Wednesday, June 22, 2011

USPS Everywhere Locator Not Up to Snuff.

I just checked out the USPS Everywhere Locator and quickly identified four problems that keeps it from being user friendly.

Locations are missing

Stamp Consignment Locations - Stamps are sold at all Giant supermarkets in the Washington DC area.  However, the locator does not include Giant supermarkets on Blair Road in Silver Spring, or University Boulevard in Wheaton, MD.   It does include the Giant supermarket in Bethesda.   

Post Offices are Missing - The Bethesda, MD Post Office is not identified in the locator.  If you switch the view to satellite and zoom in to the metro stop, you will see that Google knows where the Post Office is even if the Postal Service does not.

Locations are Misidentified

Post Offices are Misidentified - Correction 6/23/2011 10:05: The website identifies the Arlington Road Postal facility in Bethesda, Maryland as a full service facility.  In fact it is only a carrier depot.  The Post Office retail facility is the missing facility listed above.  Correction:   The Arlington Road postal facility in Bethesda, MD is a Post Office.  However patrons of busy shopping centers on both sides of Arlington Road would have a great deal of difficulty recognizing that the Arlington Road facility is a full service Post Office.   (I have been driving by it for over 15 years and never knew there was a retail counter inside.)

Pinpoints are in Wrong Location - The National Naval Medical Center Post Office has its pin on Bethesda Ave in Bethesda, MD   The actual post office is around a mile away on Wisconsin Ave where the National Naval Medical Center is actually located.   Anyone looking for a Post Office on Bethesda Avenue will find some fine restaurants, a bike shop, and a Mercedes dealership but no Post Office.

Services Contract Locations Offer Cannot be Easily Identified

The red pins on the map represent non-USPS facilities.  They do not differentiate between supermarkets, drug stores, and banks that only sell stamps, and other locations that offer parcel shipping and other services.  There are two options to fix this
  1. Color locations that sell parcel services differently than places that only sell stamps.   This is similar to what the United Parcel Service website does.
  2. Let customers choose what they want to do, buy stamps, ship a parcel, get a passport at the same time they pick an address or zip code.   Then when the pins pop up all the locations identified will offer the service that the customer wants.
Maps are not Necessarily the Easiest Way to View the Data

Both UPS and FedEx use a combination of maps and lists to view the locations nearest an address or zip code.   USPS Everywhere Locator should do the same for its web application and possibly its mobile application.      Lists with distances from a zip code or an address is helpful for finding a place to buy postal services when one is not familiar with the area.  For example, look at how the Allpoints ATM Network displays its locations to see how a combined approach would work.   Pins are great when you have at least a minimum understanding of where the pins are and if all of the pins provide the service that the user wants.  (see item 2 in the previous section.)  but a list that says how far a location is from an address might be even more helpful.  

One challege is that different approaches may be needed for web-based and mobile applications.   Clearly there is room for improvement in how data is displayed to make it as user friendly as possible.

Fixing this website is not hard (although it may not be cheap), so lets hope the Postal Service gets version 2.0 up and running soon.


Anonymous said...

The site does have some inaccuracies, but don't forget the Post Office Locator that has been available for quite some time at provides both a map and list of locations with many more details. The drop-down menu also helps identify collection box locations, PO Box availability, passport offices, etc.

Anonymous said...

How do you think we could be up to snuff when the Postal Service is falling apart.Haven't you read the headlines about the USPS.If the politicians get what they want there will not be a USPS.As the USPS falls apart so will service.