Usability Problems Affecting Sites For Groomsmen

Author: Gab Goldenberg

This is a guest post from Ian Lurie, who runs a Seattle SEO shop, on behalf of Groomstand Groomsmen Gifts. They have such items as personalized pub signs and engraved cufflinks.

A number of problems set back the usability of various sites in the wedding vertical, and particularly those catering to Groomsmen. Here are some case studies on things to avoid, so that your site’s checkout isn’t avoided like a sweaty marathon runner

The basic paradigm we need to assume is that laid out in Steve Krug’s excellent “Don’t Make Me Think.” People browsing the web:

  • Are impatient, meaning that they scan and don’t read. This also means they tend to ignore main navigation.
  • Satisfice themselves – they make any choice likely to satisfy their needs, rather than spend time to figure out the best choice
  • Have a finite reservoir of patience. You can only use so much before they leave. And it’s probably already low due to other sites’ negative user experience.

From Cuffwear.com:

A page with no title means you’re not drawing attention back when someone minimized the window or is tabbing around:

Similarly, the copy is really small, and isn’t bulleted. Additionally, the add to cart button is on the small-ish, subtle side.

The end result is that some visitors may have no clue that they offer free shipping in Canada, and are less likely to add a product to cart anyways.

And for those who are comparison shopping and tabbing between windows, it’s less likely that they’ll return to Cuff Wear “http://www…&prod=217″…

From Green Shag:

The title doesn’t match the headlines on the page, which is a big no-no. People click through expecting one thing and are shown another. When this happens, the percentage of visitors who immediately click ‘back’ (aka the bounce rate) goes way up.

The title reads: Custom Dress Shirts and Design Cufflinks. None of the headlines use the word custom, nor dress shirts. And the only headline about cufflinks relates them to Hockey Night in Canada, which says “lockerroom kitsch” more than “Savile Row flair.”

Even if we forgive that because of the burgundy text subhead, there are still a number of ways the page is lacking.

First, what does “shag cheat sheets” mean? To me, it sounds like what Austin Powers used to pass high school math.

This page uses internal company jargon and expects people to be patient enough to read their copy to figure out what they mean. You should never speak in “marketese” – it turns people away.

On a related note, if you’re going to call them “custom” designs in your title, why use the word “bespoke” on the site itself?

Are they selling to Brits or North Americans? North Americans mostly won’t know what “bespoke” means, since we don’t use that word.

Additionally, the copy consists of big blocks of text, which turn eyes away rather than draw in clicks. This would be better as a few bullet points.

Another issue is that the homepage hero shot isn’t clickable, while some percentage of folks may expect that to be possible.

This is a convention of ecommerce sites – clicking images takes you to a product detail page.

Finally, the links in the HNIC area are barely any different than plain text. This makes it hard to tell they’re links unless you look closely. The result is that fewer people will click.

From Black & Lee comes an all-flash site. Their message to visitors is:

- “We don’t care if you want to bookmark a particular item in our catalog or send the link to a friend. They’ll just have to go to the homepage and click around a lot until they find it (assuming your instructions were clear…)”

- “Don’t link to anything besides the homepage. We don’t want to rank anything besides our homepage.”

- “We don’t want search engines to be able to read our text content.”

Ironically, if you turned this into an html site, you could get most of the same experience (except for the neat page-turnings in the catalog) and be as effective at generating inquiries, which is what this site is mostly about. I say that because the phone number and email addresses are fairly prominent, as are offline retail addresses.

At Tux & Tails we have a mixed bag.

For starters, they avoid the mistakes of Black & Lee and do a fairly good job of providing search engine friendly navigation throughout the site.

Where things get a little difficult is with the navigation and orientation markers.

In an offline store, there are a number of signs and people to help you navigate stuff. Online, you need to use page headings and breadcrumb navigation, as a general rule.

Neither of those are present on Tux & Tails, so that when someone clicks through from the homepage, they’re less likely to know where they got to.

The titles feature brand names, but don’t indicate much beyond that, when one browses the various lines of vests.

As to the category pages, they also break design conventions by not making images and descriptions clickable to go to a detail page. Additionally, the brief descriptions are in tiny, illegible text.

Lastly, there’s no clear call to action on any of the pages, besides ‘Download our measurement sheet.” Sure there’s the contact page, but that’s a last resort.

Finally, we have Tuxedos.com, whose site is actually usable!

This site does virtually everything right.

You know where you are on the site because of their main horizontal navigation inverting colors depending on which section you’re browsing. They also have breadcrumb navigation to help you further.

The title tag on the homepage starts with Welcome to Tuxedos.com. The Tuxedos.com logo is prominent, so that works well.

However, the title also mentions prom, black tie and wedding affairs, without having any obvious links specific to any of those categories. It’s excusable though, because of the identity bit.

The Browse Tuxedos page splits traffic according to the occasion or brand you’re interested in.

This effectively caters to visitors’ mental organization of things, rather than their own marketing divisions. Other places might force you to browse by geographic location etc.

Images and links on category pages take you further into the site.

On detail pages, they use a call to action to find the product, which takes you to a store-locator lead gen tool.  I might call it something slightly different to be clearer, but it’s still pretty effective.

My only other beef is that their detail page SEO isn’t great.

Plus the detail pages also only show one product view. And that’s usually not much bigger than the thumbnail. This is a very sensory, visual product, and so skimping on photography is a DUMB idea. Tuxedos.com are hardly alone in this respect though …

Thanks a bunch for the great post Ian! You guys can find more of his material at the Conversation Marketing blog!

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