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Indian Govt. Launches E-Post Office; Usability Issues

The Government of India has launched the e-commerce portal of India Post, E-Post Office. The portal will offer postal services to customers, who can pay electronically for them.In the first phase of its launch the E-Post Office will offer seven services including Electronic Money Order, Instant Money Order, Sale of Philatelic Stamps, Postal information, Tracking of Express and International Shipments, PIN Code Search and a section to register feedback and complaints. Given the opportunity in sending a money order or transferring money online, this has the potential of becoming another IRCTC, which, at last count, did over $100 million in transactions per month. According to a Government of India press release, plans are in place to scale up the portal to a full-fledged e-Market Place, which will offer a wide range of postal and non-postal products. It will also integrate India Post’s mail-parcel service for e-Commerce order fulfilment.

The site is surprisingly flashy for a Government of India site but also Flashy literally since it employs generous use of Adobe Flash. So if I want to check a Pin Code from my iPhone, I simply can’t. We would have preferred an HTML5 version instead, or an option to choose a non-flash site.

After the virtual door opens, a virtual service lobby(We so wish real world Indian post offices looked the same!) comes up and has links placed all over to replicate the post office feel, in addition to a navigation bar. For example, the electronic and instant money order links appear right on top of two counters and the feedback link appears on top of a letter box. The site divides services in six categories and clicking on each virtually navigates to a particular section:

– Track & Trace – Pin Code Search, Electronic Money Order Tracking, Speed Post Tracking, WNX Tracking, International Mail – All of these are links to the old world Indiapost site, which is a big bump in the user experience. Why can’t these pages be integrated in the e-post office site itself?

– Philately- It has information on philately(dead link), Stamp Issue Program(not updated) and one can buy stamps too. However one can’t access the Stamps store without registering and registration is tedious. We were able to register after 5 failed attempts. Around 52 stamps are on sale in this section. One can buy a maximum 5 stamps of a particular collection and the minimum order has to be equal to or more than Rs 200. There is a service charge of Rs 50 and a payment gateway charge depending on the transaction amount.

– Information- Pin Code Search, Speed Post, Banking (doesn’t work), Insurance(dead link), Business Post(dead link), Logistics Post(dead link), IMTS (doesn’t work), Other Services (doesn’t work)

– Instant Money Order- Detailed information on Instant Money order including booking, delivery, tariff, among other. To book an IMO you need to register on the site. One can track the status of the IMO on the site.  Thankfully, this section has been integrated well without linking to other sites.

– Electronic Money Order- Similar to Instant Money Order. One can book EMOs and find related information.

– Feedback – Lets users register a complaint and track its status. The links again take the user to the old India Post site’s “Web Based Customer Grievance Handling System”, with scary looking forms.

A few things:

– With so many dead links, how did the government decide to launch the site in the first place? Why not bring the tracking tools to the new portal and eliminate the links to the old site?

– Navigation is a big pain. Once one logs in to buy a money order, there is no link to go back to the main site. The site does not have a concept of user sessions, so if a user wants to make an instant money order payment after an electronic money order one or purchase a stamp, he will have to log in again.

– It is extremely cumbersome to register on the site. Even if one fills all the mandatory fields, errors keep coming up. And why not bring the registration at the end. The present approach would discourage people from using the site leave alone making any transactions.

– As we said earlier a more universal alternative to Flash would have been better. Better give us a usable site instead of virtual tours.

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