Citizen’s Account Usability

Design,Edinburgh Thursday 15th November 2007

Edinburgh Council have a “Citizen’s Account” area on their website. I registered so that I could view and pay my council tax bills online. The process had been surprisingly painless until I came to add my council tax account number. I was presented with this stellar piece of form design:

Ignoring the incredibly sloppy layout bugs, it doesn’t look so bad, until you actually read the text:

Your account number is an 8 digit number which forms part of the 11 digit number to be found in the top right hand corner of your Council Tax demand. Please ignore the first digit and the last two digits of the 11 digit number. For example, if the number shown on your Council Tax demand is 91234567807, please enter 12345678.

(my emphasis)

Why, why, why are they making the user jump through hoops when entering a simple number? Why isn’t all this stupid number truncating done by the server? Entering an 11 digit account number (only once I notice) can be difficult enough without having to do a number puzzle on the data first. Council, you must try harder.



  1. I had a similar experience with the car tax site – except in my case I had to pick the exact few shortlisted days in which I could order a new tax disc. If you log on when you get the reminder you are told you will be billed for an extra month, so you wait, then when you try again in a week’s time it informs you it won’t arrive on time.
    No information on when you should order the disc online between. Just randomly “yes order now” or “i’m about to waste a month of your money”
    typical of public-funded services. all fur coat and no underwear.

  2. Don’t worry, mate, they’ll soon lose all the records and then they will pop up on open access somewhere on the web 🙂

  3. They have all the digits, par the last two on the council tax payment cards.

    I pay my council tax online here:

    … and they ask for the full 11 digits, so i manually wrote on the last 2 digits onto my card …. totally retarded!