website design

Click here for all posts in the Brand Experience Project.

I discovered a strange anomaly today on the US Postal Service’s website, and had to share.

For business reasons, I had to research how to get an account to pay the post office for processing a business reply mail card.

I then got further down the page and found the forms to use in order to enroll in the program. Great.

The first form is a PDF. It is not set up so that complete it online, which is aggravating – although I guess it doesn’t really matter, because as you can see under the steps, I have to submit this IN THE ACTUAL MAIL. Now, I know this is the post office, but I just changed my personal address online without issue. I am stunned that this requires forms sent in the mail.

However, it got weirder when I clicked on the second link for the other form I had to complete to apply for an account.

The nice PDF from before is gone, replaced with this really unfortunate form. In addition, the only way to manage this is to fill it in online and then print it out and mail it in, with the previous form.

  1. Why are the fonts so many different sizes?
  2. The row numbers fields do not need to populate like this. It should offer one line, with an option to keep adding lines as necessary.
  3. Why isn’t this a PDF like the other form?

I then scrolled down and saw this:

This form hasn’t been updated since April of 2012. That explains a lot.

This is obviously a huge miss by the USPS. I am certain that fewer and fewer companies have needs for pre-paid mailings, but this is still a service that is offered, and should be dragged into slightly more modern times.

There are obviously major issues with inconsistency in how this process is designed. Here’s how I think it could go:

  1. One form encompassing all information they need to create a CAPS account.
  2. If they insist on the customer printing and mailing said form, it should be generating a PDF of the completed form, in a format that is easy to read and process by whoever is receiving the form and processing it at USPS.
  3. Or, they could just let people submit their applications online, which seems like a much smoother and faster option.

Let me know how you would fix this antiquated system on Twitter.

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DogTuff.com Design Issues | Brand Experience Project

by Jamie Sanford on March 22, 2019

Click here for all posts in the Brand Experience Project.

My parents have a newish puppy, and when I visited recently, became acutely aware that the toughest toys ever are necessary for even a 12-pound Boston Terrier. More interest in finding toys that will take longer for him to destroy led me to DogTuff.com.

I have some thoughts based on the screenshot above.

  • Logo
    • I find it a bit hard to read and wish it was bigger. I do understand that with the other choices made in the header that there is not much room to increase logo size.
  • Header Offers
    • I absolutely understand the reasoning behind putting information about free shipping and a discount in the header so that it appears on each page, but there is a LOT of information here, and it might be too much for someone to stop and read instead of skipping to the shopping part.
  • Need Help/Phone Number
    • If the phone number is in white font over a black background, why have the messaging above it in grey? It seems like a weird time to suddenly be subtle.
  • ‘Top Picks” and “Hot” Flags
    • Something else I think is crowding the situation and isn’t necessary. I think that if a customer has made it to a website called DogTuff.com, they probably have an idea of why they are visiting. There is already so much happening in this header, I think the labels could be sacrificed and the customers will still be able to navigate without issue.
  • Show (number) Dropdown
    • How is there not an option to show all?! If not show all, there should be a review of the average number of items per category to determine the best options for how many items to view per page. I can attest from years of experience in e-commerce to knowing that many people prefer an option to view all results.

Here’s another screenshot to discuss another dropdown:

  • “Sort By” Dropdown
    • What does “position” mean here? There is absolutely no indication, and it is the default option on this main page for “chew toys.”
    • I am also not sure that Product Name and Color are best used as sorting tools in a dropdown, I would rather see a filter on the left side to choose a color or a product type.
    • Price is an obvious choice here, but I would like to see options for “Price Low to High” or “Price High to Low” instead of relying on the small arrow to the right for the customer to control that function.

That’s all I have on this for now. I love this website – toys that take your dog longer than 30 minutes to eviscerate are good! I am, however, generally always interested in creating the most value in terms of customer experience with the least possible amount of clutter on the screen.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments or tweet me!

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Bluemercury, Part 2 | Brand Experience Project

by Jamie Sanford on March 13, 2014

Click here for all posts in the Brand Experience Project.

Click here for part 1 of my experience with Bluemercury from January 23, 2014.

