Recently, I wanted to manage my billing options, as I had an invalid credit card tied to my Zune and XBOX Live account.  Unfortunately, I had the experience of meeting the Microsoft Billing and Account Management site.  This is unfortunate, as it is a site with horrible, HORRIBLE user experiences.

Select from Account IDs 

Yes, somebody didn’t get the memo that exposing accounts as account IDs really is a bad user experience.  Let’s see what I have…

  • Acct ID# 00000-00000-00020-12345 (Personal)
  • Acct ID# 00000-00000-02300-12345 (Personal)
  • Acct ID# 00000-00000-02412-12345 (Personal)
  • Acct ID# 00000-00000-02460-12345 (Personal)
  • Acct ID# 00000-00000-00302-12345 (Business)

Now those aren’t my real account numbers, but these are the options that I’m given. I have no idea what any of these account IDs mean. What’s better… in their respective applications, I don’t see these IDs. So why are you showing them to me as an option? Why couldn’t I get options that look more like the ones below?

  • Hotmail Plus (Personal)
  • XBOX Live (Personal)
  • TBD TBD (Personal)
  • Platform Services (Personal)
  • marketplaceformobile.somerandomstring.US  (Business)

I have no idea what some of these are even for – especially if there’s no service listing for that account.  And TBD TBD… no idea what that even is let alone why it appears there.  Some of these are even cancelled services, so why would I care to manage their Billing if I don’t have them anymore? (Edited note: Talking with my husband, we think this might be a migration of multiple billing systems into one, which could only lead down an ugly path.)

Now one of my accounts looks like it manages my XBOX Live, Zune Pass, and App Hub accounts.  So maybe coming up with friendly names for the accounts is a bit harder for their devs… how about letting the end user create friendly names for those accounts rather than showing them Acct ID# 00000-00000-00020-12345?

Disconnect in Payment Data

I went through the process of removing the invalid credit card from my Zune and XBOX Live account.  Looking at this in the Billing portal though, I see that this card has been marked as Removed on my cancelled MSN Hotmail Plus account. If I switch to my XBOX Live account, I see that same credit card listed, without being marked as Removed.  Really?  Mind you, under both accounts, it shows as Xbox Live (Visa: xxxxxxxxxxxx0000) – same exact name.  Why wouldn’t show as Removed on the XBOX Live account?

400 Clicks Later

As I mentioned on Twitter today, I was having other issues with my Zune account where credits weren’t showing.  Thankfully, @ZuneSupport and the Zune support chat team were able to find a solution that works for my needs.  However, I had Tweeted that I had hoped I wouldn’t get sent to the Microsoft Billing site as it was a headache user experience.  Leave it to one of my friends to point out that there’s the joys of clicking through a lot of screens to get the data you need.  Boy was she right!  Even the context-driven FAQs on the right of each page… click, click, click… ah there’s what I need… maybe.

Conclusion

I hope that one day Microsoft will invest in a great user experience team that can go through their websites and find these problems before we do.  At the moment, there are a lot of painful user experiences on their sites that I use, and the more I have to use these sites, the more I’m tempted to look at alternative solution providers or weigh the cost of abandoning my current services just to get away from these bad experiences.  Painful user experiences are what drives users to competitors who get the user experience right.  Please, Microsoft, save us from the painfulness known as your billing site by working with UX experts on making it easier to deal with.