Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

The Parking Ticket

This morning I got my very first parking ticket.

I have no excuse, I should have paid, but I hate paying for an hour's parking when I am only there for a 15 minute appointment.

That aside I quickly ripped open the sticky yellow envelope to see how much I would have to pay, scanning the content in a rush before driving home to start work for the day.

The first number I had seen was £50 and I spent my drive home berating myself for being so stupid.

Once home I had a quick look at how I should pay for my parking ticket. Good to see I could pay it at a Post Office, but not quite the way I wanted to pay it. There must be an online option right?

More details were found on the back of the ticket and I visited their website.

And this is where I nearly made an expensive mistake, which I expect many others have actually made.

The website asked me for my reference number and then allowed me to input the amount to pay. In went £50 and the rest of my details.

I am not sure what made me stop before I clicked Pay Now, but at this point I stopped and actually read the parking ticket in full. Maybe the lack of an amount on the website worried me and I wanted to check that I was entering the correct amount.

Whatever it was I am glad I did stop at this point because under the text about the £50 it said if you pay within 14 days it is only £25! Wow!

So I cleared that form and started again, saving myself £25 by just reading the ticket properly.

I can not help thinking this is a deceptive design pattern aimed at letting people get this wrong, rather than helping them pay the correct amount. I do not think that just because you are paying a fine you are less worthy of good UX or the respect of the people you are paying.

I wonder what would happen if I put in some made up amount, for instance the actual parking charge of £1.20? Would it have still let me do this?

The moral of the story - always pay for your parking! And always read the full instructions and do not trust anyone else to have your best interests at heart. Also if you are designing forms like this, do better.

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