As I always do, I tweeted the last blog post after it went live in January – alerting Bluemercury to the major flaw in their free shipping countdown. I received a few tweets back:

It’s always lovely to receive feedback of this nature. I sent a follow-up email, as requested.

Barbara from Bluemercury got back to me with a response that wasn’t too specifically tied to my suggestions, but indicated I would get a blue box sent my way.

I was tagged on Instagram when the box was packed and on the way. I loved this way of letting me know that a box was on the way.

The box arrived a few days later, and was I not right about how great this packaging is?

Matching tissue paper.

It was filled with samples, which was lovely.

So, a big thanks to Bluemercury for sending the box. Of course, I had to go back and check to see if any of the issues I had brought up on their site had been addressed. I assumed that the shipping calculator issue would have been the first thing to fix, since it was obviously broken.

Surprisingly, as of March 12, the shipping calculator in the header is still broken.

My suggestion to add something here letting the user know that the item will be gift-wrapped for free (with perhaps an indication of what the lovely packaging looks like) has not been taken either. Even if a photo wasn’t being added, an indication that the item will be wrapped would be nice here.

The grammar and punctuation review hasn’t been completed either. Still hanging sentences and inconsistencies between language and buttons.

In the past year and a half, I have managed the re-launch of an e-commerce website with 3,000 SKUs. I know the struggle of making these things work, there’s always a quirk to deal with. However, the fact that the broken shipping calculator hasn’t been fixed is ridiculous. The other things I’ve brought up are more style suggestions than anything else, but the shipping issue is a basic function that is broken, and should be addressed immediately as it is incredibly confusing to customers.

I will follow-up again to see if these issues are addressed on Bluemercury.com.

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If you’re a brand who would like to be included in the brand experience project, please send me an email.

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Bluemercury | Brand Experience Project

by Jamie Sanford on January 23, 2014

Click here for all posts in the Brand Experience Project.

Click here for part 2 of the Bluemercury brand experience.

I placed my first order with Bluemercury a while back. My apologies for having no idea when it was, I cannot find a confirmation email for my initial purchase. It’s not often that I would go to such a niche site to buy things, because I can get so many of my products from either Amazon, or use Ulta or Sephora. The reason I went back to Bluemercury was because of a blue box.

Check this image from the Hyperbalist to see the Bluemercury blue box that I am talking about.

The blue box inside the package I received was so gorgeous and lovely that I still have the box. I store my light scarves and handkerchiefs in it, and I placed the order with Bluemercury because I expected another blue box. Let’s see how this all worked out.

Shopping Experience

The homepage is well-designed, for the most part. I believe that there could be a lot of consolidation in the menu options. I really love the little shopping bag that takes you to the cart, I think it’s darling. There are also a lot of spaces on the homepage for different items and such to be promoted. It’s a good use of the space, although I wonder how many shoppers are going down so far on the homepage before they’ve used the search feature or the top navigation to move on to their intended item.

I used the Brands dropdown menu to go straight to Mario Badescu, the brand I came to find. I really like this feature and wonder if more sites should embrace this sort of menu in the site navigation.

Here is where the site starts to get a little wonky for me. I’m taken immediately to a Mario Badescu brand page, which is great. However, the tab says “view all” and I’m not viewing all. The tab should be re-named “all products” unless the “view all” is the default option.

After clicking “view all,” I was treated to a 5-6 second wait with a blank screen (seen above) before the items appeared. An indication that the items are loading would be a good addition here.

I’m fine with the presentation of items here. The name of the item, the image, and the price are super clear, and you can either access a pop-up quick view, or click “view details” for the product page.

Here’s the quick view. I see no issues with this, other than a missed opportunity to ask for a product review. In addition, the stars with “in stock” right underneath without space could suggest that these 2 things are somehow related.

On the full product page, my issue with a missing call out to write a review is resolved, as is the “in stock” mention.

Instead of a pop-up telling me I added to my cart, I am actually taken to the cart. I have no major issues with this page, but I do think the “continue shopping” button could be moved to above the list of products in my cart.

I then noticed that there’s a message telling me I’m $7 away from free shipping. I find this odd because it very clearly says in the navigation that I don’t get free shipping until I hit $25.

