If an affordable luxury can be considered a guilty pleasure, then mine is most definitely “Netflix”:http://www.netflix.com/. The online DVD rental system is incomparably convenient, and is truly revolutionizing movie rental.
It there’s one downfall to Netflix, it’s that it isn’t yet available in Canada (its original plan to expand to Canada and the UK in 2005 has been “postponed”:http://www.usatoday.com/money/media/2004-10-17-netflix-dvd-war_x.htm). So when I was looking for a birthday gift for my brother last year, I started investigating other alternatives. After reading several positive reviews of “Zip.ca”:http://www.zip.ca/ online, I decided to buy a gift membership on the site.
From start to finish, the experience was a lesson in poor online customer service. But that paled in comparison to the defective design of the company’s ecommerce site. It seemed very little attention was paid to facilitating navigation, and its online transaction pages were deeply flawed.
Like any Internet marketer and frustrated consumer, I made certain my concerns were heard. When I recently revisited the site to purchase another gift membership (call me a glutton for punishment), I was dismayed to find that, a year later, nothing had changed. I did notice what appeared to be some new features. User-friendly, they were not.
Much has been written about the challenges surrounding e-commerce sites. Reducing the number of steps in the purchasing process, indicating how many steps have been completed and how many still remain, providing a back link to the product page, allowing users to edit the shopping card — such best practices should be common knowledge by now. And yet, one of the most vital rules of all — making certain customers know what to do next — is, amazingly, still being overlooked.
Therein lies the problem for Zip.ca. After choosing a desired product package, the consumer is given two options: Create an Account, or Login. However, there’s only one set of fields to fill out. How is the system to know whether the consumer is a new or existing user? Apparently it doesn’t.
Having forgotten my previous username and password, I attempted to insert my information as a new user. I got an error message. When I was certain I’d recalled my previous login information, I tried again. Another error message. Worst of all, in both instances I was given no guidance whatsoever as to what to next. Nothing — not helpful tip nor alternative option — was offered to accompany the error.
For me, that was where the transaction process ended. I simply couldn’t continue. I had hit a brick wall. And when it comes to site design, that, above all, is the most critical error an e-commerce site can make.
No doubt, there are many e-commerce sites out there who are still trying to master the art and science of Web design. To be fair, there’s a lot to learn. But when you’re in a position to dominate the Canadian market in your industry, and are preceded by a virtually perfect product in the US, you should have more motivation to improve your site offering than anyone.
If you’re listening, Zip.ca, I’d suggest you reassess your site (and perhaps spend a little time on this one).