We have an outstanding (in a bad way) invoice to a client who keeps delaying paying. The invoice is for less than $2000. He is a local store outside of New York City. He said it was a bad winter… so few people came into his store, he can’t pay us.
I replied that I grew up right near his store. It snows badly every winter. One might think you’d see that coming. He wrote back that it was an EXTRA bad winter, and his foot traffic was down. It’s almost ironic that we’re getting paid because we built him an eCommerce website… which requires nobody to come into his shop to buy something. 🙂
I replied that I have a February birthday and never in my childhood went to school on my birthday due to blizzards. It was almost a joke around my house growing up. Debbie’s birthday is coming… prepare for the blizzard! I’m a bit of a loner, so spending every birthday looking out the window as the white crystals quietly covered the 1976 Ford, then the 1978 Chevy, etc… that was OK by me.
Expect Winter To Be Winter-y
I’m a consultant, and I KNOW that every year, I will have nearly nothing to do between mid-November and late-January. It’s just not a time when agencies take on a lot of work or need UX help. People aren’t doing a lot of hiring during the holidays. So my “business” slows down to nearly nothing for a few months.
I can’t stop paying my vendors. I have to plan ahead and have enough money to live and work on for those months.
I would think that most businesses open more than a year or two would notice what tends to make a period a slow time. Do they slow down in winter because they rely on foot traffic and people leave the house less? Do they slow down in summer because people vacation more and aren’t around to come into the shop?
This client should know better. Seeing as we first worked for them in the year 2000, one might imagine that he knows by now that winter can bring less foot traffic. Ultimately, his invoice being unpaid doesn’t make or break my company. But it is making me think about how much people are really planning.
I remember one time when a client emailed me completely frantic that his weekend sales were AWFUL and what the hell is going on that he had such a bad weekend on his eCommerce website. I had to explain to him that it had been Easter that weekend (he evidently didn’t notice), and that many people were probably traveling or with family. There were probably fewer people doing online shopping. I said if it doesn’t pick up later in the month, let me know. He wrote back later saying yeah, it was just that one weekend.
Notice Patterns and Try Predicting Your Customers’ Behaviors
Winter. I’d imagine fewer people going to shops unless they have to. Maybe spacing out their haircuts more. Postponing doctor visits. Less “going antiquing.” If winter weather can affect your local business, plan for that.
Holidays and special events. Do you have the sort of business that might see less (or more) business because of a holiday? I once went to Disney World in Florida on Super Bowl Sunday. It was a (pleasant) ghost town. Chances are that hotels, car rental, and other services that rely on Disney tourism saw a drop that week as a lot of the country focused on a special event.
School breaks. You might also have the sort of business that sees fewer people or sales when kids are out of school and families travel or send kids to camp. Maybe your business relies on people traveling to you.
You owe it to your business, your customers, and certainly employees and vendors you pay to notice patterns and plan ahead. If you will need to stockpile money when times will be or might be slow, then make sure you’re doing that.
Once you have identified these potential lulls, the second half of that then is are there any promotions you could run that would increase traffic or sales during those down times?
In April 2011, I had a conversation with eBay about why users were “pogo sticking,” as they called it. People search, get results, go into an item, and less than 2 seconds later they leave that item and go back to search results… only to do it all again.
As a UX chick and eBay expert, this was obvious to me. Not sure why eBay couldn’t figure this out and was at a conference telling the audience they couldn’t figure this out.
When I discussed this with eBay staff, they told me they THINK that what people want to see is the name of the seller’s eBay Store. That must be what they are popping in to see. I told them I had to get off the phone to cry, and would send them some wireframes later.
I later sent them some really rough wireframes and some notes. I explained that what potential buyers really want to know is:
- What is this? Or is this what I think it is? And is it in the condition I expect it to be in?
- When will I get it? Or if I’m not logged in and you don’t know where I am, how fast does the seller ship it and HOW does the seller ship it? If you tell me a seller ships it within 2 days UPS 2 day, I have a good idea when I will get it.
- What’s the return policy? I don’t need all the steps. Can I return it or is this a final sale?
From there, it’s just details and nuances, especially in the conditions of used or refurbished items.
I won’t tell you how that conversation ended. I’ll just say let’s fast forward 4 years to see what search results look like now. Click to enlarge.
They look pretty much the same as when I last took a look 4 years ago.
I guess the good news is that eBay didn’t clutter it up by adding the seller’s eBay Store name. Because nobody cares what they named their store.
Let’s put our UX hats on and take a look at what a user can do here. I’ll pretend I’m new to eBay but I’m interested in this item. I searched for it. I found this one.
What information is easily discoverable about it? The price, shipping is free, how many people are watching it, and the fact that the seller might take a lower offer (“Best Offer”).
