Friday, June 20, 2008

Transaction costs

It is striking that one of the main uses of the Web for doing business is to go to a site and find the phone number to call and place the order. In almost all cases this is way more effective than performing the transaction online.

For example, I got through snail mail a notice to renew an auto license's tabs and the choices were to go by the local office of the bureaucracy and present the document, pay the fee and get the tabs. This involves a certain amount of nuisance but because this is such a small town courthouse it only takes a few minutes when I'm in town for other chores.

The other alternative is to do it online and have the tabs mailed to me. This involves over 10(!) screens' worth of drill-down and lots of near-imponderable entries of data that is clearly on file or I wouldn't have gotten the request to renew.

Why do we paranoiacally erect so many barriers to convenient transactions? These will be the death of the promise of the Web to completely eliminate the rigors of these sorts of transactions. The one-click at Amazon is the closest to truly usable methodology and even there you have to gain familiarity with the process to, e.g. have a book sent to a different address.

Oh, well - whoever said that it would be easy didn't quite understand the old proverb "saying easy, doing hard".


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