The Mythical User

Taking the mystery out of User-Centered Design

What Not To Do: UPS.com

on 5 December, 2010

A lot of times, when I’m designing something that doesn’t have a clear standard I will look at what other sites do.  It’s important to know what the competition is up to, it’s important to know what your users are seeing in other places, and it’s sometimes inspirational.

However, I’ve been in companies where that competitive benchmarking is taken too far.  Whenever there’s something to be designed, these companies look to the big players, and copy what they do.  The problem is, the big players aren’t always USABLE.  Sometimes they get away with bad usability because they’re so big, and sometimes because their offering is so unique that users have nowhere else to go.  But just because they are big does not mean they are good.

Case in point: ups.com.

Don’t get me wrong, these guys do a lot of things right.  They’re a good and useful website.

However, they miss on a very key point:  they do not make me successful in my #1 task on their website.

I ordered some T-shirts that I designed to wear to a midnight movie premiere.  (yes, I’m that kind of geek)  I wanted to know if they’d be here in time, so I clicked the tracking link provided to me by the vendor (good usability, Cafepress!) and went to the ups website.

Win:  My tracking number was embedded in the link so my package came up without my needing to hunt for a number to paste into a field.
Win:  The info about my package is front and center on the screen, with a colored background to draw my eye.

Fail:  Number one question a customer has when checking status of their order: when will it get to me?  This answer is nowhere to be found on the screen.

Win:  there’s a status.  It says “in Transit” and has a hyperlink.  When I mouse over this, I get an instant help flyout.  Hooray for contextual help!  However…

Fail:  The help flyout tells me that “In transit” means my package will be there on my Scheduled Delivery Date.  It even caps Scheduled Delivery Date.  Which tells me there should be a field on this screen that tells me what my Scheduled Delivery Date is.  But there isn’t.
Fail:  There are tabs across the top of my colored area with my info in it.  Everyone knows that tabs are for different display of the same data, right?  So clearly, these tabs marked “Quantum View” and “Flex Global View” must be different views of my order, one of which might have my Scheduled Delivery Date.  Wrong.  They are upsells.  Not only are they upsells, they’re texty, vaguely written upsells that are obviously not aimed at the casual shipping recipient.

Epic Fail:  As I realize that these are not for me and try to click back to my order, I am taken to a generic “Track Packages and Freight” page with a field where I can enter my tracking number.

Dear readers, do not use tabs for upsells.
Do not use tabs for navigation unless you can’t avoid it.
Do not use tabs for decoration.
Do not use tabs for emphasis.
Do not use tabs to make your managers happy.

Please be gentle with your users.  Use tabs to display different views of the same data.  Or if you must, closely related data.

Please also let your users get back to where they came from without making them close a browser tab and return to the original email they clicked on.  It’s just nice.

And please make sure that every page of your site answers the #1 question that your user comes there to answer.  At the very minimum.

Thank you for being kind to your users.  :>


Today’s Glossary Term:
CPC: This stands for Cost Per Click, which is an advertising business model.  Advertising is how a lot of websites pay their bills and keep the awesome content coming to you.  If you’re running a blog or a content site, CPC might be a very interesting term for you.  However, I’d advise you to diversify – advertising alone won’t necessarily do the job unless you have some really impressive traffic.

Today’s Interesting Link:
http://www.thereisnopagefold.com/ – ‘Nuff said.
Shout out to the awesome Eric Ritchey for sharing that link with me.

Today’s Usability Quote:
“The computer culture has learned from human interface research that the most supreme form of interaction is the lack of it; less is more” – Nicholas Negroponte

Today’s Music To Design To:
I’m not feeling very musical today.  What are you listening to lately?

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2 responses to “What Not To Do: UPS.com

  1. Hi! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted
    to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading your blog posts.
    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same subjects?
    Appreciate it!

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