E-commerce: Why are some sites so unfriendly to customers?

By | January 19, 2008

Cindy, one of my colleagues at my school, has been helping us make some banners for announcements for our upcoming events and Chinese New Year Holiday. She highly recommended the software called 非常好色6是DIY美工創作的必備幫手 which translates roughly as “Very Colorful 6 is a DIY art and creative tool that is a necessary help”. The tool can be used to create pages like the ones in the image below.

magicpower

In fact, she used the software to create the following Chinese New Year notice, that we are placing on our school website and handing out to students.

new year notice

In fact, she designed the funky notice. Then she exported the document using a PDF print driver called PDFCreator 0.95 (I think). The real problem came when we tried to order the software through the Interweb. I was quite surprised that the publisher called NewSoft which had an international website could run such a weird system. Rather than retype everything, here’s the email I fired off to the publisher.

Dear NewSoft…

I recently had a frustrating experience trying to buy Chinese language software from your company… Your Website for Taiwan is terrible…

1. it doesn’t work with Firefox? And that’s really not very professional…

2. when I opened it in IE7, I successfully managed to order, but the software CLOSED my browser, tried to popup a new window without my permission, and caused me to wonder why I bothered trying to order
anything from your site.

3. then when I accessed your website again, I was told that my browser (IE7) was out of date, and to download new crap onto my system… If you want customers to come into your store, do you really ask them to change their shoes and coat first… ?

I’m sorry but your e-commerce site is really awful, and I’ve done a lot of shopping online in the past: It’s not friendly to non-IE7 browsers (let’s not mention Linux!), isn’t friendly to people who can’t read Chinese fluently yet (and the buy button is so ridiculously small), and then crashed my browser, and left me wondering whether or not I had successfully completed the order.

Overall, it created unnecessary demands on e-commerce users… I wonder how many customers would bother to even try the second time, or the third time…. Like I did. Or how many would even bother to write this email… Perhaps I’ll just post it on my blog tonight…

Best Wishes
Kenneth

Unfortunately, in Taiwan there is a huge assumption for local websites that IE6 or IE7 is the ONLY browser in use. It’s like most companies are unaware of the need to develop websites that have core functionality that is accessible for non-IE6/7 browsers or systems. A kind gentleman called Frank that responded promptly to my email admitted as much. But he didn’t care to explain the sense of that.

Is your site browser friendly or browser neutral? Have you checked? With mobile blogging and e-commerce likely to become a big phenomenon, designing websites that are cross browser compatible is a necessity if you wish to be taken seriously in the e-commerce world. And Apple which uses Safari and Firefox as browsers is also growing its PC market share above 5% of late. Linux installs are also growing. Opera is also multi-platform as a browser, and is very standards-compliant. At the very least, functionality should degrade in a way that is not obvious to visitors.

But in the website I used, even the dropdown menus didn’t work in IE7 as well as Firefox. It just seems that if a company is serious about online business, the website needs to respect as many choices as possible, it needs to be properly tested, and it needs to be maintained. You can’t just build your website and forget about it.

error in javascript

There were other usability issues including the a javascript error, and popups to documents that can be printed out, but which may crash your browser.

So, do test your e-commerce website as much as you can before, during and after the launch. Keep it uptodate and make it as user friendly as possible. Otherwise customers will experience errors and simply close the browser, click away or enter a URL of one of your competitors, instead. All of these result in lost sales.