Nonergonomic! Shopping Web Sites replace Old Mistakes with New
Shopping Web Sites replace Old Mistakes with New
Even after years of trial and error - and estimates of record-breaking online shopping this holiday season - too many business Web sites still don't get it right, Web-design guru Jakob Nielsen says. Nielsen, the author of multiple books on software interfaces and a principal at the Nielsen Norman Group in Fremont, Calif., has released his top 10 Web-design mistakes of 2002. Nielsen said a lot of errors of years past - such as bothersome animated introductions, and pages that don't contain a link back to a site's home page - are disappearing. Sites also are getting visitors to information more effectively than before. "The bad news is, as the Web evolves, we just get to the next generation of mistakes," he said.
The number-one dumb mistake of 2002?
Lack of posted prices. "We have miles of videotape of users asking: 'Where's the price?' while tearing their hair out," Nielsen said. The problem prevails in business-to-business sites, Nielsen said. But even consumer sites can forget prices where shoppers need them - on search-result pages, for example.
Other design snafus:
Inflexible search engines. Overly literal search engines on product sites that can't handle typos, plurals, or other variants of queries, make things especially difficult for elderly shoppers.
Horizontal scrolling. No one minds scrolling down a page, but information that goes off the side is a big annoyance.
Fixed font size. Site designers who rob a visitor's ability to shrink or enlarge type are disrespectful to users - and often make letters too small.
Blocks of text. Sites should lighten up with more white space, including bulleted lists, extra-short paragraphs, and highlighted keywords.
Not-very-frequently asked questions. Too many sites have FAQs (answers to "Frequently Asked Questions") that "the company wished users would ask."
Too-long URLs. Web addresses of more than 75 characters are hard to remember, type, and e-mail successfully to friends.
Surprise e-mail links. It's another unwelcome surprise when a clicked link unexpectedly brings up an e-mail program.
As a frequent online shopper myself, I have encountered these B2C website defects, so I know exactly how irritating they can be. What astonishes me the most however is the refusal to clearly post prices. Common sense would argue in favor of showing respect for your customer by letting them know frankly and non-evasively just exactly how much you expect to be paid for your product or service. Yet on far too many websites that is not the case. Many websites compel the customer to "drill down" two, three, even four levels just to find that magic number. Some websites go so far as to refuse to divulge any price information until the visitor has first filled out a time-consuming online order form providing them with everything from one's mother's maiden name to one's credit card expiration date! Mind-boggling. What impression they think they're conveying to the customer I can't say. I can only say how it comes across to me: they are reluctant to divulge the price because they they know it's too high, and they are stalling for time to "sell" me before they "close".
Paranoia? Hardly. When a high profile US-based franchised health spa opened a branch near me two years ago, I marched up to the front desk and asked how much it would cost to join. The salesperson refused to tell me. Instead, she offered to take me on a guided tour. Reasonable? Not so fast. Before she would take me on a guided tour, I had to fill out a lengthy customer information form. I balked. All I wanted was a quick peek at their exercise machines to know what I would be getting, and a number -- the monthly or annual fee. Five minutes is all it would take. Again, she flat out refused. She enunciated in clipped tones that it was "Company policy. Non-negotiable. Take it or leave it." Do I need to tell you I told them where they could put their membership form, and have never been back since? More recently I noticed the building facade plastered with banners reading "New Low Rates! Limited Time Only!" Apparently an excess of supply over demand in a now crowded health spa market has humbled the once haughty.
-- Bevin Chu
Explanation: Shopping Web sites replace old mistakes with new
Author: Jakob Nielsen
Affiliation: useit.com: usable information technology
Publication Date: December 26, 2002
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect