Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bike in Bath: great idea, flaky website

So, at last Bath has its own Boris Bikes. Bike in Bath is open for testing today, and gets its official launch later this month. And it's a great idea.

You buy a bike card (by registering online or in person from the Tourist Information Office in Abbey Church Yard), you head to one of the four docking stations (here's Green Park this morning, although apparently it's not operational yet), you wave your card at the gadgetry, you retrieve your splendid blue steed and off you pedal. Remembering only to return your bike to a docking station when you've finished with it.

As an added bonus, the first 30 minutes are free.

An excellent idea, and I shall be taking one of the bikes for a spin in the next day or so.

What's not so great, though, is the Bike in Bath website.

If you Google Bike in Bath you won't find it. Possibly because the page title on the Bike in Bath home page is "Home Page", which even from my limited knowledge of search engine optimisation I know is a bit of a bad start.

The fact that the words "bike" and "Bath" don't appear anywhere in the home page source code probably doesn't help much either, SEO-wise.

If you Google bikeinbath (without any spaces), Google will helpfully return a search for "bikes Bath". If you reject that suggestion and tell Google yes, you really did mean "bikeinbath", then the top link is to the whois record for

So far, so hard to find.

If you persevere and reach that elusive home page, your eye is immediately greeted by a chunk of light grey text on a white background (bad contrast), aligned left. Before you have a chance to finish reading it, it disappears and is replaced by another chunk of light grey text on a white background, aligned right (even harder to read.) This text flickers distractingly to and fro as you try to read the rest of the page.

Down the right-hand side are three grey panels with white text on them. Again, a bit hard to read. The middle one says "Recharg your ticket". Spelling mistake number one (there are lots).

Undaunted, you click the link to the Subscribe page. Whose title is SUBSCIBE (another spelling mistake). Here your can check availability of bikes in your "municpality" (losing count here) and "zona" (spelling mistake or untranslated Italian?) You learn you can pick up a bike from the "Holbourne" Museum. (It's Holburne, and is correct on their Station page, although here they've spelled "available" as "avabile".)

As well as the spelling mistakes there is non-English English all over the place. For example "You will contribute to reduce emissions"; "each stations is composed by a series of cycle-parking columns"; "move around the city in a fast, amusing and ecologically-friendly manner". Yes, "municipality" is an English word. But not one that anyone ever uses.

Never mind, though. Let's follow the instructions to register online:

"1 Register on the portal by accessing the panel for the reserved area"

There's no hyperlink from that text. You have to guess that to register you actually need to click a tiny blue "Login" link in the top right-hand corner of the page. 

When you do, you get this:

They put a login form to their own administration pages on the same panel as they use for user registration? Why? Links like that should be totally private.

Click the Register button and it takes you to "Pagina senza titolo" which asks for personal contact details and password over non-secure HTTP. There are two pull-downs for "State" which both present lists of countries. There are two pull-downs for "Country" which both present lists of nothing at all. The "Zip Code" input box won't allow enough characters for a UK postcode.

These are all very simple mistakes which could have been put right with basic proof-reading (maybe by a native English speaker, since the site is directed at English people?) and usability testing.

Sorry, Bike in Bath. I want to love you, but I won't be using your website to register - there are too many errors to inspire confidence. Time for a stroll to Tourist Information.


  1. Why would you use an Italian IT company ( to create your website? I am sure there are plenty of competent and competitively priced web companies in Bath or Bristol.

  2. I'm very interested to know, website aside, what is your perception of the scheme now the honeymoon period is over?

    Discounting novelty value I've never been sure who the target audience is, especially given the short distances concerned and the pricing based short hire periods?

  3. Long honeymoon - more than two years ;-) Hard to tell - if you go to their website it appears that only two or three bikes are available at each station, so SOMEONE must be hiring them (or they're all bust?). But who? Not locals, I would have thought because you can't really do a useful A-to-B journey. Perhaps they're all out for tonight's Critical Mass.