.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;} Searching for the Moon
My original blog - I have moved to http://shannonclark.wordpress.com so this remains only as an archive.
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Searching for the Moon
by Shannon Clark

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Finding a post office
or why design matters

So, last night I went looking on the USPS website for the address and location of the main post office in Chicago, the one that is open 24hrs.

I challenge you to find it.

Really - by the tools provided on the USPS website, it is essentially an impossible task.

Find a post office somewhere near your particular zipcode, perhaps, though no matter what you do they seem to assume you only want to find a post office because you want to purchase stamps (ignoring that you might, say, want to send a birthday package that needs to be weighed).

Try finding a post office not in your zipcode, in say an unknown zipcode.

Yes, they do let you put in a city. Sure, that helps if you live in the middle of Kansas, but I live in the middle of Chicago, we have hundreds of post offices, a search by Chicago, IL (no zip) returns ones mostly on the south side, but in no particular order. As well, when you look at the results, they show a grand total of 5 at a time, with not even an indication of how many more are available, or any way to sort/further search them.

You can't for example, search for a post office "still open" or "open 24hrs" or "which can take packages" etc, etc, etc.

Highly annoying.

In fact, I may go so far as to say that the USPS website is one of the single worst designed sites I have seen. Primarily because like everything else from the USPS (more on this in a moment) it assumes that either you are looking for a very small handful of tasks they assume you might want (buy stamps) OR you know exactly what you want and just need it (for some reason) i.e. you know the address already, you know the strange codes and names they use etc.

Offline they are not much better, in fact I might say they are, if possible, even worse. In order to find it I then looked in the Yellow Pages (well technically the blue pages where government offices are listed).

They list the 50+ some post offices in Chicago with nothing to note about any of them other than a very obscure name (Fort Dearborn, Haymarket, etc). All have the SAME phone number listed, an 800 number.

When you call it, you are then given a very long list of 7 options (not one of which appears to be "talk with a human"), then selecting the one that appears to be potentially "I want to find a post office" you are asked "please put in your zipcode".

I refused.

It then demanded again.

I refused.

Finally it let me talk to a human, after first having a chance to select whether I wanted to hear the USPS privacy policy.

Then what is the first question the woman who answered the phone wanted? Yup, what is my zipcode.

Why this is so important I really don't know. But it is highly irritating and annoying - I seriously thought about lying completely, because I did NOT care one whit about finding a post office near my zipcode. Rather, I had a very, very specific post office I wanted to find - one that would be open 24hr, which I knew was in Chicago, I just didn't know the address - which since I was getting this information for someone else was what I wanted to know.

After a lot of effort, she finally did find it, apparently she has a way of searching for a 24hr post office, but why mere customers aren't allowed to do this, I really don't know.

So, take a look and see why the site is so user unfriendly.


5/18/2004 01:32:00 PM 0 comments links to this post
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Shannon John Clark (email me), b. 1974.

Male (to hold off the assumptions), currently in Chicago, IL.
I am active on many other forums and sites around the Internet. If I am online, feel free to Skype me.
You are also welcome to connect with me on Omidyar Networks on LinkedIn or Ryze.com and my blog on Ecademy or see more about me at MeshForum or my corporate site, JigZaw . I also maintain piecing IT together, as my corporate blog for JigZaw Inc.