The other week I finally got around to replacing an interior door in my house. Being as I don’t have access to a van large enough to transport a door I thought I’d buy it online and get it delivered. What could possibly go wrong?

I measured the door frame and armed with the dimensions my first port of call was the B&Q website. They’ve redesigned the site since I last visited it and I must say it looks great. Branding is strong, the corporate colours well used and good hierarchy of information on the home page. Layout is nice and tight and I happily surfed around looking for the right door. Search criterion were all good, I could search by size so no wasted minutes looking at doors that weren’t suitable.

B&Q website checkoutSo far so good. I selected the door I wanted and added it to my shopping cart. At least I thought I did – herein began the the problems. I’m not sure why but B&Q have decided to call, what I thought was the shopping cart, ‘Shopping List’. I’d already made my shopping list before I went on the site; door, hinges and handle. Logic says that if we’re following the offline shopping experience then I’m now in the shop and adding things to my shopping trolley/basket – not writing them on a list.

This wasn’t the end of the problems though. I viewed my ‘shopping list’ to make sure everything I wanted was there before arranging delivery and paying. Everything was in order so I went to click the proceed to checkout button. Guess what, I couldn’t find the checkout button! There is so much information and so many options on the page that I couldn’t make sense of what to do next – completely overwhelmed.

My previous experiences of online shopping (and believe me I’ve had plenty of practice) set me up to expect a list of what I’d added to my basket and an obvious checkout button at the bottom right. I had my debit card in my hand ready to give them my money and I couldn’t! It’s the equivalent of hiding the checkout desks in a dingy corner at the back of their bricks and mortar store – they just never would. Imagine all the abandoned shopping trolleys at the door, full of goods that people couldn’t pay for…

So then I began to wonder if they analyze their shopping basket drop out rate and have noticed a fall in sales/increase in the number of shopping cart abandons since the redesign? I can’t be the only one who’s had problems – we’ve had the Internet and ecommerce¬† sites long enough now that there are established, best practice conventions that are followed to make the experience easier on us shoppers. We, your customers B&Q, want to be able to buy products quickly and easily – just like you can in your store or online at say Amazon… or Wickes!

The Amazon, and more recently Comet, websites have been upheld as leading examples of good ecommerce sites. Why then has B&Q seemingly ignored all the hard work and learning these sites have gone through and made their own set of rules? A set of checkout rules which don’t make any sense in terms of a shopping experience which they expect us to learn just to do business with them. I don’t think so.

A second examination of the site suggests that they may have combined what we would normally know as a ‘wish list’ (re-named shopping list) and the checkout process together and then added in the collect in store options all on the same page. Amazon, Oasis and Argos all manage these functions much better without the confusion – granted you can’t collect in store from Amazon or Oasis but they both separate the wish list and checkout functionality into two separate actions. Argos does allow collect in store and has a much easier to understand process.

Just take a look at the screen grab, clicking the ‘select all’ link under Buy Online does nothing at all – now it may be that this functionality just doesn’t work in my browser but I’m on a bog-standard config PC using Firefox 3.x.x. the same as many other people. Maybe it only works in IE, who knows but an important lesson in testing, testing, testing. I wonder if they’ve done any usability testing at all…

Suffice to say that after reaching a dead-end with B&Q I visited Wickes’ site and ordered my door and associated fittings with no problems at all. It was delivered on time, the next day exactly as promised. Now I just need to find a handy-man that will actually turn up to fit it!

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