Annoying Web site failures

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 25, 2010, 10:56 PM | comments: 0

At this point in my career, I've been on the back end of consumer Web sites at various levels, from a few thousand a day that generated huge revenue, to those serving millions in a support capacity. In every case though, I now critical it is to have your stuff work, and when it's not working, know why. When I encounter sites that clearly aren't doing this, it annoys me. How do they stay in business?

Schwan's was the biggest offender recently. I couldn't complete an order, edit my address or even use their contact page. Finally I found an old support ticket by e-mail and used that, and they put me in touch with one of their programmer/analysts to confirm that a fix they deployed worked. But it went on for almost a month, and that disappointed me to no end. I've generally felt they have a solid Web site, and it's built on ASP.NET (not that you can't write shit for the platform... I've seen my share of it).

You would think they'd have instrumentation to see a drop-off in orders. I thought that maybe my account got into some suboptimal state, but then our driver today told Diana that he saw a huge drop in pre-orders, and he generally skips customers who otherwise have a history of pre-orders (our Cleveland driver typically did that too). It wasn't just me.

Or how about this one. Today I drop into Ikea to order a disposable coffee table. We've wanted to grab one the last few times we were there, but they just never had it. I try to order it at work, and the $39.99 item somehow had a shipping amount of $280! There is no rational situation for that to be the case. I try again later, and I can't look up stock or add one to the cart. Fail.

My current cable system has a horrible site too. It had no way to reset passwords or anything, but yet their support people could simply look it up and e-mail it to you, with zero identity verification. Nice.

It just disappoints me to see how inconsistent, and typically poor, the quality of many Web apps are. I understand why good developers and managers are expensive and hard to find. There aren't enough of them.


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