spend a lot time at HotSpot locations.

That’s the key to the problem here: I can’t find out where the locations are unless I’m already logged in. This page provides a link to them although that link was broken when I checked.

Of course, it’s impossible to get to that page unless you’ve already paid. I suppose I could be sitting at home (as I am now) connected through my wireless network planning for some future purchase of a mothly HotSpot account, but it seems much more likely that someone would make this choice at the point of purchase — the HotSpot itself.

A lost sales opportunity.

Posted by skooter at 5:11 PM This entry is filed under Technology.
This entry is tagged: Bell, Information Architecture, Usability

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