Let's pretend we're a university optometry department and the tech support/contact us link on our website can be accessed by optometrists, their staff members, and patients alike.

A patient is trying to message their optometrist but instead sends the support form to our optometry department's tech support by accident. Multiply this by hundreds and you have a harried tech support staff. Our goal is to lessen the load of misdirected messages tech support needs to answer.

We want the patient to have a bit of clarity regarding their role up front and give them access to three options after identifying themselves. The proposed workflow for a currently logged out patient is this:

  1. Click Contact us link
  2. Select your role (O.D. / staff or Patient)
  3. Select who you want to contact (if patient choose between O.D. / Office Staff / Tech Support) this step will give context for guiding the selection
  4. Log in if necessary - logging in will take the user to their selected destination

Another suggestion goes as following:

  1. Click Contact us link
  2. Log in
  3. Select who you want to contact (if patient choose between O.D. / Office Staff / Tech Support) this step will give context for guiding the selection
  4. Take the user to their selected destination

I'm concerned about asking the patient to log in right away without context into who they're trying to contact and find that approach to be a barrier. In researching similar organizations only one requires log in up front.

Any thoughts or suggestions?

  • It sounds like the "contact us" link is ambiguous and causing a lot of misdirected emails. What does the current flow look like? I'm asking because it sounds like only internal users should be able to send messages to tech support, and patient requests in most cases shouldn't have the option to go to tech support...
    – Sullivan
    Aug 29 '13 at 0:50
  • The current flow is Click contact link on footer > go to a form with a multitude of role and issue drop down options courtesy Salesforce > send a support ticket intended for your O.D. to tech support because you are overwhelmed with options and expect your ticket will be forwarded. The workflow is the same whether you are logged in or not.
    – Lucyland
    Aug 29 '13 at 17:07

I think you need to separate the three departments that you have listed up front and make it clear to the user where the support form is going to end up. So:

Contact us > Contact our staff Contact us > Contact tech support

I think the problem is in the IA not log in box

  • This is precisely why I asked for clarification in the current flow. A single "Contact us" link leading to a rats nest of options can be simply fixed with this solution.
    – Sullivan
    Aug 30 '13 at 13:32

I'd go with your first setup. The second one would seem like a barrier, and make it not worth it to the users to register and/or log in to contact them. However, if you do the first one, by the time they get to the log in they've already done so much work to get there, and if you specify somewhere that it's the last step, it might entice them more to complete it.

On the log in form at the end, you should have some kind of message similar to "thanks for filling out the form! You're almost done, please just log in to your account to contact the staff."

It's similar to how many large sites do registration, where sites like Facebook say after you've registered "Your profile is almost complete! We just need a bit more information about you to complete it."


I can't tell from your description why these two groups of users are being led down the same path when their objectives, permissions, and information needs from the system are clearly different.

To solve your problem you need to first find out why people are getting confused. Get five patients and five staff members that got confused and ask them to send a message while saying aloud what they think and why they choose particular options. This will tell you what to change. Don't do any change until you are reasonably certain that it will be the right change, otherwise you'll be wasting money and time.

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