Online Shopping User Experience vs Design

Design vs. User ExperienceSome time ago, I swore I would never buy shoes online - and I did. Some time ago, I swore I would never buy pants online - and I did. Some time ago, I swore I would never buy a car online - and, again, I did.

These are tributes to two things: better and more informed user experiences online that mitigated the risk when I was busy swearing.

But yesterday, I was looking for shirts, and Amazon, Google and a myriad of other websites failed. It was the sort of failure that was so ubiquitous that I had to write about it - unlike buying a car stereo at instead of because of user experience (and better prices).

I decided that I would like a few mandarin collar long sleeve shirts with pockets since I've lost weight and some of my older shirts make me look skeletal. Someone on the planet would make what I wanted - I'd stopped wearing these shirts because the simply are hard to find, but resolved, I spent a few hours yesterday trying to find them and was sorely disappointed that I couldn't find what I wanted... and that, though they might be there somewhere on this big blue marble, the user experience sucked horribly.

Most sites, as an example, won't allow you to search between long sleeve and short sleeve shirts (at least for men). That is disappointing because it's a shirt buying basic. Then comes the problem where a mandarin collar is also called a banded collar (and on Google, the 'silhouette' is identified as a Roundneck).

What probably makes the problem worse is the fact that I have no patience for shopping. I don't like having to sift through hundreds, if not thousands, of shirts to find the right one. I know what I want. I know my way around search tools. I know how this search should have been designed. I know how shirts should be tagged. I know that when I search for mandarin collars, banded collars or roundnecks (not to mention 'China collar')... I shouldn't see regular collars in the search results.

Once again, we find where the algorithms are limited. C'mon, folks, get it together. 

Or hire me and let me do it for you. :-)

Site Redesigned, Again.

Platform Convergence and the Dawn of Trans-Media ChannelsIf you've visited any time in the past decade, you'll notice that it's been changed again. It's evolved, as so many sites should as the media changes.

The last redesign, done back around 2011, was me sticking to the 3 column layout that I refused to give up because - well, really, I like 3 columns.

Mobile devices, on the other hand, don't do that many columns in a usable way. In fact, it's pretty damned annoying - so I opted for - and for the first time - a fixed width design. I've opted to diminish the prominence of (since I'm no longer running an LLC) and instead feature my own name, or brand, more prominently. And I tossed in some of my own images at top.

Why did I do these things? Honestly, I needed to simplify. I can do a lot of different things and I do a lot of different things. That has been a constant issue with my website(s) - I'm all over the place in my interests. Some time ago I decided that I would divide my sites into personal (also redesigned last weekend) and professional (*this).

Even that doesn't seem to be enough as my 'professional', while still mainly software development, is not limited to software development. In an age where employers and businesses seek specialists more and more, I have become more and more general. How do you do a site for that?

I don't really know. I'm still figuring it out while doing stuff to pay the bills. :-)

Small Biz, Rainbows, Unicorns, And Social Media/Websites

Unicorn Apocalypse: We'll kill you all with rainbows! And cuteness!People parading around as ‘social media experts’ and ‘web designers’ often stop at people’s places of business, hop off their unicorns and point at the rainbow they just rode in on. “You can do this too!”  Well, of course they can. They only need a unicorn and an on-ramp to the rainbow.  So they gladly get sold a spare unicorn with no understanding of how to ride the unicorn and no understanding of the rules of the road on the rainbow. Effectively they sell an overpriced bag of Skittles and a rocking unicorn as preparation for the unicorn apocalypse.

It’s one of the more common things I see with small businesses – one person businesses, or ‘Mom & Pop’ businesses – is the issue of social media and internet presence. It’s not that they do or do not have a social media/internet presence –  it seems that someone is always ready to take their money to get them started down the path.

It’s that they often have unrealistic expectations of the services that they buy or the amount that they themselves can do. This is a big problem because social media can be particularly disheartening, and the Internet can be pretty daunting for someone who simply wants to make a good product or provide a good service.  

I had one person tell me, “I’m not smart enough to do that.” I responded, “That’s not true.” She then said, “Well, it’s not how I want to spend my time.”

That’s true.

What these small businesses need to know is what they already do know – their business. From juicing vegetables, to making kale chips, to throwing needles into people, to making great chicken wings – it all boils down to your business. If you don’t know your market, and you don’t know your product or service, no one selling Skittles and a rocking unicorn will help you. Here’s what you need to understand:

  • Your website and social media presence is marketing and branding.
  • Your internet presence can be passive – a ‘business card’ site – or interactive in various ways.
  • Your social media presence can never be passive. No one should buy a unicorn to keep it in the stable.

You get from your website and social media presence what you put into it. Sure, you can have a zillion followers on Facebook, but are they interacting? Are they engaged? Are you interacting? Are you engaged?

And – is it worth it? I’ve seen local businesses struggling to grow – it’s an awkward phase – and it doesn’t help when they’re spending their hard won time and/or hard earned money on ineffective internet and social media presences. If you’re selling all of your product or service, you probably shouldn’t oversell unless you have a plan for that success.  Your money and time is better spent growing your business first to handle that success.

And – a warning. Be wary of people selling you rocking unicorns and overpriced bags of Skittles.