Massachusetts' Kafkaesque unemployment website

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I don’t know what this guy’s problem is with the “Other Messages” section - I spotted it about two seconds after seeing the first screenshot.


I’m more impressed by how this:

I became eligible for unemployment insurance when I left my job as a product engagement manager and researcher last month.

means this:

The day I was laid off,

Choosing to leave a job and being force aren’t exactly the same thing…


I thought the same thing. In California, unemployment kicks in when you’ve been laid off, not fired for cause or if you voluntarily leave a job



Between that and the “I didn’t spend a lot of time reading the page, which in retrospect seems arrogant,” I get the impression that while the site may be poorly put together, a significant extent of this user’s problems were caused by her own impatience, or unwillingness to actually read the data on her screen.


Government process is inefficient and hard to navigate? Has she never been to the DMV or paid taxes?

No shit, Sherlock.

As someone who literally has a Ph.D in computer science, I’m with the author. The startup I was working for in 2014 decided to get rid of my position entirely, and my severance ran out before I got a new job, so I had to navigate this mess too.

It’s freakishly bad from a UI perspective. Rather than reiterating what’s already been said, I’d just like to add that it’s pretty clear that whoever designed the registration process never went through it themselves. I spent over an hour getting the information together for a single page (here’s a thought, maybe tell us everything we’ll need beforehand?), only to find out there’d been some kind of timeout and I had to start over from the beginning.

I contrast this with my experience with the Minnesota DVS (DMV for the rest of you) website, which is nicely laid out, quickly and clearly tells me where I need to go, and somehow manages to have snappy performance while appearing to have been built by the lowest bidder.

Massachusetts is ridiculously behind the times, especially given that it’s a tech hub. Don’t even get me started on the courts - practically nothing is computerized, their probate department still uses the index-cards-in-folders method to locate documents.


If the confusion from bad UI causes people to have their payments denied, then that’s probably a feature, not a bug.


Well, as a native Bay Stater, I’ve seen all this first hand through friends, relatives, and ancient personal experience. (Personally, I ended up throwing in the towel because I didn’t really need the dough…and once I managed to navigate the process, the experience was beyond humiliating.)

Simply put: Massachusetts, for all of its relative wealth and human capital, has traditionally tolerated a byzantine public sector that operates largely in its own interest. In addition to living here, I am also a taxpaying homeowner in another state, and I have lived for a time in the Scandinavian socialist hall of mirrors known as Sweden. I have done business all over the US and elsewhere. I’ve got a pretty good basis of comparison.

Nothing compares to Massachusetts when it comes to the challenges and obstacles put before the citizenry in the public service arena. NOTHING. It is more difficult to accomplish things here. One simply assumes that there are always more forms, additional information, and just more running-around before one can even see if something is even possible.

As a result, we are cranky, impatient, cynical and fatalistic about everything from politics to sports. This is just one example of the ludicrous status-quo.

There are lots of great things about living here…but the public sector ain’t one of them.


A while back our hours were cut back and we could apply for unemployment to make some of that money back. Those that did spent a long day at the unemployment office, had to wait 2 weeks for their first payment and we went back to full time shortly after. They maybe got $40 and the rest of us had a few extra days off to enjoy the summer.


I’ve been through this site on the other side, paying nanny taxes. The first thing that clued me in to the ridiculousness of it is that the website is closed during overnight hours (I think 11pm-6am). Not just occasionally for site maintenance, but every single night, and if I remember correctly, different hours on weekends. What kind of system sets hours for when a self-service website is “open”?


Sometimes this works against you, though. Being a tech hub can mean that state governments were early adopters to go online, meaning their applications are built in on an ancient, creaking infrastructure, and their web department is a handful of people who have been working there since before UX/UI was a distinct or valued role. Late bloomers with smaller budgets are often forced into the better decision of contracting out, or have the opportunity to properly integrate their outreach/communications departments with their IT.


It kind of seems like having an unusually hard time navigating badly designed interfaces might be practically a requirement to do usability design work. If I have an easy time using bad interfaces, I’m likely to see a lot of interface design issues as “user problems” because hey, I can work with it just fine.

Yes, you were able to spot the section right away. For whatever reason it took me a good minute or more, and that was knowing that it was going to be in that screenshot because you’d already said it was there. If I hadn’t known it was there, I don’t know if I would have seen it or not.

By way of perhaps-faulty analogy - I am probably too strong a cyclist to be good at evaluating and designing cycling infrastructure for general use. I would probably underestimate how hard it is to ride up a particular hill, or accelerate through an intersection before the light changes - resulting in infrastructure only really usable by people who are already relatively strong cyclists: i.e. badly designed infrastructure.


State Bar of California website ( is down every night from 1:00 to 6:00 AM - bizarro


Every year, I forget that the IRS’s site for generating a “secure pin” (that you only ever use once and is 4 digits long, and you don’t have to remember, and is basically as far as I can tell, a hash salt that’s pointlessly shown to the user), doesn’t work in Firefox. Or Chrome. Or under any linux browser at all… Because it relies on AciveX for some cockamamie reason. Totally unnecessary. Boggles the mind.


Actually, both things are pretty easy if you read the directions. So is UC. It’s people who assume they know what to do that end up screaming at the monitor.

I resemble that remark.


While “leaving a job” is often used to imply voluntarily quitting a job, the bare bones phrasing just literally means no longer being employed at a previous place of employment, regardless of whether the leaving was voluntary or involuntary. When you leave and don’t come back to work at a place, you have left that job, even if it’s because you were fired…


Kafkaesque? Does the user turn into a cockroach?


Yes. This one in particular: