Practical Ecommerce

Usability Report Card:

This month we review, the online store for the manufacturer of color-changing apparel and accessories. All items sold by Del Sol change color when exposed to sunlight, and this influences everything about the brand, including the website.

Del Sol’s website has a laid-back design that correlates to the brand’s position in the market, but this style has detrimental effects on the site’s usability. Let’s see how.

Home page clarity

While the home page is pretty clear, there is definitely room for improvement. One of the most obvious places is the large dead space at the bottom of the page. This room could be used to advertise more products, promote specials or even to draw attention to the free shipping offer on orders more than $75. Currently, that information appears in a plain font just above the blank space. A more important change to address is the tiny “Go” buttons, since the product pictures already act as links. Consistency seems to be a major issue: Some pictures link to individual products while others link to the product listing.

Ease of browsing

The products on the home page are well-organized under five categories, but they’re difficult to browse because sub-categories appear in the left-hand navigation column. This left-hand column is badly organized in its own right; adding a category and sub-category to it does not help. This creates another problem: Not all of each type of product is displayed together.

Category pages

The category listing pages themselves are cluttered with too much wording, product pictures and the infamous little “Go” buttons. The best remedy? Save the product descriptions for the product pages.

Overall, what’s required here is consistency. Either make a drop-down menu for the categories at the top, or put all the categories — not just the one being viewed — in the left column.


Search is very good. The only problem with it is that too specific product descriptions will yield a “no results” message. For example, “peach nail polish‚” yields “no results‚” but “orange nail polish‚” will turn up a pink nail polish that turns peach.

The website’s main feature is that products change to the real-life, sun-altered color when scrolled over. This unique and interactive way of shopping makes browsing more fun by involving the online shopper. However, it can get confusing at times. The “See In Sun” button on the right side of the page moves with scrolling. Once this button is clicked and a product is scrolled over, the color confusingly changes back to its indoor color and must be scrolled over again for the in-the-sun color.

Product pages

Product pages are well made but could still use improvements. The suggested products on the bottom left-hand side of the screen are related, sensible ones. The biggest problem with the product pages is the “Add to Bag‚” button. If it were bigger and differentiated from other elements and buttons on the page, it would stand out more and encourage sales.
One thing that can be improved is promotions. The pink Sol Flyer is being given away to customers who buy it online, but I did not see this advertised anywhere but on the pink Sol Flyer’s product page.

Checkout process

Checkout is simple and straightforward, but could also use improvements. Checking out is made easier with an optional shortcut where you can create an account and then use that to shop. The one mistake in the checkout is a big one because of the poorly thought out error recognition — more on that later. Not telling the customer which fields are required likely leads to frustrated customers as they navigate back and forth to correct the forms.

Customer service

Del Sol makes itself very accessible to its customers, and that is always good. Aside from providing a phone number to its alternate telephone catalog at the bottom of every page, the header contains links to both the customer service page and the guarantee page. The customer service page has the company phone, email and corporate office address, in addition to links for order tracking and common questions.

Error recognition

The error recognition needs lots of work. When a field is accidentally left blank or incorrectly entered, shoppers are turned away from the billing and shipping form and sent to another page that tells them what they left blank. They must then click on another link to go back to the order form. This is the surest way to lose a customer during the checkout process. Validate forms, but return the customer to the same page and put the error messages next to the field that needs correction.


Del Sol’s site is definitely on the right track. Overall, it has a fun interactive shopping theme, great product pages and prominently featured product novelty. But there are also many mistakes that need correction. The error recognition during the checkout process is the biggest problem with the site. The featured products on the home page should have the image and title linked to the product info page, and the small “Go” buttons as links need to do just what they say — go.

Del Sol shows some consistency in that customer service and guarantee links are found on the header, but consistency is still a major issue in terms of site navigation. Overall, a great start for Del Sol; it will improve itself to move to the next level when it corrects these problems.

Usability Report Card

Home Page Clarity C

Ease Of Browsing B-

Search A

Category Pages B-

Product Pages B-

Checkout Process B

Customer Service A

Error Recognition D


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Comments ( 6 )

  1. Legacy User March 8, 2007 Reply

    They should also think about adding better more descriptive titles, and they definitely need to make the navigation bar clearer (top and bottom of page). Many customers will want to jump back to the home page.

    — *Chris Gomez*

  2. Legacy User March 8, 2007 Reply

    You guys get a C- in usability for putting the only link to Delsol's website in a sidebar cluttered by other info.

    — *Josh*

  3. Legacy User March 8, 2007 Reply

    Point well taken, and corrected. Thanks for the smile.

    — *Brian Getting*

  4. Legacy User March 8, 2007 Reply

    Scathing, but appreciated. I'm the designer of this site. I'll take all this constructive criticism and do my best to improve the site with it.

    — *Kevin*

  5. Legacy User March 9, 2007 Reply


    This is a great site. While the article is a constructive crticism article, I think it's also important to realize that there are a LOT of things done right on this site. Be proud of it, and of course each new site is better than the last!

    — *Brian Getting*

  6. Legacy User March 9, 2007 Reply

    I didn't know there were categories on this website until reading the comments above. Once into a subcategory a menu shows on the left side. It would help if the menu of categories was available from the home page and all other pages – and if it showed all categories rather than just the category I'm in. Otherwise, I really like the work you've done with the artwork and general appearance of the website.

    — *Mark*