Archive for the ‘Bad usability examples’ Category

If you wouldn’t do it for ‘real’ then don’t do it online.

April 20, 2009

Businesses really must think about matching the online customer experience to the offline world.

Real life scenario

Imagine that you went to your local travel agent to book your summer holiday.

You told the travel agent the holiday you wanted and paid a deposit. The Agent then gave you a booking reference and told you when to pay the outstanding amount.

You return to the same travel agent to pay the outstanding amount on the due date. However, the agent tells you that because you have booked a sun holiday, you can’t pay for the outstanding amount there; you need to call this number or go to our other shop in the town.

I chose to go to the other shop in town and enquired how I get to the other shop. The agent gives a me a map of France, which is a little pointless because I’m in the South East of England. When I complain that the map is incorrect, The agent tells me “In this instance you will need to call reservations”.

No travel agent would allow this to happen in one of their shops, so why do they allow it to happen on their website? Apart from being completely frustrating, this is exceptionally bad customer service and would put me off going back next year to book my holiday.

How to make it better

Just three simple changes would make me a happy customer who would think about going back.

1. Allow me to make a final payment online. After all, I could make the deposit payment or I could have paid in full first time, so why can’t I pay the rest online while other types of holiday makers can?

As far as I could see from the web form, the booking reference was in a different format to the one allowed. If the issue is just as cosmetic as it seems, then this is really bad.

If it is database rules, then these too are easily changed. When I did eventually find my local shop to pay, the agent just entered my booking reference in to the system gave me the chip and pin device and it was done. It took all of 2 minutes (except the 20 minute walk to the shop).

2. Fix the map functionality online, just in case I do want to go in store

3. And finally, when I point out that the map isn’t working, don’t tell me to call reservations, it has nothing to do with reservations – I just want to use your map.

Business benefits

From this example there are a couple of clear business benefits:

1. Happy customers mean possible repeat business (who can afford to let their customers go to the competition?)

2. Reduced process costs – Was it really necessary for the shop staff and website customer service to be involved as well as the telephone reservation team to be on standby for one simple payment?


Usability, persuasion, emotion, and trust…

October 8, 2008

I was quite surprised when recently shopping on to experience a few usability annoyances as well as buying a camera that I hadn’t intended to.

I was doing a bit of research on a particular camera I had seen elsewhere to see if I could get it cheaper. I was pretty convinced I was going to buy it; the decision was now from where. However, this changed when I spotted the user reviews. They ended up being pretty mixed, and someone suggested an alternative. So I checked out the alternative, which had all positive reviews and I ended up buying it.

This was totally against my initial intention or expectation and my decision to purchase was based upon my emotion as I was led by the user reviews.

However, basic usability was not great, what an awful screen where you enter you card details:

  • The layout felt weird, as the entry fields were laid out horizontally for, card type, name, number etc etc; and
  • There was bad error feedback: I missed something out (I think) because when I hit next/submit (whatever the button was called to get me to the next screen) I got an error message telling me there was something wrong with my details. So it cleared everything I had entered and didn’t tell me where or what was wrong, so I had to fill out all fields on this page again. How annoying:-(

It’s not a catastrophic usability error because I still completed my purchase, but it was annoying all the same. Maybe I made allowances because it was Amazon; because of the Brand I kind of trusted them a bit more, but if it a smaller and less well known site/company I’m not sure I would have continued.

Check out where designing for persuasion, emotion and trust is thought to be essential when staying ahead.

Performance is key to web usability

November 27, 2007

You can put up with poorly grouped information and bad design (to a certain extent) but make sure your customers can actually get into your site. Poor performance not only prevents customers from accessing your site, but also seriously damages credibility.

It has been my mission for the past week to try and access, not because I want to shop (I may have wanted to in the beginning or at least browse) but because I tried to access it the other day and don’t think I’ve ever visited a website that has taken so long to get into. The site is flash based and takes an age to load.

Ok, I’ll give it a chance; maybe it’s just high traffic visiting the site or my broadband connection is a bit slow (even though I can still watch videos on you tube). So I’ll try later. Later came and I still couldn’t access it. Just get a flash loading bar that doesn’t move.


 I eventually get past the loading bar to get the following:


  Very helpful 😉

One big critical mistake…

September 13, 2007

I’m really in rant mode at the moment. I have just tried to buy a ticket from and I suggest that you don’t try. I entered my details and it crashed, which immediately sent my blood pressure through the roof! Have they taken my payment or not? When the site came back it gave me the following message:

“There were ERRORS

You have recently made a purchase with similar details, order reference xxxxxx. If you wish to request confirmation of this orders details, please use the contact us form.

If you would like to continue with the current order, please click buy”.