I also see the seller’s name, feedback, positive feedback percentage (though you’re not told what the 100% means… you are just supposed to KNOW that’s the percentage of positive feedbacks), that they are Top Rated Plus (I don’t know what that means), and they take PayPal (assuming you recognize the PP logo). I can zoom in on the picture.
I don’t know how quickly the seller will ship or how the seller ships it. I don’t know what condition it’s in. New? Used?
Let’s say I know that this is a very rare item and I’m ready to buy it right now. Where is that “Buy It Now” call to action button? Or if the seller will let you negotiate, where is the “Make An Offer” button for the Best Offer process?
What is the call to action here? I can’t really DO anything here other than click on the title to get to the detail page.
1) How sad that 4 years later, eBay seems to have made no progress in improving the UX of search results. I still lack some key information, there’s no real CTA, and I still have to click into the item detail page to learn what I wanted to learn. I’m under the impression there is a Product Manager just for this page. What is that person working on these last few years?
2) That means eBay is probably still seeing “pogo-sticking,” even 4 years after publicly complaining about it at the Product Camp event.
3) eBay is a site for people who already know how to use eBay. New sellers don’t get a good explanation of the rules or best practices. New shoppers aren’t told what logos and numbers mean. eBay just assumes you know what these mean (or you don’t care).
4) eBay hasn’t graduated to looking and feeling more like what shoppers are used to on eCommerce websites. While eBay may not really need an “add to cart” button because you’re bidding or “buying it now,” eBay’s interfaces should lean on what is familiar to shoppers as often as possible. That doesn’t mean ripping off Amazon. That won’t help you because Amazon doesn’t have “add to cart” buttons either. They want to first show you options.
eBay UXers should ask what they can do… wait a minute. That should have happened years ago. That should have happened before a guy is presenting at a conference saying that eBay has no idea why people bounce in and out of search results. So much should have happened so long ago (and so many times over for the best possible UX). What a shame that eBay has become a place most of us rarely or never go. I believe it’s too late for them to redeem themselves.
What can I expect search results will look like 2 years from now? Same?
I have a Starbucks card I’ve managed online. That means I have a Starbucks account. I can log in, see my card(s), set them to auto reload, and other relevant stuff.
Starbucks sent me a 15% off coupon for their Starbucks Store. OK, sure. I use your decaf Via packets a lot since it can be hard to get decaf when consulting at places that like their caffeine. I put them in my cart and went to check out.
My login didn’t work. That didn’t make sense. I’m on the Starbucks site. I have an account. I’m ready to buy something.
Ohhhhhhh really? Nobody there could figure out a way to allow you to shop with the account you already had? I now need to juggle and remember TWO Starbucks logins? One for my card and one for shopping in the online store?
That looks like UX debt.
That seems like the kind of thing someone will have to fix later. I wonder if it would have cost less to build correctly in the first place… so that people can use one account.
The layout of the address input is rather odd.
I’m in Firefox on Windows. And this looks fairly jumbled to me. It’s also not clear which fields are mandatory or optional.
More UX debt that seems like it would cost more in time and money to fix than to have just launched lined up nicely and looking good.
I sent a new client an invoice last week. Sure you can pre-pay for 8 hours of Axure training! 🙂 I said they can PayPal me or I can take their credit card info and charge their card through my Square account.
I use Harvest for my invoicing. They have a feature where when you send an invoice, it can include a PayPal link to inspire customers to pay. So I sent my invoice that way.
The client wanted to pay by credit card. This used to mean I had to call that person to get all the credit card details over the phone. I don’t have an eCommerce checkout for one single invoice.
Square Just Introduced Invoicing!
I wouldn’t have known if Square hadn’t popped up a message when I logged in that they now had invoicing. Yes, I’ll try it!
I put in the invoice name, number (from Harvest), amount, and email address it should go to.
My invoice was paid nearly immediately, and the client emailed me that she, “loved it.”
She LOVED paying my invoice?
She loved Square’s interface for letting her pay the invoice. She followed that email up with an email that said that Square is so much more user friendly than PayPal.
This is a rare animal in the UX world. This is delight. Someone genuinely enjoyed something because it was easy and attractive. Extra kudos to Square for this rarely seen delight. Who would expect delight, especially when paying an invoice!
About a week ago, I stumbled on the So Easy Rider product when searching for how people attach smartphones/GPS/satnav to a Piaggio MP3 (which I drive). I found a YouTube video where a British guy had attached a So Easy Rider v3 to his Piaggio MP3. I was sold!
