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Friday, April 17, 2015

How was that new form?

Well, I'm finally recovered from the filing window, so I thought I'd give some feedback on the new online form.  All of these observations were made in the heat of filing, and I'm unwilling to go back and verify them, so they're a little suspect.  They're also in no particular order. I'll divide them into pluses and minuses, but otherwise they're just pretty much in the order in which I was nettled by them.

  1. The "Back" button saves whatever you've put in.  Sometimes.  In the old days, "Back" meant "discard everything I just typed in and go to the previous page." 
  2. The countdown clock still shows the seconds ticking away.  I just love that.
  3. If you paste in a number with extraneous spaces, the spaces are stripped out.
  4. On the last couple of days, I didn't notice any significant slowdown or failure.
  5. Some errors are automatically fixed (like if you put in a Service End Date outside the Funding Year on a Month-to-Month FRN).

  1. Item 21 is a pop-up in front of the browser window (the browser window is grayed out).  If you click outside the pop-up but inside the browser window, it makes the pop-up vanish, and any info you put in vanishes.  So if you've completely filled the attachment, but you want to switch to the vendor's bid to check the price of one of the items, when you click back in the browser window, beware!  Click on the grayed-out part of the window, and you have to start over again.  On a big Category 2 FRN, it's an easy way to lose a half hour's work.
  2. Why do I have to make a selection under Burstable Bandwidth for an FRN that's just POTS lines?  [Perhaps the programmers thought Burstable POTS was a clever shout-out to Legend of Zelda?]  At least you can leave the bandwidth fields empty.
  3. You can't paste in an amount if it has a dollar sign or comma in it.  You don't get an error message, it just acts like you never pasted.  After pasting 3 times and seeing nothing happen, I figured something was up and starting stripping out punctuation.
  4. It's tedious to have to fill out several pages where you used to have only one.  Block 1 used to be one page, now it's several pages.  Simpler pages, but still.  And Block 5 is a dizzying array of pages, popups and buttons.  But I guess most of the extra Block 5 pages are the result of the amazing increase in the complexity of Block 5.
  5. If you import Block 4 from a Category 1 application into a Category 2 application, it doesn't fill in the enrollment in the Budget Calculation section, even though the enrollments are right there in the Discount Calculation Worksheet.
  6. Chrome autofill doesn't work.  Not a big deal for normal applicants, but I was grinding my teeth every time I had to type my Consultant ID again.
  7. If an Item 21 item has only one entity, you have to check that services are shared equally among all entities.  I want it to say "shared equally among all entity."
  8. Item numbers are gone.  No longer can I say: "Whatever you do, don't check Item 23f" or "The person in Item 6a should be the person who will answer application reviewers's questions."  It was handy shorthand for us E-Rate geeks.
  9. We still have "Item 21 Attachments," even though there is no Item 21 any more.  It was unfortunate jargon before, but now it's just inscrutable.
  10. Tab order is messed up.  For example tab from Item 23d and you end up at the "Certify Online" button, which is definitely not where you want to be, because you still have to check all those certifications.
  11. Why force people to check all those boxes in Block 6?  Why not just one big fat certification?  It would streamline the process to have applicants ignore one big certification rather than having to ignore a dozen little ones.
  12. You can't tab from checkbox to checkbox on the Certifications page.  Block 6 used to be: click the first box, tab, space bar (which checked the box), tab, tab, space, tab, type in some number for 23d, tab, tab, space, tab, space, tab, space, tab, space, tab, space, tab, space, tab, space, tab, space, tab, space, tab, space, tab, space, tab, space, tab and then you're filling in certifier information.
  13. Those certification checkboxes are too small for a man of my age to click in reliably.  When my laptop wasn't docked to a big screen and mouse, it was taking me 2 or 3 attempts using the trackpad and the little screen.
  14. Why do I have to give a bandwidth for dark fiber?  It's dark; it doesn't have a bandwidth.
  15. Some of the fixes are too automatic.  If you put a date outside the funding year for a Month-to-Month service, the system automatically fixes it.  That's great, except maybe you checked MTM by mistake, and if a message popped up saying "Hey, you put in the wrong date, but it's fixed now."  Actually, an error message does appear for a moment, but it vanishes instantly as the form fixes the date for you.
  16. And sometimes those autofixes are weird.  When you type a date into the contract expiration date box in Block 5, if you type two digits for the year, it automatically adds the "20"; cool!  But wait, it changed to "6/30/16" to "6/29/2016."  And if you click in there and try to change "29" to "30," you end up some time in the year 2199.  So check it out: type in "6/31/16," and it will become "6/30/2016."  I spent way too much time trying to imagine what algorithm would unintentionally cause that behavior.
  17. In Block 5, if you check "Yes" under "Is every entity on this application receiving the product or service in this line item?" then go back to Block 4 and add a new entity, unbeknownst to you, the box unchecks itself, and the new entity is not part of any funding request.  Seems to me if you checked Yes to every entity sharing, that should include entities added later.  And even if it doesn't, you should get a warning that adding an entity in Block 4 changes Block 5.
  18. Sometimes if you make an error in a pop-up window, the window goes away, and you think you've accomplished whatever you were in that pop-up to do, when in fact you need to go back and do it over.
  19. If you aren't ready to put numbers in the Discount Calculation Worksheet, for God's sake don't click in there.  Once you've clicked there and opened one of those text boxes, you can't do anything else until you put a number in there.  You can't even log out of the application. I was stuck in that box when the system logged me out for inactivity, and I was completely locked out, looking at a grayed-out window (with the countdown clock ticking away) and a pop-up saying: "Number of Students Attending this School as their Home School is required." I had to close the browser window.
Overall, the form was better than I expected, and less quirky, but any new form will have its oddities.

I was disappointed that we didn't find any new Stupid 471 Tricks, but we'll keep looking.

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