The other day I received an email from my grandfather, basically venting, regarding the frustration he experienced while attempting to order a couple of bath mats online. I read through his email and started to chuckle, because we all have been there.

  • Links that don’t work
  • Not compatible with Internet Explorer
  • Flash that isn’t operating
  • Too much content the site can’t load
  • Scripting malfunctions
  • So many ads you can’t figure out what is real or scam

I received a pair of shoes that weren’t what I wanted because the ‘add to cart’ was on the right, below an advertisement and above two ‘others have bought these’ notices with their own cart buttons. By the time I finished reading the description of the shoes on the left and looked to the right to see add to cart, I was way past the button for the item I just read about and instead ordered what others have bought.

Then, the other day, I ordered a Halloween costume, added to cart, went to check out, typed my information, pressed submit but apparently missed the last step because four hours later I got a reminder email asking if I wanted to complete my order. Good thing they sent the reminder or I’d be waiting until Halloween for a costume that would never get here.

But grandpa’s problem was worse than that!

Not only was the cart called a bag – let’s really confuse the shopper, but when he clicked add to bag, nothing happened. Click it again, nothing.  Suspecting there is an issue – my 90 year old grandfather drives to the closest store to discover they are sold out, but he can order them online. By then, I personally would have had a customer service rep pull it up online for me, but grandpa went back home to retry it. A week later, waiting for them to fix their issues, and indeed they were going through a website redesign, he discovered at the top left corner in very small font, amongst tons of ads, sales ploys and deals, an obscure edit bag label. Lo and behold, 7 sets of bath mats had been added to it with no notification whatsoever. There was no checkout button, no view cart button, nothing until weeks later and a complete website redesign.

Another time, a website called it ‘Review Order’ which was also obscured at the top right corner amongst ads. Why not keep it simple. Stop renaming things to be different. Help the shopper by always calling it a cart and checkout system. Plus, when the older generation has their screen zoomed in for visibility of those microscopic fonts companies use, the order is hidden off the page where it has to be scrolled right to access and most of the time doesn’t even cross their mind to do that.

All of this made grandpa reflect on the good ol’ days.

Below is an excerpt of what he wrote:

“Most websites make it easy to go to Checkout and provide redundant ways to get there, but some do not take into account that a crucial button/window is not visible from the site of the selection. There should be a positive acknowledgment of action in the visible area near the point of selection as well as an indication of the next step. This problem may illustrate a general deterioration of service/convenience over the years. I fondly remember grandpa Doyle at the grocery store calling out items one by one, with the clerk racing to some part of the store, fetching the item from below the counter, or from a high shelf by ladder, bringing it back, and placing it on the counter in front of Grandpa. He much preferred that service to the cheaper prices at a nearby supermarket.”

Oh the good ol’ days…



My grandfather is a genius – and I’m not exaggerating. For him to have these types of problems making a simple purchase at a mega-large chain-store website is ridiculous. I design websites for a living and would refuse to put my name on a website that’s ecommerce shopping cart was so hard to understand my customers couldn’t buy anything.

Personally, in my youth, if a website makes it hard for me to give them my money, I’ll take my business elsewhere. But when you spend so much time, shopping, narrowing your search, finding the exact item and color and size you want and it says in stock and you click add to (whatever you want to call it) and you can’t figure out how to check out – I agree with grandpa – it is a serious deterioration of service and convenience and it is due time we rethink the way we do things.