Fidelity Full View: almost Intuit quality

Fail Stamp.jpg

I had been a Mint user for years, until Intuit purchased the group and added their characteristic bureaucracy and "we don't really care" customer service stamp to the operation. One of the final blows was when, shortly after the acquisition, Mint suddenly reclassified HELOCs as credit cards. A large number of people, including me, posted separate threads on their support site complaining about the change. Their answer, over the next two years, was essentially "gosh, there's just nothing we can do to fix that, it's just too hard." Two and a half years later, from what I understand, Intuit first fixed the problem then, days later, broke things even more badly to the point that now even mortgages are classified as credit cards. Sweet, Intuit.

In the middle of this I discovered that my bank, Fidelity Investments, offered a web app called Full View, that offered most of the same functionality I'd liked in Mint, and in fact uses the same aggregator, Yodlee. Account aggregation, budgeting, transaction classification - all good. The Fidelity app wasn't (and still isn't) even close to Mint in terms of usability or gloss, but it worked.

That was the case until a few weeks ago, when Fidelity, with much fanfare, released the new version of Full View. (cue Fraü Blücher's horses in the background).

What a damn mess.

First off, they've clearly gone the portal route, cobbling together a lot of prefab widgets at the cost of a pleasing, well-integrated user experience. This is a classic example of the user experience delivered when an IT group researches solutions and then uses the results to determine what users want (translation: what IT wants to build, including all the little gadgets and bits of coolness that appeal to geeks but mostly get in the way of normal users). That would be bad enough but manageable if those widgets actually worked. And they don't work all that well. IT is not the same as development: I would never want a member of a development team maintaining servers - nor would I ever want an IT engineer developing an application, much less designing a UX.

Let's start with data handling, because I get too pissed of talking about all the 404 errors that get thrown transitioning from the dashboard to subordinate views and back to speak of it at length. Sufficed to say: OMG. Entering data, modifying the name of a transaction's vendor for example, is pretty basic stuff. Anyone out of high school understands the concept. But with Full View, I've had to re-enter changes over and over, across sessions, across days, because the changes get lost. This isn't just bad session handling (that's pervasive across the new version) but somehow they've managed to corrupt the data after it should have been stored persistently in the database. You'd have to go out of your way and write code to do that. They did - although I don't think it had anything to do with intention.

Then let's talk about character set handling, things like punctuation in a title, for example "Gold's Gym". On their Transactions page, this appears to be handled correctly, but in their dashboard view making this change results in "Gold's Gym". Their customer service folks offered the solution of "well, you should just use the Transactions page for that," a secondary page that takes forever to load. I haven't encountered this sort of crap for probably ten years - at least not from a professional group. And forget autocomplete or any sort of elegant categorization.

Other features like adding a note to a transaction, or splitting a transaction, have been moved from the main page exclusively to this subordinate Transactions page, an "improvement" as described by Fidelity Customer Service. UX FAIL.

And in the days of HTML5, H.264, Canvas, all the vector tools available, all of Full View's data visualization appears to be based on Flash. Seriously?

Finally, the data displayed in Full View, even when "refreshed", lag the main Portfolio page by around a full day. When I called this out to Fidelity, the response was sort of "oh well, that's a really hard problem to solve." Which puts them right in the Intuit category of competence. This is a bank that, on one web site, displays two views of your financial data, one that is up-to-date and one that is from yesterday. And claims there is no way to resolve that.

At the company I work for, producing a user experience that is delightful is one of our cardinal goals. We frequently use the term "delight" in our proposals, even in our contracts.  With the pre-Intuit Mint, there was a fair amount of delight in using the app, in the nimble UI, in the data visualizations.

There is no delight in Fidelity's Full View: it's a portal-oriented, forms-based UI that looks, and behaves, like something from the 90's, and functionally appears to be built by a team stuck in that decade - the lack of stability, the demonstrable lack of code re-use, the almost complete lack of aesthetics, is downright discouraging. The UX blunders, the coding errors, the clear misses in session and data handling border on spectacular. Fidelity's customer service is, at least in their interactions with me, in full-on "circle the wagons" mode, denying that there is actually a problem, that the app is performing just fine. In other words, they're basically useless.