The same order number that I used a few weeks ago! So, what is going on?

No, I don’t want to use their contact form for them to respond in 10 days, I want to know now, if I have made a booking or not and if they have taken my money.

Rant over, anxious feeling not. A lesson to be learnt by companies building transactional websites is don’t compromise on usability or performance when dealing with people’s money and personal details, it is extremely damaging to trust and credibility.

And no I won’t use them again.

I’m confused…

June 29, 2007

I’m looking to buy a new car, so I thought I would do a bit of online research. I went onto the Toyota website, which is quite a good site overall. However I was looking at customising a car and clicked on the options tab, where I was presented with what looked like it should have been a list of options, but instead there was one item ‘no options’ with a checkbox next to it. I really don’t get it. Why should I select no options? By not selecting anything then that is no options, isn’t it? Furthermore, why is there no other options to select in an options box?

no options list

Don’t forget the basics…

June 4, 2007

I recently tried to book a car using Avis’ online booking form. Great, they had a special weekend deal, so I clicked through, changed a few dates and car types ( the postbacks weren’t too annoying as I knew it was meant to be doing something!) and then I noticed a dialogue box (see below) telling me to read the terms and conditions on the previous page. OK, where is the link? After all isn’t this one of the advantages of the web; a connection of pages through hyperlinking. There isn’t one, so I’ll use the back button, but of course, it is no longer the previous page because I have searched for different car types and dates.

By not forgetting the basics; a simple hyperlink, would have made my experience much less frustrating.

Avis pointer text to terms and conditions

Does poor usability really put us off?

February 2, 2007

Poor usability stops me when I cannot complete a task or find what I’m looking for. However, even with a little bit of pain I might just stick it out for things that are just difficult to find.

All to often I find myself moaning about poor usability and still going back to websites, for example a website that wants me to register just to browse their content, makes me think that I’m not going to bother and I will leave the site frustrated to look for alternatives. However, finding alternatives can be just as painful – so I may return to the website and end up registering against my inclination and will.

Also if something is a little hard to find – it may annoy me but I have found it so I will bookmark it for the next time I visit.

An unpleasant experience but I will still use it.

what is the point?

January 16, 2007

Why do people that design, create, write for websites still publish blank placeholder pages informing the user that content is still to be added. I can pretty much guess that if there is no link or reference to the desired content on the website, then it’s not available.

Why wind me up, by teasing me with a link that takes me to place with nothing there? It is just irritating and I have just expereinced it on a golf website, where I was thinking about buying a set of new clubs – but what have I done instead – left the website, vented my frustration on here and more than likely will not go back.

Don’t do it – it is irritating and more importantly to the company, they have lost a sale!

Comparison websites

January 8, 2007 vs 

Looking for car insurance have it right in when you fill out an online form to get a quote I want it then and there – not a message like ‘one of our advisers will contact you. If the technology allows, keep it automated. But before I criticise too much – their method is possibly more reliable, I haven’t tried – it’s just an assumption as came back with a ridiculously low quote, which I didn’t quite believe, so I investigated a bit further and went to apply for the quote with the proposed broker who then gave me a much higher quote. 

This also happened to me when checking out travel insurance, I got a quote for about £15 for one week travel to USA/Canada the average cost everywhere else was £35-£40.  

So they have made me suspicious, I’m not convinced about their credibility; the result being I’m not really likely to use it as I don’t trust it. I’m not saying that is giving inaccurate quotes – but it is the impression I get and you know what they say: ‘perception is everything’.

The cost benefits of usable design

December 4, 2006

We keep hearing you can increase sales and reduce support costs by implementing a usable design, here are just two examples of why: 

  1. insurance. A friend wanted to purchase some home insurance; she got a great quote from Tesco’s, which gave her the cover that she wanted, or so she thought – she was not entirely sure if she read all the small print on screen – but she was ready to buy nonetheless. But then she couldn’t, the website would not let her complete the transaction. Annoyed that she had spent long enough on their website already she submitted a complaint and left. The next day she received a phone call apologising for the inconvenience and offering her the chance to buy over the phone for the web discount price.
    In this instance they were lucky as they didn’t lose the sale as she hadn’t bought another policy just yet. She took their offer and bought while on the phone. What they did do is waste money in chasing her for her business – if she could have completed the transaction online in the first place it would saved everyone all this hassle.
  2. Another example, again from trying to book travel insurance for 20 people that are all going to a family wedding next year. was so frustrating to use that they lost this sale and the person booking it went back to the travel agent and paid more for it, just because it was too much of a hassle to do online.

The point, I guess, is this – this is just two examples of one website – how many more sales are Tesco’s losing because people can’t seem to use their insurance website?