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The website all IT managers should be forced to visit.

Editorial Staff

If you've ever visited a UK government website to make any kind of application, you've been met with the worst example of both process and design. But the UK Government is not alone - any process is designed by people who already know how to use it, so they assume everyone knows the same. Wouldn't it be nice if someone spent time looking at both the process and the forms and made them work for people who are visiting for the first time and know nothing except the objective they hope to achieve.

Well, someone did: Turkey's eVisa scheme is a model that, every company and government process and form designer should visit and learn from.

Is there anything missing from Turkey's eVisa site? Only one thing: it's only for "tourism and trade" purposes and it's not clear what is meant by "trade." Are there any irritations? Only one; in relation to credit cards, it speaks of "expiration date" instead of "expiry." This is irritating because the whole of the rest of the site is in very clear, excellent English. Is there anything misleading? One thing: even though in the Frequently Asked Questions there is a reference to a service fee, that is not mentioned on the page where the cost of the visa is set out It's a tiny amount but, like when airlines add a credit card charge, it's annoying. Everyone pays on-line so the addition of a separate fee is silly - just increase the price shown and have done with it. Are there any errors? There may be one: the site says that payment is only by Mastercard, Visa and UnionPay but when one arrives at the payment page, there is a plethora of options including many mobile platforms. Are there any process faults? Two: the confirmation e-mail is in html and the payment receipt must be printed - there is no option to save a PDF (although, obviously, that can be done locally via the printer control service).

So that's the not brilliant stuff. All of it. Honestly, using the website is so easy that this author wondered what he's missed and what was going to go wrong. The answer was only one thing - and that was due to habit not the website (the residential address includes dashes and although the site permits a range of so-called special characters (well done), in the address box, the dash isn't one of them. But it is accepted in the name box: the inconsistency in the validation was not noticed.

So, what's so good about it?

First, everything you need to know is available in the FAQs : a comprehensive list of questions are answered in extremely clear English with excellent grammar. There are very few UK websites that come close.

Secondly, the fee is for the issue of a visa, not for the making of an application. Compare that to UK government websites which take payment and then impose tight conditions and time limits that were not explained before the process starts and if those conditions are not met in time, the payment is forfeit and the process must begin again - and another fee paid.

Third, the process is explained before you start and you are told exactly what you will need to have on hand. The UK Passport Office, for example, uses a form for a first passport that not only springs demands for documents as one progresses through the form but then, after it's all done, an e-mail is sent asking for more documents with the risk that the application will be cancelled and the fee forfeit.

There is only one variable and that's the fee that is charged. Different fees are charged for different nationalities. So the first page of the form takes no personal information other than the country, type of travel document and a captcha that isn't as difficult as that Google (click on pictures with e.g. buses (and parochial American terminology") thing that those with less than perfect eyesight have trouble with.

That defines the fee and after that it's plain sailing - big boxes with big print and clear definition (no grey on grey here) all have a little pop-up box that, as one hovers over the box, set out exactly what validation will be performed: length of field, acceptable characters and so on. In addition, to the right of every page, there is a clear explanatory note about the page and information and what happens and when.

The active form consists of one page of facts. Dates are on a pop-out pick list with big numbers.

When the form is submitted and verification performed (errors are specified clearly and the user is not left, as so often happens, wondering exactly why his form was rejected), and then comes a simple step: an e-mail is sent to the registered address containing all the information and a click-link to confirm.

This is the only point at which the process doesn't work smoothly. The e-mail is sent in html. As so-called "rich text" is increasingly rejected by corporate mail servers for security reasons, the mail appears as complex page of mark-up. For those not familiar with it, it will look like gobbledegook. It takes both time and an understanding of mark-up to work out that there is a clickable link and that to find it one has to find the word "Verify." For reasons of security and clarity, the page should be sent as plain text only. Interestingly, the website itself says that the e-mail may be marked as spam. Indeed, it was and the reason was, simply, the inclusion of all that mark-up. This author had to go and find it in the sandbox. That's fine because he has access to it - normal users don't. Worse, there is a one-hour time limit to click on the link after which it expires and the process must start again.

Click on the link and the information is confirmed (it cannot be changed later) and select a payment option. Make payment which goes through the issuer's security system, then moments later the eVisa is available for download as a PDF. The payment receipt, as noted above, is print-only which isn't very satisfactory: many people don't have immediate access to a printer.

The clarity of information, language and process, the clarity of design of the interface (that's the webpage) and the availability of information are models which should be adopted far and wide.

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