Usability Hell

I’m a Dreamhost user from years back who took a hiatus from the web hosting life for a while. I left as an enthusiastic Dreamhost user who was very pleased with the dashboard and services.

I returned yesterday and have had nothing but difficulty. I shared part of my frustration with a nice support agent, but am so frustrated by my experience that I wanted to share it directly as a suggestion. The context of my frustration is thus: I registered two domains yesterday, one after the other. (The confusing elements of that process I will leave for another post.) After some waiting and some weird billing thing that’s clearly a bug, I’ve come back today to add hosting to my portfolio of services. I logged into my web console and confirmed my domains were present. From here, I’ll re-enact my clicks and thought process:

  • I’d like some simple shared web hosting services. Looking down the left menu, I’m pretty sure that’s not listed there. I don’t want just “Dreampress” (I think … it’s unclear to me what all that entails), I know I don’t want VPS or Dedicated Servers, and the only other obvious choice would be “Cloud Services” but the two options underneath seem definitely not to be what I want.

  • I click “Goodies.” Nope, these options appear to be for people who have hosting, the type of person I’m aspiring to be but finding it difficult to become.

  • I go back to “Domains” and click on “Secure Hosting” because, hey, security is a good thing and I’d like some. But, no. It’s just certificate services, something else that’s only relevant to me after I figure out how to add some blasted simple shared hosting.

  • I go back to “Manage Domains” and, hmm, may be on to something. So I click the “Add Hosting to a Domain” button.

  • I don’t really need any more Redirect/Parking/Cloaking yet, so I guess I should follow the “upgrade to our Happy Hosting Plan” link. I’m taking to my Billing Account page. Another button: I’ll click the “Add A Shared Hosting Plan” button, because, hey, it’s the first time I’m seeing the actual name of what I think I want!

  • Hmm, I can choose how much to pay. I immediately note that the difference in monthly costs is significant, but I need to go drag out my calculator if I want to know how much I’m going to actually be billed by choosing one of these options. Before I do that, though, I’d very much like to know what I’m paying for. Maybe there are optional services here I could add on. (Side note: I’m cautious about this because I don’t want to type my credit card info in for a fourth, then fifth time again. Despite saving my card for rebilling purposes, I had to type it in the first time I registered a domain – obviously – and then type it in the second time I registered a domain a few minutes later and then type it in a third time when I needed to pay the balance remaining because I was bizarrely only charged $20 instead of $29.95 on the second domain registration…there’s no option to use the credit card on-file that I can see.)

  • So, I click the small “View our hosting features” afterthought-link at the top. If you can’t tell, I’m getting frustrated at this point.

  • I’m taken from my dashboard to a page – same tab – where I immediately notice a “Sign In” link in the top right. Wait, did you guys just sign me out? How am I supposed to add something? Okay, I guess. I can sign back in when I need to. Let me see if I can find some reasonable information about the hosting features.

  • Wow. I see the marketing department has really gotten their little hipster fingers on this page. Here’s some testimonial about how happy people are with their service. What service? Who gives af, I guess. I scroll (and scroll, and scroll, and scroll)…A host I can trust. With what? I don’t know yet. Scrolling more, I see “Host Your Own Website” as a heading among a list of 6 weirdly eclectic items, but I’m interested in a couple of them. I’m clearly hot on the trail. Scroll some more. Unlimited everything! (Except information, apparently. This page is pretty but useless to me so far.) More scrolling. “Standard Features.” Okay, this is starting to actually look like what I’m wanting. I see bullet points hinting at the things I’m really wanting to know about. This definitely sounds more like what I want. I scroll (and scroll and scroll) some more just to make sure I’m not missing anything, and I’m not. So I scroll back up to click the “Sign up for web hosting!” button, and note that there’s a “starting at $7.95 per month” price line. Okay, noted.

  • I click the “Sign up” button, even though I’m not really sure if it’s what I should do. I mean, I’ve already signed up with Dreamhost and I have an account. Is this going to take me to a registration page of some sort? Will I re-register? That page was obviously geared to non-logged-in viewers, since it gave me a “Sign In” link at the top. This feels like a risky click but I’m desperate.

  • Whoa. “Order Complete”? What order? Do I not have plans to choose from? The price said “starting from …” … is that what I’ve just ordered? It says I’ll get my shell account password as soon as you’ve finished activating my account. I don’t know what that means, but I’m prompted now to “Continue to my web panel”. Because that’s all I can do, I guess.

  • Aaaaaand here I am. Back at the page where it started, where I’m given a list of monthly prices without any indication of what they’re for. I note that the prices actually start at $5.95, not $7.95, so that’s confusing. What happens if I pick the $5.95 price? Is that some service that’s less than the $7.95 price? “Happy Hosting” is a theme here, but I don’t remember seeing the features associated with a “Happy Hosting” theme on the scrolly mcscrollyface page. I DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU ARE WANTING TO BILL ME FOR, WHY DO I ONLY GET TO CHOOSE HOW OFTEN YOU WILL DO IT?! OH! But I can “name” my new plan. Wow, that’s cute.

  • So I bail and click “Return to account management” and see that no, in fact, I have no shared hosting plan. There was no “order complete” two steps back, as sudden and jarring as that declaration was, it was also apparently a lie. Wow, do I not trust this web site.

Help. Fix this insanity, please, so that I can see what you offer, buy it, and pay you some damn money.

The Happy Hosting is the shared hosting. The service is the same, but there’s a monthly discount if you take out for a longer period. You have 97-day money-back guarantee so if unhappy with the Happy, you can cancel

Thanks for that clarification. Is there somewhere I can see a detailed list of what that includes, how to access it, what the process will be upon purchase, etc? The bullet list on the extremely long-scrolling market page scratches the surface, but is that bullet list the only information I have to go on?

Whenever I want to see what’s going on with hosting plans, I hit the main site. Here’s the section on Shared Hosting:

It gets better farther down the page as you approach Standard Features.

Once you purchase a plan, you can go through some of the Help articles:

As a sidenote, I remember the learning curve when I first signed up. It’s very different than cPanel hosting. And the DreamHost panel gets restructured from time to time with new surprises as well. Post back if you hit any more snags.