I then had to make my way out to Google to find who sells this and how much it is. Amazon had it from a Chinese seller so I’d get it in X weeks (who really knows). And there was a French site. The French site was so strange that screen shots won’t tell the story of the interaction. So I shot a video! Enjoy my first video blog entry. 🙂
Long story short: Ordered it from Amazon. Hoping to see it by the end of the month. 🙂
It’s 2013. And with how easy it is to run servers and scale them, it’s amazing to me that Ticketmaster still hasn’t figured this out, especially relating to their heavy usage periods.
By now, they would have to know what their patterns look like. They would have to know that days where there are pre-sales and periods of time when tickets have just gone on sale are going to be absolutely wildly heavy.
Someone in the IT department should understand that, and adjust servers accordingly. I do not see why I should have to wait sometimes 15 minutes for servers to find me two tickets to a concert. Is that really how long it takes the system to access a database and determine where there are two seats together in the price level that I want to pay?
It has to be server load and management combined with laziness and being cheap. I can go to Ticketmaster at off hours when nothing special is going on, and be shown seats within what feels like seconds.
Which department decided that making someone wait 15 minutes for what might be an impulse purchase is a good user experience? I wonder if they have some sort of graph that shows how many people give up on buying tickets based on how long their wait is. Or if they have data that shows that certain people will still buy tickets even after being given long wait times. Maybe they give those people the longest wait times because they taught Ticketmaster they will take abuse and stick around!
I wonder if the mobile experience is any better. I wonder if mobile users are put ahead in the line over us desktop users. Even so, with modern server load balancing, why does anybody have to wait more than one minute?
In case you are curious, I gave up on buying those tickets. I used a different website to buy tickets to a completely different band and show. And I’m happy with that!
Attack of the bad messaging… Click to enlarge.
A company I won’t name has a website where most people seem to be unhappy with the search and discovery process. It’s an eCommerce site offering a lot of different products, so having a search process that really delivers the right things the first time is of paramount importance.
Like many sites, the company weights search results in their own secret way, and the customer gets a mix of what matches their search with what the site thinks they want. This would be GREAT if the site used personalised information about the shopper’s previous behaviour to inform the search results. Evidently they don’t.
People are frustrated with search results on this site, and the company is often messing with them to see how to make them better. A good percentage of people change their search results sort to something other than the weighted results, say by price lowest to highest. I think if the company made that re-sort drop down menu easier to find, nearly everybody would change their sort.
The problem is that nobody at the company wants to say that their weighting or algorithm or whatever they’ve built is the reason people aren’t getting what they want. They seem to take the opinion that people aren’t searching correctly. Maybe after they search, we should try to get them to start a new search again.
There are plenty of online shopping sites where when I search, I only find things I was really looking for. REI does a good job. Amazon does a pretty good job. It CAN be done, even on sites with really varied product lines and variations of products (sizing, colours, options, etc…).
When I ask myself why this one company seems to not be getting it right, I can only assume the problem isn’t technical. Other companies do it well (technically), so what’s the difference? It’s attitude. For as long as you are going assume your customers are just doing it wrong, you’re not taking responsibility for your user experience. If you tell yourself the story of, “This is a great user experience, but our customers are just doing it wrong,” then this is a falling house of cards.
Your customers are doing it right. Consider learning how they are doing it and why, and cater to their natural behaviours and thought processes.
On 1 July, I ordered a Nook gift card for the project manager on my consulting gig. Happy Birthday! I figured that since I chose the emailed version, he’d get it right away. I was ordering it last minute… 1 July was his birthday, and the day I wanted him to get it.
After I placed my order, this was part of my confirmation screen:
I couldn’t believe that I might possibly be a week late with his birthday present because B&N might not get it together to just email him the gift card. I emailed customer service, who seemed to set things right, and he got it a few hours later. But I was really surprised at the idea that their website thought they might need 3 business days (nearly a calendar week) to email someone an emailed gift card.
I recently hit the Best Buy site because I am curious about the upcoming Asus Transformer Android tablet. Evidently, it’s pretty well spec’ed, and only $399. Attractive! I was wondering if they had a page on it yet.
I searched for “asus transformer.” That was a mistake. I got 99 results, and some were definitely not Asus, but were transformers. I didn’t know Best Buy’s search defaulted to “OR.”
I figured the easiest way would be to narrow that down by manufacturer. Only Asus stuff would get me closer to this tablet, right?
You’re kidding me. I know Asus is often seen as ASUS, but I’d like to dream that the Best Buy system sees those two words as the same. This means their entire database has two separate entries as if they are separate manufacturers.
Also, there is only one Asus Transformer. Why so many results? Perhaps this is the default boolean OR. I’m not happy with this user experience. And PS, it’s not on the Best Buy site yet evidently. Null set.