Information finding on

On a recommendation from my dad, I decided to try shopping at — it’s an online shop for various computing and other technological things. The experience was good and I had no trouble finding the products I wanted. However, there was an apparent lack of information in one key area.

Before I go into this, please don’t read this as any kind of criticism of the shop or its staff. This is simply intended as an analysis of a usability problem. As an online shop, the site is better than many I have used, so this one issue is not a big deal at all.

Navigating the Site

Before I start shopping at a site, I like to know a bit about their delivery options, so I can determine if the cost is worth it, and if I can be at home at a time to receive the order. I found two nice and straightforward routes to this information. One was to click the “Info & Help” link in the navigation bar at the top of every page, followed by a link called “Delivery & Shipping”. The other was to click a link labelled “Delivery” which appeared in the footer of every page.

That was easy. Somebody did a good job when designing the navigation of the site.

Getting the Information

Both of these routes led to their Delivery/Shipping Information page, which contained a useful break-down of delivery options, including pricing and expected delivery times.

Brilliant! Exactly the kind of information I like. 🙂 (Although I will note that the break-down table should be at the top of the page, with supplementary blocks of text re-spaced and positioned underneath so that it’s easier to browse.)

The Problem…

But wait! There’s something missing. If I order “Next Day” delivery at 5pm on Wednesday, will it get to me on Thursday… or have I missed some cut-off time during the day, meaning the order won’t arrive until Friday? That information is not there.

As such, I sent a quick email to the folks who run the site, suggesting that this information would be useful. I got a fairly quick reply insisting that the information is there, providing a link to the page which contains it. But how exactly does a regular customer find this extra page of information? After some hunting around, I figured it out:

  1. View a product on the site
  2. Add it to your shopping cart
  3. View your shopping cart
  4. Go to the checkout ( Checkout, not Google Checkout!)
  5. Log-in, create a new account, or use “Quick Checkout”
  6. Click the link which says “Find out more about our delivery options…”

Phew! Got there in the end. But that’s an awfully obscure route to the information. It’s fine for folks who don’t think about delivery options until their order is ready, but I imagine many people are like me, and want to know the delivery options before placing an order. The fact that almost all the necessary information is in a nice intuitive place makes this oversight even more noticeable.

In fact, when placing my order, I saw that link in the checkout to “Find out more about our delivery options”, but I deliberately did not click it because I thought I had seen all the information there was to see.


In a sense, one could categorise this problem as a “surface misfit”, because the site seems to lack something that users require (or arguably it imposes an unintuitive and difficult route to the information). That’s possibly a slight stretch of the terminology, but for more information on that area, check out CASSM.

Categorisation aside, I believe the problem can be traced back to the granddaddy of most usability/interface problems… the site is maintained by people who use it. In other words, the folks who are responsible for putting the right information in the right places already know where it is. They did their job in putting the correct information on the site, but they didn’t see it from the point-of-view of a regular user.

That’s a really easy mistake to make, and kudos to the team at for such a good site otherwise. It is well maintained and very well designed. But there’s always some problem that creeps through!

What UEMs would have uncovered this problem? Unfortunately, not many. It’s the kind of thing that the skewed artificialness of lab-testing would probably mask, because why would you want to know about delivery options if you’re not actually placing an order? Having said that, I suspect a cognitive walkthrough could potentially have revealed it, but probably only if the team was already good at doing them.

2 comments on “Information finding on

  1. Have just contacted the company as I paid for next day delivery, following same route as you did. I ordered at 15.45, Yesterday but it did not arrive today.

    The assistant told it me it clearly states any order submitted after 2 pm will not be delivered next day. I asked why they had charged £7.99 knowing they could not carry out next day delivery. Her reply was that it was my choice to pay for next day delivery and no refund was due.

    Have just checked the site, couldn’t find any information on cut-off times, but after clicking on another link, it was eventually found.

    This is very poor practice and something which should be corrected, if I had known it would not be delivered today I would have chosen the “Free” route.

    Have informed them I will not be dealing with them again, no matter what the printer is like, the price was good, but the company principles don’t seem to be.

    P.S. I am an 81 year old pensioner, and £7.99 is a great sum to pay out for nothing.

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