My Bill of Rights for how the online shopping experience should be in a perfect world.
1) Ship to multiple addresses. This means specifically the ability to ship any item in an order to any address.
2) On the confirmation page, always let the user edit their order right there, delete, change quantity, ship to address, shipping options, etc. All buttons should be available for each item.
3) Never force the user to hit the back button for any mistake, assume they need to edit everything from every page, as if in a fully connected matrix. Let them navigate to anywhere from anywhere.
4) Don’t show items out of stock or on back order UNLESS the customer requests to see that garbage.
5) You had better know what is out of stock. :)
6) The submit button should immediately disappear when it is hit, it is either hit or not hit, and there should be no way for a customer to order something twice by accident or to be left wondering if they have ordered twice. The system should also display the appropriate status messages while an order is being processed.
7) If there is a problem on any page in the ordering process, a detailed message on what the problem was should appear at the top of page, along with highlighting the problem field, leaving a customer to wonder what they did wrong is just bad.
8) Gift wrap available or not when selecting an item, not at the end of the ordering process.
9) If the item or order is not under your inventory control then don’t sell it or pretend to sell it without a disclaimer.
10) Remember all the fields when navigating between options. For example, a user should never have to fill out an address twice unless it is a new address.
Why is it so hard to solve these problems ?
Long before the days of Internet, I was a system architect charged with designing an Integrated Voice Response product called Conversant (Conversant was one of the predecessors to Avaya IP Office). Although not nearly as wide-spread as the Internet of today, most large companies provided automated services over the phone throughout the 1990’s. Perhaps you are familiar with a typical IVR – Press 1 for sales, press 2 for support, etc. In an effort to reduce labor costs, companies also used the phone touch tone interface for more complex operations such as tracking your package or placing an order on a stock. It turns out that most of the quality factors associated with designing an IVR application of yesterday are now reflected in many of the issues facing the online shopping experience of today.
Most small companies really don’t have the resources to use anything more than a templated application. Sometimes the pre-built application is flawed, but more often than not, the application needs integration into the merchants back-end and business processes. The pre-built applications come with programming stubs for error conditions which must be handled. For small businesses, even the simplest customizations to an on-line application will run a minimum of 10k in programmer costs, and to hire a reputable company that specializes in customer integration is more like 50k.
Related Internet users bill of rights