The team at eBladestore.com asked us to review its site for usability issues. eBladestore sells knives of all types and sizes through a basic, three-column storefront. There are several good things about this site, including a quality site-search function. While the site has a basic, clean design, there are still many areas where the site can be improved. We’ve outlined below a variety of ways to update the site to add a more contemporary feel and improve the experience of the site’s visitors.
The site gets above-average marks for its home page. eBladestore’s home page clarity changes as the design of the site is liquid. This means the site changes depending on the size of the browser window, something we generally steer our clients away from. The reason is that a liquid design can leave you with a lot of white space when customers resize their browser window. That’s more a design concern though. The home page does explicitly tell the customer that it is at a knife store, so we’ll give them a B.
There are several things that make browsing at the site difficult. Many customers browse for products, especially during the holiday months where they are generally shopping for others. eBladestore gives customers the ability to browse products by many different categories and types, but the large amount of categories makes browsing a difficult experience—especially since the font size is so small. One solution would be bringing categories together as subcategories under a larger group. For example, make Camping, Extreme Sports and Compasses subcategories underneath a category called Outdoor. This would help cut down on the clutter on the home page.
The search function works well, returning all results you would expect to see and does not include unrelated items. The site has an incredible amount of products which does make browsing the results a little difficult, but eBladestore does the best it can by limiting the results to 15 a page. The site has done everything right with its search, and it gets an A+.
The category pages are generally well done. Just like the search results pages, eBladestore displays its category pages in a grid format with 15 products per page. Even better, you can sort the results by price, item name and recently-added products. The only thing they do wrong is not linking the product name to the product page; you must click on the product’s picture to view the product page. This is not intuitive and loses them some points.
Some confusing items on the product pages lead us to give this area a C+. The product pages include large images, enough information to push the sale without overloading the customer with information and has prices in Euros, Canadian dollars and American dollars. But they put two add-to-cart buttons on their product pages, which is confusing. One reads “Add To Cart” and the other reads “Buy Now.” They share the same design, but might still confuse a customer as being two different actions. If you really need two buttons on the product page (which you shouldn’t), at least have them read the same.
The checkout process is fast and gives the customer an option to checkout as a guest. This will result in a higher conversion rate for firsttime customers, but will hurt return sales as you don’t have any way to market to them. One problem is, if you change an item’s quantity to zero, it will no longer be calculated as part of the order total. However, it remains in your shopping cart until you select the “Remove Item” checkbox and update your cart. We would call this a bug when conducting our testing, and it is the only thing that hurts eBladestore’s checkout process grade.
The site gets solid marks for customer service. A contact number is displayed prominently in the site’s header banner, but it is not a toll-free number. This isn’t a usability problem, more of a business model problem, so I won’t knock off any points. eBladestore does offer a nice help section, although the link is fairly small. The link should be many font sizes larger.
The site almost fails the error recognition component. Luckily eBladestore checks credit cards to make sure they are real numbers. However, they do not check any address information, including the fact that I entered a four-digit zip code and selected “Seattle, CA” as my city and state.
eBladestore does a lot of things right, but its site could be helped by a design refresh. While the features are all there, the usability suffers because of small font sizes, unintuitive placement of items (such as the two add-to-cart buttons) and a general late-90s ambiance about the site. Now that the functionality is there, eBladestore must concentrate on making the site more authoritative and cleaner in its look. You don’t want customers scanning the site looking for the appropriate link—make it pop out at them. Overall, eBladestore receives a B-.
Usability Report Card
Home Page Clarity: B
Category Pages: B+
Product Pages: C+
Checkout Process: B
Customer Service: B
Error Recognition: D
OVERALL GPA: B-
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