This is four weeks after they launched the new version. Which doesn't bode well for anything getting fixed real soon.

 

Geiger Trumps GlobalEntry

photo by pennuja (http://www.flickr.com/photos/pennuja/)

photo by pennuja (http://www.flickr.com/photos/pennuja/)

Last October, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer [Prostate Cancer: diagnosis]. After considering all the options, I elected to go through a procedure called Brachytherapy. This involves volumetric measurement of one's prostate, and the subsequent insertion of around 100 rice-grain-sized "seeds" made of titanium and filled with Iodine 125, a radioactive isotope. The seeds are permanent, the idea being a long-term, highly-localized dose of radiation to kill off the cancer. The half-life of I125 is about six months. t the end of the procedure, I was issued a wallet card identifying me, the procedure and the isotope: the seeds can be detectable when crossing international boundaries.

On a recent flight to Mumbai, there were TSA agents in the jetway at Seatac, checking passports. As I approached one of them, a little box on his belt began to buzz. He actually looked a bit scared for a moment, like "uh oh, this is the big one" and asked "is there anything you want to tell me?" Ah. I showed him my "I'm radioactive - but it's okay" card and he waived me on. No big deal.

I travel quite a bit, much of it internationally, and for reasons unexplained I tend to get pulled into secondary screening every time I enter back into the U.S. I decided to go through the effort to get a GlobalEntry ID in the hopes it would streamline my travel experience. On my return from Mumbai, Seatac Immigration was jam-packed, so I was glad to be able to walk past the crowds to a bank of 4 GlobalEntry kiosks, nobody using any of them. I placed my hand in the scanner, posed for a photo, tapped a few things on the touch screen and was on my merry in about 30 seconds. Awesome.

I thought I was home free - until, as I handed my Customs Declaration to the CBP officer, one of those same little boxes buzzed. My radiation card didn't much impress the officer - other officers separated me from my luggage and led me to a waiting area where they brought out a shoebox-sided device with a handle on the top that started ticking when it got near me. The agent explained "this is a very expensive instrument that looks for radiation." I said "um, yeah, it's a Geiger counter." He was surprised and responded "oh, you must be a scientist." Said Geiger counter recorded my pattern but couldn't match it against some database of "okay" forms, and so the sample had to be emailed to "a scientist on the Internet" (FEMA?) for verification. I ended up sitting for 30 minutes before I was cleared.

I'd like to think that in the age where we have TSA, CPB, PreCheck, GlobalEntry and the concept of a trusted traveler, the systems might somehow be connected in a productive way. Once I'd been identified with a specific isotope, and determined to have a proper explanation, it would be great to have that included as part of my trusted traveler profile. I posed that as a suggestion on the CPB website and received a call from a rather surly CPB agent who basically said "can't do it, not now, not never. Tough luck."

Ah, the pairing of government with technology...

 

A Rose by Any Other Name...

Over the last several weeks, I've received a number of confounding emails from people who ran the gamut from befuddled to annoyed to outright pissed off. They've accused me of loading software on their systems that took over all of their browsers.

This confused me. "Imminent", or "imminent.com", my Imminent, is this blog. Period. Nobody else gets to use this domain in any way.

Regardless of my attempts to clarify, or defend, or sympathize, most of these people writing me would not accept clarification, would not accept my defense, didn't care about my sympathy. They wanted what I can only describe as their righteous pound of flesh.

During this little odyssey, I confess that I didn't much care about anything except that these folks had the wrong guy, and frankly most of their descriptions of the problem were so close to incoherent that I assumed it was some noob who'd got their system infected and was looking for someone to blame. In one case, it appears that it may have been someone's executive assistant who infected her boss' machine and was desperately looking for someone to toss under the bus.

Finally, some enlightenment:

Imminent, in addition to my blog, turns out to be the name of some new virus running around. Shit. People download it, get infected, and go looking for the bug's owner. The virus' creators seem to use a different spelling: iminent. But nobody seems to notice that before they send their ire my way.

Folks, it isn't me.