Redesigning the US Postal Service Website

Every time I want to mail a small package, I check the USPS website for the cost, in the hopes that I can use stamps already on hand, and not have to spend my lunch break standing in line at the post office. I purchase Forever Stamps fairly regularly, but it seems the cost of a stamp goes up every 3-6 months, so not only do I need to find the cost of shipping my little package, I also need to look up the current value of my stamps.

These two simple things -- things that the fellow at the post office counter can usually tell me off the top of his head -- are surprisingly hard to find the USPS website.

When you go to (Isn't it a government organization? Why isn't it there is a list of "Quick Tools" on the left, including a link to the postage calculator. In order to find out the cost of a regular stamp (you know, the price you'd expect to hear if you asked "How much are postage stamps?"), you must enter two ZIP codes, pick "Letter" from the Shape selection, and enter a weight. Well how much does a typical letter weigh? I'm not sure, but if you say 1 ounce, you're then prompted with four envelope choices. If you choose the basic, regular old letter envelope, you get a list of 23 delivery options spread across four categories. The first item on the list is Express Mail, and today that option is listed with a "Post Office Price" of $21.30. Down at the bottom of the list is what I was actually looking for: the cost of a basic letter (dubbed "First-Class Mail Letter") at $0.45.

It took three pages, entering unnecessary information (ZIP codes, weights, shape), and looking at the bottom of the list to find out that a regular stamp today is worth $0.45.

The good news is that it's hardly any more complicated to calculate the cost of shipping an oddly shaped package to Timbuktu overnight than it is to get the cost of a basic letter, but I think my point still stands: it should be simpler to find the cost of a stamp.

Now, there is an alternate way to find the cost of a stamp. Instead of going through the postage calculator, you could choose "Buy Stamps" from a dropdown menu. Thankfully someone thought to update the menu on that site so that the Forever Stamps choice is now phrased "Forever/45-Cent Stamps," cluing the observant visitor in to the current cost of a Forever Stamp. All the same, I think that information should be front and center on the postage calculator site. For that matter, I think it ought to be on

In my mind, the postage calculator ought to tell me not only how much it costs to ship something, but how many stamps (of the standard values) it would take to cover that cost.