Posts in Customer Experience

Q&A: Kieron Smith of the Book Depository

The Book Depository is a fast growing business which sells books internationally from its UK base. Last year, its sales grew by 160% to £40m, enough to take the number five slot in The Sunday Times' Fast Track 100 list.

I've been talking to MD Kieron Smith about the site, the reasons for its success, and the challenges of running an international e-commerce operation.

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Which UK e-tailers are still making users register?

Making people register before they can make a purchase is a needless obstacle to put in front of customers, and has been shown in various surveys to be something that web shoppers dislike, and cite as a reason for checkout abandonment.

Plenty of retailers are still insisting on customer registration though, despite the potential for reducing abandonment rates and increasing profits by removing this step.

I've been having a look at some of the top e-commerce sites in the UK to see how many are still insisting on making shoppers register...

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Note to Next: don't make visitors listen to music

Chris Lake wrote about 50 ways to annoy web users on Monday, which included things like pop-up ads, slow loading pages, unreadable text, and other terrible crimes against usability.

One of the biggest offences for me is the automatic playing of audio when you arrive at a webpage, and I've found a pretty sorry example of this on the Next homepage today.

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Why do major publishers prevent Google from caching?

A website I run is undergoing a makeover and is down for the day, and I wanted to show somebody the old version. As such I aimed for the Google cache, which is useful in this sort of situation.

I noticed that the cache had updated in the early hours of the morning, and as such I couldn’t see our old site. Bugger.

It seems that Google is caching news sites with increasing frequency. Yet some newspaper websites don't like Google caching at all...

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Huge drop-down menus are good for usability - Nielsen

While regular drop-down menus on websites can be bad from a user experience perspective, bigger versions can improve usability by overcoming the drawbacks and allowing users to see all the options at once without scrolling.

Usability guru Jakob Nielsen makes this point in his latest Alertbox post, recommending the use of such menus to improve the user experience, as well as providing some tips on making 'mega drop-downs' more user friendly. I've been looking at a few examples of drop-down menus...

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50 swinish ways to annoy web users

I experienced a few issues this morning while browsing around on the web. I’m still amazed by some of the issues I chance upon in an average day, often on mainstream media websites.

As such I’ve compiled, in about an hour and a half, a list of 50 things that annoy me. Some of these things are plain bad design, while others are strategically dubious. One or two are to be avoided like a bad smell.

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Are retailers following best practice to improve conversion rates?

Retailer logos for John Lewis, Play.com, Toyrus and PC WorldNow with our economy firmly in a recession, most retailers no longer have the types of budgets available to replatform. Instead, 2009 will be a year for improving their existing platforms, trying to increase conversion rates, average order values and returning visitor numbers.

So with this primary drive to improve performance, are retailers doing all that they can? Are retailers following best practice to help more visitors complete the buying process, and are retailers removing usability barriers to ensure that in such competitive times visitors aren’t encouraged to find reasons why they shouldn’t complete their purchase?

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Memo to Steve Ballmer: the future of search is needs-based

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has been making funny noises again. He’s been talking about the future of search, and the issues Google faces.

He said“Google does have to be all things to all people. Our search does not need to be all things to all people.”

Maybe so, but it’s hard to know exactly what Microsoft is trying to be, in terms of search. Nevertheless, Ballmer says that the company is experimenting with new business models for search, as well as new ways of presenting search results.

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Undo that email, sort of

We all know the scenario. You just typed an email. You may have been angry, absent-minded or in an altered state of consciousness for a brief moment (or hour).

The minute you hit 'Send', you realize that you made a huge mistake. Your email contained a horrible typo, said something you wouldn't tell your mother or was just plain unintelligible.

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Internet Explorer 8: a review

The latest update to Microsoft's browser was released yesterday, with features like Accelerators and web slices added to improve on the previous version.

I currently use Firefox over Internet Explorer for various reasons, including the fact that it rarely crashes, as well the useful add-ons, so should Mozilla be worried about its users switching to IE8?

Econsultancy on IE8

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Speed still counts for web users, but not for IE8

Erick Schonfeld of Techcrunch yesterday reckoned that IE8 fares poorly in the browser speed stakes, and contests that it is key for Microsoft to retain market share. 

He wrote: “Speed is really everything. Without speed, all the other features fall by the wayside. We’ll have to wait for new independent speed tests to see how IE8 stacks up, but speed does not appear to be its strong point.”

Nice observation, but I’m not so sure that browser speed matters for the majority of web users. Techies and internet fiends will spot the difference, for sure, but how many tech-savvy people do you know that still use IE?

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Facebook's new design a flop - so far

Facebook recently rolled out a new design that, in the eyes of some, represents a fundamental shift for the world's largest social network.

The new design places an emphasis on showing Facebook users real-time updates of their friends' latest online activities. Some suggest this is Facebook's response to the growing popularity of Twitter.

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