After adding a second bottle of facial spray, I do in fact confirm that the message in the header is backwards, and telling me the wrong number. I am not $14 away from free shipping. I am actually now $11 away from free shipping. This obviously needs to be fixed.

After all of that drama, I would appreciate a message at the top telling me that I have qualified for free shipping.

Checkout

Samples are always a good idea. I have definitely purchased products after having samples. The samples are coming from the manufacturers, it costs next to nothing to add the weight to the box, it’s a win-win-win.

This page is pretty straightforward, but the line breaks on the right (see “gift wrapped” and “quantity”) are bugging me.

My pet peeve for no link to a pop-up with shipping information is poking at me here. I appreciate the descriptions on the shipping data, but the ground information is not helpful. Especially because the actual shipping page has a convenient ground shipping map with information on how long a package will take to get to you based on your state. Put a link to a new window with this shipping page!

Back to the blue box issue. I am expecting it because I’ve received it in the past. But I see no mention of it here, and no option for gift wrap.

Other than a lack of variety in the payment methods, I had no problems in this area.

Nitpicky, yes, but please have someone review sentence structure and punctuation. Don’t tell me to “then click Place Order” when the button says “place your order.” I just want there to be consistency, and also, if the idea is that you are trying to be high-end, things like this do matter.

I like the confirmation email. It’s super clear, it gives you lots of opportunities to contact Bluemercury if you have questions or concerns. Billing, shipping, returns, it’s all there. Good job.

Packaging

I was really excited to receive my Bluemercury box. I didn’t buy products that were lifechangers, these are Mario Badescu products that I was refilling, but I really wanted that blue box.

The box was not customized, but the tape was, so that was fun.

From previous brand experience project posts, you know that I am a stickler for good treatment of the packing list! This one was nicely folded in half, right on top of the box. Props to the box for having a fold back lid as well.

They are messy but I do enjoy the crinkly package filler. It’s also much better for the earth than some packing peanuts.

Unfortunately, disappointment was in the box along with my products. The magical blue box is missing from my order. I have no idea if they have phased the blue box out of online orders, or perhaps there is a purchase minimum for inclusion of the blue box? I would love for someone from Bluemercury to let me know what happened to the best online order packaging I had ever received.

I haven’t scored in a while and it was more difficult than I remembered. The overall experience was fine, right, because I placed an order for certain things, and they ended up arriving to my home without any issues or problems. There were just a number of issues I had during the process that frustrated me, and definitely need to be adjusted, particularly the free shipping countdown situation.

Have you shopped Bluemercury.com, or gone back to a site to shop again because of a past experience? Did it live up to your expectations? Leave a comment!

Click here for part 2 of the Bluemercury brand experience.

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Neiman Marcus | Brand Experience Project

by Jamie Sanford on March 8, 2013

Click here for all posts in the Brand Experience Project.

Neiman Marcus is the brand on display during today’s experience project. I made an order with a gift card months ago to take the packaging photos, and just re-purchased an item to take proper screenshots of the site for this blog post. Unfortunately, this experience overall is a bit bi-polar.

Shopper Experience

The Neiman Marcus website has been amazing visual porn for years. I love it.  Sometime in the last few years, they switched over to a flashy version that was very “techy” and seemed to be redesign for the sake of redesign. Luckily it didn’t last long, the flowy, flashy version was quickly reverted back to the original design.

The homepage is easy to use with the standard rotation of events and sales. Props to Neiman Marcus for wonderful product photos. I will talk more about that later.

I chose the print banner on the homepage, and am delivered to a lovely Neiman Marcus search result. Note their events listing on the left – there are lots of ways to drill down products on their site.

Since I knew what I was really after, I chose to use the main navigation dropdown menus to purchase moisturizer.

Similar to the collection result is the beauty result, where I can navigate the entire beauty department on the left.

I knew I was looking for Kiehl’s, so I chose to filter results by brand.

I then went back to the left menu and chose “all brands” which gave all results for beauty brands.

The brand page has categories covered, with more lovely images.

I drilled down to moisturizers, and found my product of choice. The product page here is very straightforward, informative, and lovely.

