Piss Poor Usability in SEM Services: Overture & MSN Small Business Directory

I am sure I am the guy in the glass house throwing stones here, but why is it that after you get to the bottom of your Overture add listings page the button right there is the opposite of what you just did.

Like if you make 50 different listings the button there would be for the create one ad for all keywords, and the regular continue link would be a little lower over on the other side of the page. Click the more conveniently located button and erase your work. Yippie!

There are many other factors that make using Overture a purely frustrating experience, but that was just one example.

MSN Small Business Directory:
I can't log into my damn account because my one stupid proprietary MicroSoft account does not match up with the other stupid proprietary MicroSoft account. They give me some bullshit options to create security keys and other security garbage.

  • Why the hell did they give me one account if they already knew they wanted to migrate me over to their other dubious services?
  • Why is the migration wizard such a hunk of crap?

  • Why is the original SBD login stuff hidden away until after I tried my non matching Passport email account?
  • Why do I have to fill out a ton of forms to send an email for a personalized response when they really ought to know that their migration wizard is a hunk of crap from the feedback many people have surely already gave them?

Passport.net = hunk of shit. As a bonus I like how it disables the back button.

Here is an example of the login experience:

  • click the sign in button: nope. that's NOT your correct Passport details. Don't have a Passport account? try our supper cool migration wizard (and don't ask us why we wasted your time creating that other account. don't ask us why this process isn't seemless or automated).

  • thrown off by the Passport stuff you can forget your login details, so you click the I can't remember my bCentral password button.
  • that launches a help pop up with a couple options, namely:

    If you've lost or forgotten your bCentral password, go to the Password Retrieval Form, type your e-mail address, and then click the Submit button.

  • click that link and you wind up here, where they say "Type your registered e-mail address and click SUBMIT once."
  • they know they are migrating the account service over. at this point you have indicated that you do not know your password three times, so you enter your email information and think nothing of it. click submit.
  • the next page gives me drop down form options, where I have to specify account type, product, and problem, and then give them my email and information AGAIN.

I just sent them this feedback:

Complete hunk of shit usability IMHO. Bad enough to write a blog post about. I hate your migration wizard and am unsure what account I signed up with. If most business had this type of usability and customer interaction they would go bankrupt.

Published: June 20, 2005 by Aaron Wall in aaron matthew wall


September 14, 2006 - 8:43pm

Aaron, your comments are not simply a rant, but rather a factual account of the frustrations of thousands who attempt to make use of the Small Business Directory.

Here's my tale.

Logging in took all of 30 minutes.

Once logged in, I attempted to puchase a Submit-It listing from three different machines, using Firefox, Apple's Safari and IE6. This has taken me 4 days and still I do not have a listing.

Honestly, this is the most rediculous experience I've had when attempting to purchase a product online.

Of all the companies you'd think would have figured out the mystery of e-commerce, it would be Microsoft. But, no. To them it's still a mystery. I guess they are happy with their billions that they don't want or need my USD$49.

Fine, I'll take my business elsewhere.

A Reader
June 20, 2005 - 11:42am

Oh man, don't get me started...

Ever notice how Microsoft automatically bills you for your SBD renewals? Not so bad, if only they'd tell you which URL you are being billed for.

I'm in the position where I have 6 or 7 URLs being renewed each month, and after hours of searching and numerous e-mails sent it's apparent that there is absolutely no way to tell which URL you are being charged for, nor do Microsoft, after more than a couple of equally snide e-mails as yours above, seem to care or have any plans to change this.

You could say it's my responsibility to track this imformation and you'd be right, however that functionality as basic as this isn't included in Microsofts product is astounding.

All of which pales in comparison to the steamer that is Yahoo! Search Marketing. The following summarises my most recent communication with them.

- Text unnecessarily small, colours drab.
- No functionality for arranging categories in any way other than by alphabet.
- No functionality to select and edit multiple categories (a nightmare when it comes to the end of the month switch off time).
- Manage listings defaults to 'previous day' view.
- Review process excludes keywords for no reason. They will usually reinstate these if you send a nasty enough e-mail.
- Refresh button RARELY works. Oh my God, I can't describe how irritating this is... Yes actually, I WOULD quite like to know how much money I have left as of NOW, NOT 15 days ago!!
- Reporting of clicks/funds used is horribly out of sync with real life. You can pause a category and see it's cost for the month carry on rising by another 50% before it finally stops.

I find it unbelievable that a MARKET LEADER in PPC is riddled with so many usability problems, that basically make my day to day use of Overture an absolute nightmare. I also can't believe that these issues haven't been taken up with the support team by other Overture advertisers in the past, in which case the question has to be : Why haven't they been addressed?

To my shock I actually received a telephone call in reply to that (gargantuan) e-mail, in which quite literally the guy said -

"Yes we are aware about all of these problems. No we can't say when or if it will change".

Even the simple design overhaul that the US version has received hasn't been applied to the European service - which was actually the only thing I was promised would be done ("within the month" - 2 months ago) - how long can it take to change a fricking style sheet?

I hate the way these services weedle their way into a dominant market position and then use that position to justify a complete lack of anything resembling a decent product. Unfortunately I will have to continue using Overture no matter how bad it's functionality is until people stop using Yahoo and MSN.

June 20, 2005 - 12:56pm


great word, and a nice rant :)

feels good others feel the same way as I do, and that I helped give at least one of them another spot to vent their frustrations.

>Yahoo! Search Marketing

if they worked half as hard with optimizing the usefulness of their product as they do building links into their sites they would probably have something worthwhile to work with.

February 16, 2007 - 5:38pm

BCentral stinks, I cannot use my postion agent for over a month. Here is a copy of my live chat session with microsoft.
Exit 10:15:13 AM System
Initial Question/Comment: mt bcentral account does not work ie: position agent
10:15:23 AM System
Jayne has joined this session!
10:15:23 AM System
Connected with Jayne
10:15:28 AM Craig Spear
10:15:28 AM Jayne
Welcome to Microsoft Small Business Center Chat support. My name is Jayne.
10:15:50 AM Jayne
Hello Craig. I received your message.
10:16:06 AM Craig Spear
postion agent has not worked since 1-15-07
10:16:19 AM Jayne
I'm sorry to inform you that the issue with the PositionAgent report has not been fully resolved yet.
10:16:29 AM Jayne
Our product engineers are still working on it.
10:16:48 AM Craig Spear
how long has this been going on?
10:17:34 AM Jayne
For about a month or so. I'm very sorry for the inconveniences.
10:18:07 AM Craig Spear
what about list builder, and traffic builder?
10:19:49 AM Jayne
The List Builder is working properly now.
10:20:29 AM Craig Spear
Is microsoft going to extend my subscription for the period i cannot use it?
10:22:19 AM Jayne
I can forward your concern for compensation to our Escalation Team.
10:22:28 AM Craig Spear
10:23:05 AM Jayne
Is there anything else I can do for you?
10:23:42 AM Craig Spear
how will i Know that they are looking in to it?
10:24:15 AM Jayne
You will be contacted again for more information in the soonest possible time.
10:24:47 AM Craig Spear
it is unfortunate that you don't have a telephone number I can call for support
10:25:30 AM Jayne
You may call us at 1- 866-3617931, Monday - Friday, 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM, PST.
10:26:14 AM Craig Spear
thanks goodbye
10:27:20 AM Jayne
Thank you for using Microsoft Small Business Center Live Support. Please come back if you need assistance again. Have a nice day!

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