Flexcar: First Online Impressions

Tuesday, January 25, 2005, at 08:08AM

By Eric Richardson

If you're following along, yesterday I got my Flexcar membership packet. This morning everything's set up and I'm able to access the online reservation system. I haven't actually reserved a car yet, but I figured I would go ahead and post my first observations, given that I'm big on criticizing UI design lately.

The reservation UI is pretty straight-forward. You go to the Flexcar site and log in using your member number and PIN code. You're then given a page where you select a driver, a billing account, your trip date(s), and then the Region and Neighborhood. For personal use you're probably only ever going to have one billing account, but it's fine to have that there and just be able to ignore it.

You then click through to the calendar interface. You see the cars for the neighborhood you selected, and the times that they are available (or conversely, the times they're already booked). Clicking in on Downtown I found my first surprise: the cars they list for Los Angeles aren't necessarily current. One car in Santa Monica and the one in West Hollywood are no longer there. The reservation system also showed a couple cars Downtown that the website didn't, although these cars aren't currently available and will only be available on weekends.

The calendar application makes it easy to switch from one neighborhood to another, but in order to switch days you have to go back and resubmit your query. This makes it hard to plan something that you could do on any number of days.

As I said, I haven't yet gone to the step of actually making a reservation. I'll report more when I do. The Flexcar people I've talked to has been very responsive, and that always gives me a good feeling about a company.