Monday, September 26, 2016

Web designers need to follow standards

Web designers need to learn web standards and design their pages to respect them.  Too often it appears the pages are designed for Windows and IE using cookie cutter templates.  The world has evolved and people are using Linux, OS/X, Android and other operating systems with different browsers and the pages work poorly if at all.

These are the web sites of major companies like Best Buy, Staples, Walmart and Canadian Tire.  They have the money to invest in a well designed site, but, many choices they made in their web design break expected functionality of various web elements or have serious errors in their JavaScript code.


Check boxes

Just about all of the sites refresh the page when you click on a box even if you want to click several they force a refresh after each click.  Wait until the user picks all of the options and then have a refresh button when they are done.  Best Buy is the worst when I am looking for an item there are refreshes every time I select a box.  this is time consuming as something that takes me several minutes to do should take only seconds.  One other thought on this.  Every time you do a page refresh your server gets hammered multiple times along with the database.  That time used to service every little check box could be used servicing another client.  Throwing more hardware, software and communication pipes only serve to enrich the providers of the same.

Product availability

Best Buy I am looking at you here!  When I finally get through check box hell I see a lot of products are 'not available'.  If it isn't available then don't show it, or, have a checkbox for 'Available locally' or 'Can be shipped to your location'.  Also, allow a check box to remove 'ONLINE ONLY'.  When I am looking I want to know if it is in stock and I can go later to pick it up at the store.

Forced page refreshes

Canadian Tire I don't know if you are aware, but, when I select a product it refreshes itself about every 30 seconds and there is nothing I can do to stop that behaviour.  It is highly annoying as I am trying to read product information or reviews and after the refresh I am back up at the top of the page again. This was on my Windows box and Linux box using Firefox and Chrome.  I didn't try IE as that is Windows only.

Forced to provide a location

Look, I am just wanting to check out the product, features and reviews.  If I am interested then I will let you know roughly where I am.  There are sites that ask me to provide a location every time I change a page.  Ask once then remember my choice!

Auto-play videos

Come on, enough already.  I don't need loud commercials that I have to turn off (sometimes they can't be turned off).  I am paying for the bandwidth usage not you and sometimes I am on my tablet or cell phone and those ads brings them to their knees for minutes at a time while trying to play those videos.  If I am interested I will click on it.  Can't take the hint?  Well that is why I am running various blocking ad-ones in my browser and I suspect that is the reason why so many others do so too.  Sites that respect me I turn off the blockers.

Massive scripts

Now and then I look at the code for a given web page and over 80% of it is for scripts and images and very little is for text.  That is a massive overhead for stuff that most of the time isn't needed.  This takes time to download and storage on the servers. Have the developers review the code and if they don't understand what is being done then pull the code until they know what it does.

Review your page before releasing to the public 

Staples is at fault here.  To often the page has issues rendering (sometimes it is a blank page).  Sometimes it is IE that has issues others it is either Firefox or Chrome that have issues.  How about testing your pages before they are released in multiple operating systems and browsers.  Check for error messages!  I checked several times and I had page after page of errors in JavaScript.  Really? A client facing page and you have that many pages of errors?  

What I would like?

Well, how about learning what web standards are?  Learn some of the basics of HTML, forms and other design elements rather than letting the web page designer do the work.  The software may help, but, you really need to know the basics of good page design.  It is like giving a grade one student a calculator to help them learn math.  They may know enough to punch the buttons, but, they don't really learn how to do it and will never know if there is a mistake and if they don't have a calculator they can't do math.

Have ordinary people test out and review your site (or updates).  Ask them to do specific tasks and watch what they do and then ask them what they liked and disliked and what caused them problems.  To keep it real world make sure the machines are not the fastest up-to-date machines and have a slower network connection.  Use multiple operating systems, browsers and devices to make it more like how your customers access your web site.

Where you have feedback pages make sure that the feedback is reviewed and acted upon.  I don't know if senior management is even aware of what feedback is given, but, I suspect it may be just the positive feedback and most of the critical comments are not sent up the food chain.

Finally, KEEP IT SIMPLE.  You are trying to sell a product not fluff web pages.  All of the pretty images, sound, colours are a distraction most of the time and most consumers are tuning it out or using software to shut it down.  Make it 'How may I help you' and steer the consumer to your products, product information and reviews, pricing and availability.

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