Saturday, January 19, 2013

Free at last

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Parking signs

NYC has unveiled new parking signs, which are being heralded as a triumph of information design.

Wow! White space!

The new signs make the days and times smaller, so they’re harder to read at a distance. When you’re driving around looking for parking, you want to be able to read the sign quickly. What leaps out? 3 and 6! Is that helpful?

The new signs still don’t provide the key information that parking is free with no time limit at all times not posted.

And the new signs are organized by restriction, rather than by time. It’s Sunday at 2 pm, and you need to decide whether you’re allowed to park. You have to read everything to decide there are no restrictions.

Why not organize the signs by time, and make the unrestricted times explicit:

And if you really want to save space and continue to keep the free times implicit, you can leave those parts out:

There are a lot of possible improvements here, including making the times larger so they can be read more easily at a distance. There may be other restrictions that make this layout cumbersome. But if you’re rethinking the signs, why not actually rethink the signs?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Why your W-2 is late

Having trouble logging in to the Social Security Administration’s Business Services Online website at Try putting your user id and password entirely into lowercase. Yes, their system may display it in uppercase. Yes, they may mail you an uppercase or mixed case user id or password. Yes, you may have been able to log in previously with uppercase or mixed case, and you may still be able to. They aren’t really sure what’s happening.

Having trouble with the SSA BSO site removing services from your employer account? That’s because their back end doesn’t believe you should pay wages unless you also receive wages, so they periodically go through their accounts and remove the ability to submit wage reports.

Having trouble with the SSA BSO site not letting you add services, and sending you in an infinite loop? That’s because they believe you have some other account already active. You can create as many accounts as you want, but you can’t do anything with them.

Having trouble with the SSA BSO site locking you out? Don’t click on “forgot password” or they will freeze your account, mail you a new password in 2-3 weeks, and not allow you file your wage reports until that turns up. And try not to go so long between logging in. You may only need to file wage reports once a year, but they’d like to see you more often than that. Hurt their site’s feelings and they may disable your account.

Having trouble with the SSA BSO site’s security questions? Give up. They’ve told me that it’s impossible to have an account without security questions, that my account has no security questions, that I can’t log in without correctly answering the security questions that aren’t on my account, that it’s impossible to add security questions, and that it’s impossible to delete an account and start over.

Having trouble with the SSA BSO site and not getting help from the regular reps? Try calling 888-772-2970 and ask for technical assistance. Want to fax them a letter authorizing yourself to file wage reports? Try faxing a letter to 570-706-7875, and don’t think too hard about the security theater. They have no idea what they are trying to accomplish or prevent, but they know they want to impress you. So sit back, relax, and let your mind go empty. They have.

Updated to add: They now auto-expire passwords after 90 days, even though many users only need to log in every 12 to 13 months.