As I’m seeing a lot more with beauty items on many websites, it gave me the opportunity to sign up to auto-purchase this item at a chosen interval.

Pop-up shopping cart. Let’s proceed to checkout!

Checkout

I don’t know what generates the content for “May We Suggest,” but it seems sort of random.

I appreciated the reminder at the top that I will get free shipping if I use the code. However, before I plugged that in, there was a convenient pop-up showing the shipping info before I have to choose. I do wish the dropdown had the prices built in, instead of HAVING to review the pop-up, where the prices are at the bottom of a lot of content, and not the top. So this is a tiny thing that could be improved.

I really like the succinct confirmation page. Granted, I’m only ordering one item, and I wonder how many items are on a standard Neiman Marcus order. It seems that packing all of that information onto the right column might be unfortunate if someone has 15 items in their cart.

My order is complete. I really like the “Look what I just got” and the “Save my information” options. I sent a screenshot of the sharing feature to the web developer I’m currently working with. Again, I would love to have stats on the use of these tools, but I don’t work for Neiman Marcus.

What I also love here is the Printer Version button, and the option to include photos or not. It’s so easy and obvious, but I haven’t seen it before. I might not want to print a picture and waste my ink on that. (I don’t really print anymore, don’t we all just made PDFs?)

Here’s my Printer Version. I chose the pictures and printed a PDF. I’m sort of unhappy that there isn’t anything here about the timing of my order. What is the estimated time of turnaround from now to when my order will be shipped to me? It seems unlikely that NM would be unable to figure out estimates for most items they stock on their website.

Finally, I get an estimate on when I will receive my item in the confirmation email. I’m glad I didn’t really need that moisturizer in the next 13 days. I do think an improvement on not only cost, but delivery time based on your shipping choice would be a good addition to the checkout process.

The general look and tone of the email is in line with everything else from NM, so this is not a big departure. My overall shopping experience was really lovely. As I mentioned before, the product imagery is really spectacular, and when you’re selling a lot of high-end brands and everything looks amazing, it almost replicates the feeling you actually get in the store.

Packaging

On to packaging of the order I received for my last purchase from NeimanMarcus.com.

Not a branded box, but we did get the logo on the shipping label.

I was impressed at the very specific identification of the person who packaged my order.

Is this a FedEx thing, the writing on the box? The fact that this number is crossed out makes me worry that my box was used before it became the box destined for me. No way of knowing this though, so I cannot put it onto NM.

This is where my confusion goes into overdrive. 2 photos ago I showed you a sticker saying my box was professionally packed. How is it professional to not take the time to at least fold my packing list in half? This was really upsetting to me, because after my lovely experience with an organization that is clearly designed to give a high-end experience, this craps all over that. I am pissed off that this is just shoved in the box without a care in the world.

Random samples underneath the mangled packing list. I’m always happy to receive free beauty samples.

I picked up the samples and moved some of this very basic and unimpressive beigey packing material to see all of my items pushed together, sort of padded from the outside of the box. It’s not the best packing job I’ve seen, but it isn’t the worst either. All of my items were unharmed, but they are also items with only a slight chance of breaking during transport.

So, this experience with Neiman Marcus started out wonderfully. It’s really a pleasure to browse the site. It has a lot more going on than say the Solestruck website I talked about a few weeks ago, but that’s to be expected given the array of items offered. While Neiman Marcus has numerous categories and thousands of items, navigating through them to shop is not overwhelming or difficult. The information during checkout was a bit murky, but nothing earth-shatteringly terrible. My biggest issue was clearly the treatment of the package that I received, and the contents. Noting on the outside of the box that my items were professionally packed – and then having the experience I did, was incredibly disappointing.

I would recommend that Neiman Marcus does a review of their professional packers and perhaps set up some standards for things like packing lists. The internal wrapping was acceptable, but it didn’t feel like it was in line with the Neiman Marcus brand.  The disconnect between the website experience and the package experience was significant. What about people ordering gifts online? I would hate to order something from NeimanMarcus.com and have a package arrive to someone with the contents in the condition that I received.

Here is the score card for Neiman Marcus. Have you shopped on NeimanMarcus.com? What was your experience?

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