The Voice: The Voting Nightmare

Having never been much of a fan of TV talent shows, it was something of a surprise to me that I got sucked in by The Voice. Maybe it’s the fact that contestants are judged on their voice, not their image. Or the judge/coaches: lovable Action Man figure Will.i.am, sassy Jessie J telling it how it is, feisty Danny O’Donoghue delivering the blarney and Sir Tom Jones presiding over them all as benevolent National Treasure. Or perhaps it’s the contestants: belting out power ballads as if their lives depend on it.

Anyway it’s hard not to be swept up in the whole hype of it all. You could watch it just for the way the coaches react as their protégées nail that 17-second high note. And I have to admit I got a bit emotional in that sitting-on-a-sofa-with-a-glass-of-wine way when 20-year-old Ruth Brown sang the Oleta Adams song Get Here – so I thought I’d vote for her. Which is when all the good will and warm feelings died.

The user experience problem - an unexpected user type?

It was a snap decision – I wasn't expecting to vote or anything, so I missed the numbers on the screen as I was digging out my phone. No problem. I go straight to the bbc.co.uk/thevoice website on my phone as I’ve been urged to do by the ever likeable Reggie Yates. But… There’s nothing on the page about voting. Must be some mistake. I mean voting lines are only open for half an hour, surely they’d be geared up for this? Ah, wait a minute, there’s a nice big ‘Vote now’ button. Click that a couple of times before realising the ‘vote now’ is for saying how you’ll be watching the live shows:

  • Viewing party with all my mates
  • On my own – I CANNOT be distracted
  • Cuddling up with my boyfriend/girlfriend/pet
  • In the audience

There doesn't seem to be an option for ‘Shouting at the telly in disbelief’. OK, getting a bit annoyed now. It must be on here somewhere. Find a FAQ page about voting – great… Short vid from Reggie about how I must call the short mobile codes NOT TEXT them. OK, cool, I’ve got the first bit I have to dial: 62131, now dial the number relating to Ruth Brown. But there’s nothing about which number relates to each artist. Just reams and reams of text about why Mobile Short Dial Codes (MSDCs) don’t work on VOIP connections. So, time is ticking away. I know, Ruth Brown was last to perform so all I need to do is work out how many performances there were tonight and I can deduce the number. How many were there? I missed the beginning… But surely that info is on here somewhere – I mean a line-up of the artists on today’s show, that’s basic, right? OK, list of artists, who’ve been eliminated so far… Nothing about today’s show. I mean, absolutely zilch.

Mobile vs Desktop vs Cross-channel

I decide to abandon the smartphone and go to the desktop to see if I’m going mad. My wife says, ‘It’s all right, Ruth Brown’s going to get through. She doesn’t need your vote that badly. But I’ve already put in so much effort! And anyway that’s not the point. I want to exercise my voting rights, to feel involved… I haven’t got that excited about the London Mayoral elections but then I don’t like any of the candidates… I don’t want to give up. If I guess the total number of contestants that’d do it. But what if I end up voting for the one before Ruth that I didn’t like? I could over-estimate the number of contestants and work back on the assumption that I won’t get charged for voting for acts that don’t exist. I feel like trying to find the information on the web at large – surely I'm not the only one going through this pain. I feel stupid. Even though I know that this is what users always feel when they can't do something on a website. It's what nervous participants say when we conduct usability testing sessions with them – ‘It must be my fault. I’m not very good with websites, you know.’ And we always say, ‘It’s not your fault, it’s the way the website has been built – without meeting your needs.’ And that’s true. It isn’t my fault. It’s the fault of whoever designed this whole voting experience, if ‘designed’ is actually the right word. But that doesn’t make me feel any better. I’m sure there were thousands, perhaps millions of people who managed to cast their vote without hitch. People who had their phones primed and ready. But I can’t help thinking I wasn’t the only one who tried and failed. What does it matter? Not much in the grand scheme of things. I suppose the BBC, not being commercially driven, won’t miss the odd bit of vote revenue – 25p a vote with 10p going to the BBC Performing Arts Fund. Maybe there’s even some arcane 20th Century BBC Charter reason about not promoting vote lines on the web. I don’t like to think that it might be because they forgot, or they didn’t think of it. The next day, I tried to view show clips on my mobile, but after tracking the content down and even pressing ‘play’, the site informed me I couldn’t watch the clips on a mobile device. It told me to go to the desktop instead. So it makes me think that none of this is joined up in anything like a multi-channel way. Which is somewhat disappointing. Anyway, you’ll be relieved to hear it hasn't knocked the shine off the show for me. I’ll be tuning in next week. I might even vote, now I know the numbers will be up on the screen for a fleeting moment or two. And Ruth Brown did make it. My vote wasn’t crucial. If you want to know what all the fuss is about – check this out: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00rtlrn Have you ever experienced this type of let down? When basic information or functions that you just expect to be there have simply been left out? Let us know your thoughts!

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