Rant time again. Oh the things that get me worked up to finally blog again.
Sadly, while this image I found on Google Images represents the messaging I saw, it does not represent what I saw. My experience wasn’t quite so pretty.
First I couldn’t access my mail that I was getting notified about from Live Messenger, Microsoft’s site said that Office 365 users can’t upgrade to Office.com.
This account can't be used to access Outlook.com
You're currently signed in with an Office 365 email account, which can't be used with Outlook.com. Please click here to sign out of your Office 365 account, then use another Microsoft account to sign in to Outlook.com (for example, your hotmail.com, live.com, or msn.com account).
Well that would be all fine and fair, except that I had no recollection of having anything to do with Office 365, and I was still getting these “new mail” alerts from Live Messenger every time I log into (not boot, log into) my work computer. There was no way to fix the problem. If I went to Office 365’s web site and attempted to sign in, I got in a bizarre redirect loop. Clearly I had no actual Office 365 account because I never got involved with Office 365, but somewhere, somehow, a flag got buried in my profile that identified me as an Office 365 user when attempting to get into Hotmail / Outlook.com.
Then yesterday or this morning I got a splashy marketing email from Microsoft saying that my account was ready to upgrade to Outlook.com. This email comes just hours after I was told I couldn’t upgrade. I figured there was maybe a 5% chance that the email was accurate in its portrayal of my account being upgradeable, that something had changed in my account overnight and that Microsoft was so proud of itself they decided to make the email look splashy. Of course, I was right, I still got this ridiculous message saying Office 365 users can’t upgrade.
Again, I wasn’t an Office 365 user. I may have poked at it once to see what it was. Since I could find no recourse, I went about deleting my profile so I could re-create it. I read the up-front warnings about account deletion carefully before proceeding, being sure it didn’t say that I wouldn’t be able to recreate the account with the same e-mail address ever again or for some long period of time. I saw nothing like that. So *click*, gone, deleted. So as I go to recreate it, it tells me the e-mail address is in use. Great. I did some Googling and discovered in an Xbox forum that there is a 90-day waiting period, at least on Xbox, before the email address that was used to originally create the now-deleted account can be reused to create another one.
Curious as to whether some of the older link-ins to the “create a new [Microsoft/Xbox/whatever] account” might skip over the locked email matter, which of course everything I tried still failed, I couldn’t help but note that these link-ins are still calling new accounts “MSN Hotmail” accounts, and with some really old graphics and formatting. REALLY, Microsoft?
Seriously, Microsoft, can’t you get your ducks in order?!
1. Don’t ever lock out a group of users from accessing a service without providing a means for those users to remove themselves from that group. I was “an Office 365” account user, but I didn’t want to be, I had no intention to be, I don’t remember how I become one--perhaps play-testing what was out there, but I had already used this account to use Windows Live Messenger, Hotmail (hence my notifications), and a Windows 8 login profile (which has now been destroyed due to this Office 365 horsecrap, thanks!), and instead of deleting my account I should have been able to get into some kind of obvious interface and just drop that incompatible feature.
2. Better yet, with all the consolidations you guys have done for all the IDs as “Microsoft Accounts”, at least in promises throughout the news media, you should not have allowed an incompatibility to exist! Instead there should have been a conversion process that would immediately take place. But no, you had to go and BLAME THE USER, spin around, and walk away! I get better treatment at the Department of Motor Vehicles!
3. Microsoft, if someone is deleting a user profile, tell them up front, “You will not be able to recreate an account with the e-mail address you used to create this account for 90 days” right in there next to the delete button! I had to have it already deleted before I considered sleuthing forums (!!) to find a hint at the 90 days, and I still don’t know for sure if the 90 days on Xbox accounts translates to 90 days for my account.
4. Remember Passport, Microsoft? I mean, it is the original branding of what is now Microsoft Accounts. Do you remember? Well, a lot of customers do, and they're treated to a miserable experience when they go to http://passport.net/ in Chrome. Not to mention, when they go to sign up for a Microsoft Accounts account there, they get the experience of jumping around between three or four brands and never land on Microsoft Accounts. So, again, did you forget about Passport.net, Microsoft?
5. By the way, signing in with my personal account into answers.microsoft.com, I was greeted with this, and it never went away. Ever.
Microsoft, your Microsoft Accounts, all of its forms, is a product. Your product is of immensely poorly constructed quality it’s hard to know where to begin. How is it that I got into a redirect loop when I attempted to access the Office 365 web site to try to find something to turn off or remove myself from? Why is it that depending on which community web site I’m accessing, when I access the same “log in” dialog and choose to create a new account I am presented with such the disgusting legacy of an “MSN Hotmail” account setup? Microsoft, all of your new users using this navigation path are going to see that crap. Do you want to relinquish the marketing verbiage of MSN Hotmail or not? If not, why then would you allow these legacy interfaces to be so commonly exposed to the general public? It would be something else entirely if I was trying to access some rarely used feature of Microsoft’s web site, but no, this was a navigation path that Microsoft would probably hope every last human being with an Internet connection would follow.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that Microsoft has to take a phased approach to this stuff; let’s roll out new marketing changes and new reorganizations in phases, people will just suffer through the legacy stuff for a while. I call bullcrap!! This is 2012, business practices we’ve settled for need to change. If you want to output something of quality, you don’t launch a hybrid mess of ancient and new and call it “new”, you call it “hybrid mess of ancient and new”! Who do you think you’re fooling, Microsoft, when you greet people with “log into your Microsoft Account” with elegant branding but then as soon as they begin setting up their profile they get this 2005-esque MSN Hotmail experience? It was the same user story! Creating a Microsoft Account to access a service/community. How many Microsoft Account stories are there, really? I count five: Log in, log out, create a new account, manage your account, delete your account. Yet it seems no one managing Microsoft Account considered that it might make a poor level of quality to have two completely different branding experiences while navigating through any of these puny five stories. As huge and important as Microsoft Accounts is ... Really, Microsoft?!
Side note: I make such rants because I’m hoping Microsoft is listening, not because I think people should walk away from Microsoft services because I absolutely don’t think that. Microsoft needs to clean this stuff up. This has been going on with Passport / MSN / Live / Microsoft Accounts forever. (Speaking of Passport, have you navigated to http://passport.net in Chrome lately? Its layout is so broken it’s tempting to think it’s not alive anymore.) I am also hoping everyone who is not at Microsoft (basically almost everyone who reads my blog) can take a lesson from this about user experiences and what not to settle for.