Ian Lurie // Dec 28 2007
When I take my child to use your web site, it had damned well better work. My daughter just got a Rescue Pet. They’re adorable little stuffed puppies. They come with a code you can use at www.myepets.com to log in, groom your pet, furnish a little house for it, etc..
The fun stopped there. The myepets.com web site is a catastrophe. After 30 minutes of futility, I had to give up, and it’s all their fault. But try explaining that to your 5 year old. So, here are 6 ways you can not make my daughter (or other customers) cry:
Make sure your site loads in less than, oh, three minutes. I tested it with a stopwatch, and the ePets site was that slow. Not just for the home page, either – every page on the site loaded that slowly.
And don’t whine to me about unexpected server loads, either. You’re messing with my little girl here. I don’t care if five hundred rabid dogs are ripping the wires out of every server you own. You’d better have a backup plan
Are you kidding me?
The fix: Test your servers and your code. Make sure they can withstand at least 3x the current load. If they can’t, start considering what you’ll do when 40,000 Christmas shoppers show up at your electronic doorstep.
When the site finally loaded, I couldn’t figure out how to register Morgan’s pet. I looked all over the home page, and finally saw ‘Become a Member’ in the top navigation. I clicked it, and it brought me here:
There aren’t any clear instructions on becoming a member?!
Have a clear link on this page to become a member.
After a moment grinding my teeth, I went back to the home page. My son found the actual signup link before I did:
That’s an awfully well-hidden link.
The fix: People tend to browse a page in an ‘F’ shape, starting at the upper-left-hand corner, and sweeping across the page twice. Put the ‘New to MyePets?’ button at the upper-left, or the upper-right. Make it stand out.
The ‘New to MyePets?’ graphic looks like a button, but it’s not one. You have to click on ‘Fetch’ to actually get anywhere.
I’ve got a squirmy 5-year-old next to me, and a fidgety 7-year-old jumping up and down on the couch. It’s hard to click an area that small, and it’s not necessary to make me do it.
The fix: Make the entire button clickable – not just the word ‘Fetch’.
We finally found our way to the signup page. Morgan was feeling a bit happier. When we clicked to name the pet, though, this is what we saw:
After a little research (with my daughter getting madder by the second), I realized that the site’s slow load time let the Flash images load without the text. About 30 seconds later, the text appeared: “I need a name” in the thought bubble, and ‘OK’ in the circle.
By then, though, we’d clicked 3-4 times trying to figure out what to do.
The fix: Make sure your preloader shows a happy little progress bar, or frolicking puppies, or whatever else, until everything I need has loaded. That avoids a lot of confusion.
We finally signed up, got Spotty all set and adopted, and then went to play with our new virtual pet.
But the site prompted us to sign up again.
And the site prompted us to sign up again.
I tried a new browser, cleared all cookies, etc. etc..
And the site… prompted us to sign up again.
Clearly, something’s broken. And I’ll bet I’m not the first person to have found it.
The fix: Test your code. Thoroughly. On all major platforms and browsers. That includes Windows, OS X, Internet Explorer 5, 6 and 7, FireFox, Safari, and whatever else springs to mind.
My daughter is actually a very patient 5-year-old. Which puts her on par with the average consumer.
She and I both lost are patience. Maybe the site’s fixed now. Doesn’t matter. We won’t be back.
Harsh? It’s reality. In internet marketing, how your site works, and how easy it is to use, are as much part of your brand as the pretty colors and cute puppies. Quality assurance has to be part of your strategy, not an afterthought. So does usability. So does infrastructure.
So keep my daughter – and me – happy. Make sure your site is easy, stable and fast.
Ian Lurie is founder and CEO of Portent Inc., an internet marketing agency that has provided internet marketing, including PPC, SEO, social and analytics services, since 1995. Read More