Page design to encourage correct bill payment

I’ve been noticing lately that I make a lot of mistakes when paying bills. Silly things mostly – like paying a page subtotal instead of the bill total, or paying the late payment fee when I didn’t need to. Last week I managed to pay just the GST amount instead of the full bill.

Mistakes like these are partly caused by busyness and a lack of focus. But they’re also a reflection of legibility problems. If a bill is difficult to read quickly, then it will be difficult to follow and difficult to pay correctly. Every legibility problem adds to the difficulties that users experience.

It’s worthwhile remembering that bill paying is a critical time in the customer relationship. If paying your bills is straightforward and easy, your customers are more likely to return. If paying your bills is confusing and your customers make mistakes, there’s a reasonable chance that your customer relationship will suffer.

Some of the simple legibility problems I’ve noticed lately include:

  • GST amounts that are bigger and bolder than the total amount payable (which was why I paid just the GST amount)
  • Bill layouts where every page shows the same page furniture (such as the payment details), so it’s impossible to tell how many pages the bill runs for and where the total might be found
  • Bills that provide the payment details in such a tiny font that I need strong light and a magnifying glass before I can pay
  • Bills that provide the payment details as one long string of numbers … in a long string, it’s almost impossible to identify separate numbers – and particularly to see how many zeros are in a string
  • Bills that provide the payment details split across two lines, so that the bank account where payment is to be directed is split in two
  • Bills with the page number hidden in a footer, so it’s impossible to keep the pages in order
  • Bills that are sent multiple times (often by both post and email), and bills that are sent as a combination of invoice and statement – all of which make it difficult to know what to pay and when.

I could continue, but you probably get the idea by now. A good bill should be easy to read and easy to pay. The best way to test this is to watch your clients as they try to pay your bills. You might be surprised about where they experience difficulty.