The Worst Website Ever Made? Usability Hell of London2012 Olympics Ticketing

I love the Olympics - so it pains me that London2012 ticketing is the worst usability experience I have ever had.

Breathtakingly slow & inefficient. Frustrating & inept to levels that make it seem like the whole thing is a joke.

But hey - no big deal; it’s only the Olympics.


I have attempted to buy several tickets since the Olympics started - securing one for the Beach Volleyball after hours of trying.

Layer upon layer of frustration, lack of clarity at every stage, and the egregiously flawed processes & time they waste shows a complete lack of care and oversight for UX.

I can’t believe ANY usability testing happened here, or any attempt to make this an easy process. It feels like a desperate hack, using multiple badly connected systems.

Technical Illiteracy at the Top

The days where our politicians regulate the Internet without understanding it, or major events are organised by a room full of technically illiterate people, should be over.

Ticketing is a VITAL part of the Olympics. LOCOG should have had a senior person overviewing ticketing & online that understands the Web, UX & Usability - and ensured the ticketing process wasn’t an afterthought & awful hack.

All the senior team should have been forced to buy their tickets through the site - and they would have seen the problems before the site went live.

In fact it should have been architected properly to begin with.

Clearly it wasn’t. In 2012 this is a huge huge FAIL.

Process + Failures

Buy Tickets

Exciting - which tickets can I get?

Wait - where do I click? 

Lets try ‘How to purchase tickets’

It’s asking me to sign up & sign in. 



It pains me how apparently NO ONE knows a secure password is about length - not including letters and numbers (or symbols) - which makes them far harder to remember. Excellent XKCD cartoon on this:

So I sign in.

Site looks the same. Back to ‘How to purchase tickets’ - no links or help with searching.

Turns out you buy tickets by clicking ‘Search Events’ - usability testing this for a couple of hours would have revealed this.

Great - plain sailing now. HELL no. Welcome to my friend PAIN? Have you met?

I’m happy to go to any event - show me what’s available.


You have to search EVERY event INDIVIDUALLY.

Great then you will have a list of tickets available? Not even close.


Seriously I couldn’t have invented something this breathtakingly un-intuitive, frustrating, time wasting and just rotten to the core - if I tried.

Now it will show you either nothing, or a few events that MIGHT have tickets available. ie - the London2012 site doesn’t actually know what tickets are available to their own games. It appears Ticket Master does - and there is some kind of elderly can’t be assed (can’t be assed is British slang = can’t be bothered) data connection between the two that updates when it’s not eating donuts.

This page can also show you some items with this:

Ooo Athletics. Oh no - ‘Currently Unavailable’ on the right. WHY did this even come up?

Sometimes you get this - if you’re ‘lucky’:

So you click ‘Select’ and hope.

You might then get this:

AGAIN, why even show that event?

Also, what an AWFUL message. Pure, blue blood FAIL.

You get the impression the London2012 site doesn’t have a clue what’s going on most of the time - this message confirms it & baffles users.

This came up at lunch time - but they might be ‘completing our nightly maintenance’. This is SO HALF ASSED it’s almost funny.

I did this on 31 July - why is a message saying tickets go on sale on 15 June still shown?

THIS IS PATHETIC, shoddy, rushed looking, inadequate coding & UX - for the most important sporting event on earth.

Or you might get this:

Now it lets you select from a drop down which ticket you want. Remember - you’ve no idea what is actually available.

'Add to shopping list'

Then ‘proceed to delivery and payment’. WHY am I doing this if we don’t know if there are actually tickets available?

This is BASIC BASIC stuff. When online would you ever experience this? Can you imagine ordering something on Amazon only to be told after going through payment etc etc - ‘oh that’s not available’.

It also lets you have up to ‘four sessions’ - and often comes up with a message something like ‘you have already applied for this ticket’. I still don’t understand what the sessions are or how they work. There are also seemingly arbitrary limits to how many tickets you can buy (more likely FAIL to buy) for one event.

I am a web developer & I don’t get it. What chance would your granny have??

Here’s a funny message when your VERY short session limit runs out:

"We want to ensure that tickets are available to as many people as possible". 

Really, is that why you make it virtually impossible to buy them? Seriously?


OK back to the living hell that is buying tickets.

At every stage here you can receive a message saying tickets unavailable remember.

Then you’re asked to wait for ‘upto x minutes’. This can be 1, 2 or 3 in my experience. (EDIT it said 15, but lasted a good 25 last night - only to fail):

I presume this is when they prime the carrier pigeon that flys over to the Ticket Master office to see what’s actually available.

No wait - that would work better than this.

This worked once for me - and failed maybe 50 times, or more - I’ve lost count (and wasted countless hours of my time).

Of course there’s CAPTCHAs just to frustrate you that bit more.

Why is this Bad?

  • It wastes countless hours of people’s time (probably millions of hours).
  • It will confuse many people due to complete lack of usability.
  • Tickets may go unsold - specially ones made available at the last minute.
  • It makes London & The Olympics look incompetent.
  • It’s 2012, this isn’t good enough for a local band let alone the greatest show on earth!

What to Improve

  • Plan a simple, fast, intuitive, responsive; usable ticketing system from the start.
  • Test, test, test usability.
  • Obvious ‘Buy Tickets’ button (<BASIC stuff).
  • Easily browse available tickets.
  • Only show events with tickets available.
  • Email alerts when new tickets released during games.
  • Have waiting lists for tickets.
  • Show tickets available - sorted by price (or under a certain price - suggestion Mark Baker).
  • Have an infrastructure where the website knows what tickets are available.
  • Have a senior member of the Organising Committee who understands, owns & enforces UX/Usability for all websites, especially ticketing.

As I say, I love the Olymipcs & am looking forward to attending - everything else seems to be running smoothly & I wish them all well.

But Rio - learn these lessons.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 — 11 notes   ()
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