User Interfaces and Bad Experiences

Few businesses really spend enough time on user experience. They think they do, but they don’t – they normally put their needs first and then are surprised when the response is different to what they expected.

For smaller businesses much of what they do has to involve some educated guesswork, but it is encouraging that the bigger fish, with all their access to focus groups, beta tests, online research and user feedback, also make mistakes.

Strategic Mistakes – Microsoft…

It is our view that Microsoft is currently treading a very fine line around a customers’ patience. This mainly revolves around their inability to support (or recognise) any browsers other than Internet Explorer.

Have you tried ‘Skydrive‘ – their online document storage facility? In Explorer it works, in SkydriveFirefox it’s all over the shop! Yet there is no obvious reason for this happening – apart from the ‘optimised for Explorer’ mantra coming from Microsoft. Yet, with Google Docs already being the online file storage and management of choice, you can’t help feeling that they’ve pulled the trigger before taking the gun out of the holster!

This ‘blind spot’ also came to a head last week when our head of search was invited to join an online webinar on the Yahoo! Microsoft merger for search marketing. Did it work on Firefox? Of course not – it’s being run by Microsoft.

Yet, again, what this means is that we’re not as educated as we need to be for the new product and are less likely to take full advantage of it for our clients. So, again, they lose.

Does the world revolve around Explorer? We don’t think so.

Specific Problems – Yahoo! Prompts

One thing we are looking forward to from the Yahoo! Microsoft merger is the final putting to bed (/out of service) of the Yahoo! Search Marketing online interface.

If ever there was a case of not learning from the competition, then this is it. Changing campaigns, adverts and ad groups takes twice as long on this system than with Google Adwords or MSN AdCenter. Reporting is basic and unhelpful. The conversion tracking is unreliable (and in favour of Yahoo! of course)…

Yahoo MessageIf it were to be summed up in a nutshell, then we’d point out this little box. It appears EVERY time you change an advert in a ad group with only one advert in it. You can’t turn it off, even though you have read the message. Not only that, it’s untrue. It must have been clicked 10,000 times by us. We can’t wait to never see that again.

Errors of Judgment -Waitrose

Waitrose has discerning customers, and they can spot a lemon a mile off. The very expensive re-design of the Waitrose website has backfired massively on customers.

It seems that even with an interstellar budget, the project was late and hurried out and had several major problems:

  • Search results are too long: unless you were very specific in your searching, you often got pages and pages of results meaning a time-consuming trawl to find what you’re looking for
  • Navigation: customers found it harder to find ‘shelves’ of items using the new navigation, often having to hover or click up to three items to find the area they wanted to be in. Once you got where you want to be, it wasn’t easy to find your way back
  • Slow loading pages: almost certainly not due to server capacity, we fear that this is probably down to the amount of users spending longer on the site and performing more searches. We really hope that it’s not down to their shiny new technology – now that would be a disaster!

This comment summed it up:

“New Waitrose £10m website is most successful industrial espionage stratagem ever devised by Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda”

Want to see a small sample of the vitriol? Why not! Let’s hope they get it right in the end.

So, when it comes to websites, you need to bear the user in mind – because without users who actually USE your website, you have visitors, but not customers!