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Case studies in low usability

I just want to buy a pair of shoes



11:26 pm on Sep 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

So I have a pair of shoes. I like these shoes. I want another pair, just the same. Not only do I know the company that made them (a big US company; its name starts with "R" and ends with "ockport"), I can still read the exact model number inside the shoes. I have a credit card. I've got it made.

So I go to this company's website, guessing the name, which was the last successful part of my interaction. The first thing I encounter is a page that tells me this company "strongly recommends" that I install Macromedia Flash on my computer. I want a pair of shoes, I don't want software. I don't need my "experience" of buying shoes enhanced, as they seem to think I do.

So I skip that page. Next I am presented with a pretty page of pictures and things, and a row of big button looking rectangles at the top that say "Your guide," "Experience" (there's that "experience" thing again), "About us," and (finally) "Shop." I click the shop button. Nothing happens. I click again. Nothing. I click all these buttons. All dead.

Over on the side I see what I assume is a link because it's in a list: "Shopping bag." I try it, and get a popup that says "Your shopping bag is empty." I knew that; that's why I'm here, because I'm trying to find a pair of M2487s to put in it. After I dismiss the popup I do get a screen that seems to list kinds of shoes. (They're right under a big banner with a broken Flash icon that tells me to leave the shoestore so I can get a plug-in.) I see three nice blue links on the page, though, that say "Casual," "Dress," and "Performance" (maybe for theater shoes?). I have no idea whether M2487s are casual or dress; kind of in between. (I'm not an actor, so I figure they probably aren't "perfomance.") So I try the "dress" link. Nothing happens. I click again. Nothing. I try the "casual" link. Nothing. Then I randomly start moving the mouse around and notice the names under the blue headings change color. Oops, the blue headings aren't links, the *gray* words under them are. Now I have no idea whether I'm looking for "American Journey" or "Global Tour" or "Open Road" (because there's only one artsy picture at the top of each list). I dread having to follow them all, and then see an "advanced search" option at the side. Heh. I type in M2487. The screen now tells me "You can use our Advanced Search to find the Rockport products that best suit your needs." No I can't, because this advanced search for one of their products that I know suits my needs and that I have right in front of me returns nothing. So I click the "Men's footwear" button at the bottom of the page, but it's a radio button for the search, and when I hit return it refreshes the empty search page. I try the big "Shop" button at the top again. Dead here too.

I decide to try the "Retail" link on the left. It takes me to a page that wants to tell me where stores are all around the world. I don't want to go to a store; that's why I came to the webpage.

I decide to start over, so I click the big company logo at the top left of the screen. You know, the place where people who grew up reading half of the languages of the world look first when they look at a webpage? Dead. Nothing.

At this point, I decide to go eat instead. Maybe I'll just buy a pair of shoes at the place down the street. I don't know what brands they carry, but at least they want to make a sale.


11:47 pm on Sep 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I'd laugh... but this rings a horribly familiar bell with too many websites.

Still, more moolah for the rest of us :)


11:52 pm on Sep 17, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

hehehe - I went to check out the retailer in question. I have flash installed so I could see what you couldn't I guess. Even at that it was hard to find anything :)


12:03 am on Sep 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

So, who is going to offer their services to R**kP**t? :)


..... Shane


5:20 pm on Sep 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I don't have any services to offer them, but I'm tempted to send them a copy of Jakob Nielsen's book if it will help me find the pair of shoes I want. They violate almost every one of his basic usability principles. (I'm sure other books are just as good; his is the one I know.)


7:02 pm on Sep 18, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

that's where brand loyalty might end for me. i just won't put up with a bad shopping experience. period.

I've been on that site and others in the industry before - doing competitive research to help completely redesign & relaunch another known shoe brand site.

Basically, we came to all the same conclusion - most established companies like that fail to make the distinction between the "ooh-la-la" of their 'brand image' and what customers are really interested in - just seeing, buying shoes they WANT.

it's that simple.


11:40 pm on Sep 19, 2002 (gmt 0)

Wall Mart redesigned there web site five times before they got it right (which is still a subject of debate).


12:39 am on Sep 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

User experience further crippled in Opera. Half the page doesn't display, there's a big blank banner across the top that is probably some kind of Flash navigation my browser doesn't like, and the Flash intro prompt font on the home page is too small even for me.

I clicked a couple of pages and got the feeling there was quite a bit that would not display (for whatever reason) in Opera. Didn't fire up IE or Netscape. If I was the average shopper - I might not have two or three other browsers to fall back on.

Either my install of Opera suddenly freaked out or they've attained new heights of cross-platform unavailability.

It's a pretty site. And I have some of their shoes. But it would appear it is an exercise in user unfriendliness. I'm not on an old system, I'm pretty web savvy, I have a big monitor, and I have the latest browsers. Yet, I never figured out what I needed to click to just look at women's shoes. Honest.

<added>Or could it be:

.navigation { visibility: hidden; }

just kidding.


12:47 am on Sep 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

If I was the average shopper - I might not have two or three other browsers to fall back on.

Wrong! If you were the average shopper you wouldn´t be using Opera ;)



5:05 pm on Sep 20, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

you know rjohara, thanks for starting this thread, because it forced me to take a closer look at my client shoe site, which was only relaunched 1 1/2 months ago - and optimization efforts are just starting to really make an impact, so of course I'm happy about that:)
but we still have a long way to go.

Anyway, i've been looking at the sales data, and i'm not happy with daily sales, it should be going up relative to new visitors - though it may still be too soon to tell.

So I took a closer look at the site, and guess what I discovered as a poor user experience? You CAN'T view all the shoes in alternate color choices - though most only come in the brown color shown, basic black is an option and most shoppers would likely invision the shoe in black - since images on the web probably wouldn't show the details as well anyway - but some other color choices are Burgundy leather, bronze distressed, black tumbled leather - without seeing what those colors look like, why would anyone take a shot in the dark at ordering them? (forget about people emailing to ask about color samples, they'll just leave and find another site)

I couldn't believe this didn't hit me sooner, it seems so obvious.
So we'll be addressing that today or early next week with the design team. :)

BTW (in case anyone's wondering the brand name begins with "east" and ends with "land") comments of course are welcome.


2:39 pm on Sep 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

you just can't do too much work making it easier for the customer to find what they want. want to look at other products by the same manufacturer? how about the same category (blue widgets), or the same price range? want to sort products on a page by price or stock status? want to find related items....

yeah, i have a lot of work to do...


1:39 pm on Sep 29, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

This was just too funny...and too real!

I had a similar experience last Christmas when trying to purchase a computer online. I had been in the store looking at a system and wanted to look at more information on the web - basically digest what I had seen.

Finding the website was no problem....but shopping there? Maybe you couldn't...I sure couldn't figure out how! I thought that I had to be losing it as nobody was this dumb! And surely a big computer store in this city (perhaps in multiple cities?) would have at least the ability to look over the web and generate a quote? Nope.

I really shut down my computer and restarted as I thought I was just missing something. Really - no one would build a website like this would they?

Apparently so *grin* And it's some of the biggest names going...

So who has emailed Rockport to show them what is being said about them?



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