dear web stores: listen to me

Everyone knows that I’m full of something. What many people don’t know is that the something is good ideas. This is a public notice: I am full of good ideas. (“I have so much love to give!!”)

I bet it would be semi-fun to consult with places to help them make their web sites not suck. I don’t mean that I’d help them overhaul bad code or add innovative new idas. I just mean I’d show them where they’d really screwed up.

A simple example is where I recently saved myself: with Rubric, one generally has a bookmarklet that, when clicked, sends you to a pre-filled form to post an entry. If you’re not logged in, though, you’d be redirected to a “you must log in” page. This page wasn’t actually a login form, though, and once you did log in, you had to go back to the form yourself. It took about five or ten minutes to change things so that the “you must log in” page provided a login control and sent you back to your form when you’d logged in. This has made the system easier to use, and I imagine I’ll recover those five or ten minutes over the next few months.

Here are some examples that I’ve been whining about to stores:

Barnes and Noble, in my opinion, sucks compared to Amazon, at least as far as usability goes. Tim O’Reilly pointed, at OSCON, toward the difference in levels of user involvement. He meant that Amazon supported community activity, with its listmania and purchase circles. Those things don’t do it for me, but the fact that Amazon has piles of reviews and BN has just a few makes a difference. But even that isn’t what gets me most about Barnes and Noble have a lot of errors in their database. I bought a paperback that turned out to be a hardcover. They listed “Essential Haiku” as “Estl Haiku.” “Higher-Order PERL” should have been capitalized correctly, etc. On Amazon, every book’s page ends with a “Something Wrong?” form that you can submit to report typos. On, I have to:

	click "help"
	click "Customer Service"
	click "Still Need Help?"
	fill out a form that explains the problem /and/ the product, etc

Every time I do this I explain that Amazon makes this much easier. Every time, the response is, “Don’t worry, you did it right.” Sure, BN, but you didn’t!

Another BN mistake: why is it so hard to search across product boundaries? If I search for “Less Than Zero,” I should find the book, the movie, and the soundtrack.

More and more, I order books through my friendly local book store, even though their prices and selection stinks.

Then there’s GameFly, which is like Netflix for video games. (By the way, feel free to drop me a Netflix Friends notice. I love my Netflix.) If I go to their site, with no login, and click “rent it” under a game, I get sent to a “sign up” page. From there, I have to click a different “log in” link (because I have an account already) and then I have to go find the game I wanted again. Then, if I forget I’ve enqueued a game, I can click “rent it” again and I get a pop-up saying, “Don’t worry, it’s already enqueued.” Why don’t you disable or change the button, then? Sheesh.

Oh, and their request tracker sends me an email saying, “We got your suggestion, included below.” It includes “^M” at the end of every line. Nice!

DEAR WEB STORES: Let me come help you out. You don’t need to pay me. If you want, you can give me store credit. I will even bring cornbread and lemonade.

DEAR OTHER PEOPLE: If I am making these horrible mistakes on my own projects, tell me, and I will make changes.

Written on January 20, 2005
🏷 amazon
🏷 retail
🤤 stupid