Friday, September 4, 2009

Signup Catch-22...

OR: How not to implement website sign-up.

A couple of days ago, a friend sent me a large file. Rather than trying to do it via email, he used a new service -- SugarSync -- to forward the file to me. This is one of several "store and forward" file services, designed for people who want to exchange large files securely and don't have their own public-facing ftp or alternative download sites. Some of the alternative services that I've already used include Pando, and YouSendIt. They all seem to offer similar services: free accounts with low transfer rates; paid accounts with higher transfer rates; and free receipt of files.  They all require that you sign-up for the account: free or paid. Notification is often done via email, although Pando installs a small program that monitors your account.

I received the SugarSync notification email, clicked on the link, and signed up following their requirements. It was all pretty standard: you sign up, they send you a confirmation email, you click on the link embedded in the email to confirm that you actually requested this account, and you're good to go. Until you click on the link in the confirmation email, you've got an account but you can't use it.

All that went according to plan, but then I didn't receive the confirmation email. I went back to the site and they make it very easy to request another confirmation email and also suggest that you check your spam folders just in case. I did all that (several times, actualy) and still no confirmation email. After checking and re-checking that I had entered my email address correctly, I went to their website to get some help... and here's where the Catch-22 fired.
  1. I tried Support, but you must be an approved user to use the Support pages!
  2. I couldn't find an email address that I could use for requesting help; I tried and am still waiting for a response.
  3. I tried to follow the instructions associated with their entry about not receiving a confirmation email (see In this post, they instruct you to "Submit a Ticket" but, of course, you have to be logged in to perform this action, as they immediately re-route you to a login screen.
  4. I thought I would try their Discussion Forum (not something I usually like to do because of often poor response in these types of forums) and then found this complaint about lack of support, posted on August 25, 2009, and still with no 'official' response.
  5. And there's no phone number on the site.
Doesn't look too promising.

Unfortunately, I've seen this pattern in the past: someone gets a good idea and implements it on the web. They put up a nice app, reasonable functionality, positioned properly, and they start to get some traction. Unfortunately, they just don't have the right level of support to make it work. ALL software has bugs, no matter how good your developers are, or how good your testing is, or what development framework you use: there are ALWAYS bugs.

It's a huge mistake to either assume that there won't be many/any bugs or to not plan to actively support your users and fix those bugs.

Too bad... this is one service that I'm definitely writing off my list.

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