The Biggest Mistake Made by Online Merchants
About an hour ago, I needed to order a bunch of hardware parts from Dell to beef up one of our development server environments. I'm also exclusively a Mac user.
It seems that (at least for me this morning) it was impossible to complete an order from Dell.com on a Mac using either Safari or Firefox. In both cases I got Session Timeout bugs, regardless of how quickly (sometimes only a couple of seconds) I went through Checkout. I also tried Saving My Cart for later, so I could try from another browser, and it couldn't do that either. So I booted into Parallels and ran Windows 7 and I was able to checkout just fine using Internet Explorer. Dell appears to be wearing Windows tinted glasses and doesn't want business from the other 20% of us.
Based on my personal experience this morning, I will try and avoid ordering anything from them online again. I can't stress enough the bad taste it left in my mouth as a shopper.
Why do I share this story?
The Big Guys blow it like this and so do YOU!
If you don't have a testing and release regimen in place when you make updates to your site, you're always playing Russian Roulette with your shopper's experience.
One of the most common things we see on our Community User Forums is people who deleted or changed their doctype and don't understand why things work in one browser and not another, or they've hacked together very poor quality HTML and CSS and think since it works in Internet Explorer, it'll work everywhere.
In the Multi-Platform, Multi-Device world we live in today, you can no longer take for granted a homogeneous operating experience. The Web opens up huge opportunities for businesses to connect with their customers the way their customers want to be connected to, but if you don't test your updates and releases you're likely angering customers (like Dell did to me) and losing real business.
OK, OK, OK, I get it, I need to test my website changes, how do I do that?
There are some online tools you can use to see how your site looks (but not acts) in other Browsers and Platforms, such as:
You also need to do some live shopping testing from at least both a Mac and a PC, and in general test as much as you can.
In addition, there are some other Best Practices you should be following:
A good professional web programmer will pay for themselves 100x over in increased sales and overall business. It may seem like paying $80+ an hour is a lot of money, but your HTML and CSS is the equivalent of your Brick and Mortar store facade. It's one of the most important things to make sure you do a great job with.
Run your website through a validator at w3c.org (there's also great info on HTML/CSS there too). The more errors you have in your code, the more likely you're running into cross platform and device compatibility issues. You don't need to have a 100% score, but you should be well above 80%.
Generally speaking you get what you pay for, if someone is willing to code HTML or CSS for you at $20 an hour, you're going to get screwed as they are entry level at best and will not have the experience to treat your business as it deserves.
Sometimes we think the cards are stacked against us, and oh the big guys are crushing my market, or it's easy to be good if you're big. However just as my experience with Dell this morning shows, it's really about intent and management. The Big Guys screw up too.
The winner is the one who persists and continuously drives to improve their business and learn from past mistakes.
Mike Eckler says:
Rick, I fully agree with your advice. However, it does look like the last laugh here belongs to Dell.
You didn't go to your local B&M shop, nor did you look for alternatives on the internet. Instead, you went out of your way to load a different operating system and make the purchase from Dell.
Dell is certainly not free from blame, and their QA department deserves to be punished. You, however, made the choice to support the very company that you criticize.
Getting back to your excellent advice about testing carefully, I'd say that Dell can afford to mess up every once in a while. Despite your anti-Dell sentiments, their stock price will probably rise another 10% over the next year. Small e-commerce merchants, on the other hand, cannot afford to lose any potential customers at all, including the pesky Mac users.
Mike from eCommerceAngles.com
Hi. Great article I must say. I have just begun my venture in this field and therefore do not have much experience. Just came across this article with some interesting facts. Thanks for the tips as well.