A few weeks ago, my girlfriend lost my ORCA card that had about $20 in fare on it. No big deal, I thought, and ordered a replacement online. Going to the website and reporting my card as lost was easy. In a few easy steps, I paid a $5 replacement fee, my card was deactivated, and my new card was in the mail.
When my new card arrived, I was reminded of some of ORCA’s successes. The printed materials and the card itself are very well designed. Everything in the envelope is internally consistent and it’s clear there was some work put into the brand of ORCA and ensuring its ease of use. In other words, the physical aspects of ORCA feel thoughtful.
Few would call ORCA website thoughtful, though. On the technical side, the site suffers from rendering problems in modern browsers like Chrome, Safari, and Firefox as well as their mobile cousins that run on many smartphones. On the design side, doing something like setting up the auto-load functionality for your card isn’t accomplished by clicking a button and filling out details, but rather clicking a button and then finding a link in a long-winded paragraph of text.
The expectation that people are unoccupied enough to read paragraphs of dry transit-speak is poor design and is a poor compliment to the good printed materials in the ORCA universe. Good design is knowing that people don’t read anything. This kludge may be an explanation as to why adoption of the useful auto-load technology represents less than 1% of registered cards, according to data from the ORCA Quarterly Program Management Report.
Like any other person, I wasn’t unoccupied enough to read the wall of text when reporting my card lost, so I expected my replacement card to pay for my bus the next morning. Oops: “please allow 8 to 10 days processing time for your funds to be transferred from your lost card to your new card.” I don’t know how it is possible to do something that’s so technically easy so slowly.
While the card is pretty and the system works pretty well, sometimes I can’t help but feel the ORCA project was half-designed and half-engineered.