I’ve been blogging for a long time about how enterprise software has a lot to learn from consumer web sites.
This is not to say that consumer sites are inherently clear, intuitive and a joy to use. Many are far from it:
Take this disclaimer from lindam, who sells baby stair gates: Lindam would from time to time also like to send you promotional information regarding our products and promotions. If you would prefer not to receive such information please do not tick the above box.
Or the fact that I couldn’t order flowers from Next Flowers at 11pm on Monday because their online shop was closed until 6am the next morning (and this fact was hidden at the bottom of the page – I only stumbled upon it after much scrolling and dragging around trying to figure out where to click).
Or SNH, a site which doesn’t let you add more items to an existing order, and whose “contact us” email form seems to send messages into a black hole (*)
But worse than all these is the grand daddy of consumer web sites: Amazon. How these guys came to embody good website design is beyond me (**). Their screen is full of clutter and the processes don’t follow as logically as they could. Take wish lists for example.
When you choose something from someone’s wish list you land on the “people who bought X also bought Y” page. But this is irrelevant information if you are buying a specific present for someone else. You should, if anything, be sent back to the person’s wish list so you can buy more stuff for them! I recall a Christmas a few years ago: my parents wanted to buy 2 books for my wife from her wish list. They ended up ordering one off the wish list and one similar item, accidentally, from “people who bought X also bought Y”. It took some time to disentangle the order mishap.
They haven’t used Amazon since.
The consumer web sites that enterprise software should be emulating are sites like Zopa – which successfully personalises an otherwise very de-personalised space (lending and borrowing money). Or, GLTC has a neat feature for zooming into images, which would be a cool way of showing suppliers images of parts that you are buying (for example).
(*) Yes, you can see the sort of stuff I’ve been buying over the last few days.
(**) Ironically Ariba ditched the bright, fun golds of their early user interface for a pastel Amazon look in version 7 of Ariba Buyer. Add a few autocomplete text boxes to the old look and feel, and you’d have something a lot more up to date than what they have now.