Critique Part Five: Customer Experience & Usability

The Problem: A blob of home-page text greets the consumer.

The Fix: The home page could be improved by relocating its long introduction to either the bottom of the page or, preferably, to the “about us” section. This would free up enough space to display twice as many products as those currently listed, with room left over to promote sale items or the company’s offer of free shipping on orders more than $65.

The Problem: Out-of-stock items are not always identified as such.

The Fix: In some instances this useful information is displayed below product photos but in a difficult-to-scan format. Attempting to buy a single keychain resulted in this strident but amusing error message: “Unable to Add Product: Volcom Skibby Keychain To Your Cart (Msg: Not Enough In Stock. Try A Lower Qty!).” In this instance, trying to order with a lower quantity would mean ordering zero — which would definitely not solve the customer’s problem. Error messages that state the problem in a conversational, polite manner and tell the user how to recover from the problem work better. An example: “Sorry, we do not currently have any Volcom Skibby Keychains in stock; please click here to be notified by email when the item becomes available.”

The Problem: Product gallery pages vary in their consistency and style.

The Fix: Some pages, such as “snowboard gear,” are well organized. This page features 12 sub-categories such as “snowboard bindings,” “goggles‚” and “snowboard videos.” Beneath each title are left-justified, clickable listings of all the brands in that range. The visitor can see the full range and quality of the brands stocked in an easy-to-scan, accessible manner. The other product pages with difficult-to-scan, center-justified and misaligned text would benefit from a redesign in this format.

General Advice: With these small changes to the home page and the product gallery pages, Daddies Board Shop could greatly improve the customer experience for its visitors.

The Critique Project

Melanie Loveland and her son Dan built a business together around a mutual passion — snowboarding. What started as a small, brick-and-mortar store in Portland, Ore., has evolved into a full-fledged multichannel merchant. It was a process the owners didn’t foresee when the business started in 1995.

Their business has seen dynamic change in the seven years since it launched a website. Daddies Board Shop now generates 80 percent of its sales through online channels and only 20 percent at the Portland store.

In February, when Practical eCommerce offered a once-in-a-lifetime complimentary website critique to one lucky recipient, Dan (along with many other website owners) petitioned for the critique — and his site was selected.

As part of the critique, five firms took an intensive look at to analyze its problems, the opportunities for search engine optimization, its general Internet presence, site search, pay-per-click advertising and customer experience/usability. The firms were:

  • Search Engine Optimization: Netconcepts, Stephan Spencer, President.
  • General Internet Presence: Red Door Interactive, Reid Carr, President.
  • Site Search: SLI Systems, Shaun Ryan, CEO.
  • Pay-per-click Advertising: Key Relevance, Christine Churchill, President.
  • Customer Experience/Usability: Optimal Usability, Richard Kerr, Usability Consultant.
Richard Kerr
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