This is my story trying to purchase online.

I was looking for a gift the other day – I found similar items on a couple of sites (using a search engine) so, as per usual, decided to purchase through the site where it was cheapest.  What a nightmare!!  After several aborted attempts I gave up and purchased through the alternative; it probably cost me just as much anyway if you factor in the time and stress of trying to navigate a really rubbish site.

What was actually wrong with that site is reflected in any number of similar sites – or older websites that haven’t been updated or re-designed for a while.  If your site is one of them you could be losing opportunities (and even clients) without even trying! 

So what went wrong?

1.Not optimised for mobile

I was using my tablet for this purchase.  The website was evidently only designed to be viewed on a PC – so the experience was one of constantly swiping and enlarging so I could view the information – I was already frustrated.

2.Home page

Content heavy – word heavy – confusing

I didn’t need to know about the company history or it’s ethos or whatever else was written on that page (I certainly didn’t bother to trawl through it all) – I wanted to purchase a specific item – the home page didn’t really make it clear what this website did. 

3.User Journey

Links across the top were to such airy-fairy categories – gifts for him, gifts for her etc. - I wasn’t even sure which category I needed to select – my gift didn’t seem to fit in with any of them.  I couldn’t find a phone number for some help – or for telephone ordering – or an online chat function.

4.Search

The search bar, (hurray for search), was hidden away half way down on the left hand side – so I had to search for it! I typed in the description of my gift (as I saw it) – no results.  I had to type in the most generic variant of my gift description to get any results at all and then BINGO! Loads of them to go through one by one – what is that all about?! A more intuitive search should have taken me straight to the gift – remember I knew this site sold it.

5.Product Information

Luckily, my gift didn’t really need any explanation.  The pictures were quite small and I couldn’t enlarge them.  The description fields were evidently quite limited so I could see the country of manufacture (don’t care!), a very basic description and the quantity in which it was available (what? – do they mean quantity in stock or can’t I buy more than 1? – I couldn’t change the value so it wasn’t the number I wished to purchase) and, of course the price.  I clicked on the product, which opened up another window – but initially I didn’t notice that – so I just sat - a bit confused – until I did notice.

6.Checkout

Hurrah!  Almost there I thought.  But no - nothing is that simple on this site.  The product picture was shown – thank you.  There was a ‘purchase this item’ button – thank you.  Clicking on that opened up yet another window!  I was ready for that this time. The information was now pre-filled – thank goodness for that as I was losing the will to live! Delivery option required selection – Express, Standard – neither free – neither explained anywhere I could see – sign into your account ….  You have got to be kidding me!  I had to return to the main site to create a customer account before I could go any further.  Amazon here I come!

So how can that site be improved?

  • Responsive design – display clearly and operates efficiently regardless of the device used
  • Less written content – more appropriate visuals
  • Clear messaging – categories, calls to action, create an account, next steps
  • Intuitive search – predictive text
  • Clear product visuals and information
  • Stock levels
  • Easy and intuitive checkout process
  • Delivery options explained clearly

User journey and user experience is key to a website – if your visitor can’t easily reach their goals – they often will give up and go to your competitor. 

Reviewing, redesigning or redeveloping your website from the user point of view can deliver serious ROI – so don’t put it off.