I spend a good part of every day keeping up on fashion trends: whether it's through reading articles and trend pieces in online publications or sifting through online retailers and design showcase sites. I do this mostly because of the nature of my startup, but I am also personally interested, an avid shopper and passionate about fashion. And you'd think because of all of the advances in fashion:tech over the past few years that this experience would have gotten better and better. Right? Well, it hasn't. It's gotten steadily worse.
And perhaps it's mostly infuriating because I am working on the issue of customer-centric experiences, but I've heard the same complaints from others when I belly-ache openly about my frustrations.
Today I came across a post on Chris Dixon's blog where he publishes an internal memo from the founder of fast-growing entertainment news site BuzzFeed, explaining why they are doing so well and how it is a sustainable growth and a lightbulb went off for me: people love Buzzfeed because they put their readers first. Pretty simple. And so I started thinking about all of the ways publishers and retailers do the opposite and how I wish they thought more like Buzzfeed. Then I realized that I need to put this into a post so they could all learn from it.
So, written from a customer's perspective and, perhaps, clouded a bit by working with your sites data structures over the past few years, here are THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF THE FASHION WEB.
SIN #1 - CAROUSELS/SLIDESHOWS
From the BuzzFeed memo:
(W)e don’t publish slideshows. Instead we publish scrollable lists so readers don’t have to click a million times and can easily scroll through a post. The primary reason to publish slideshows, as far as I can tell, is to juice page views and banner ad impressions. Slideshows are super annoying and lists are awesome so we do lists!
Oh god yes. Stop it. They may look prettier, increase your page views and give you the incredibly annoying opportunity to insert random advertising (that I skip anyway), but they are a ROYAL pain in the ass as a reader. And trying to PIN or otherwise bookmark a look? Hell. Some of you even try to make it easier for me by putting a 'pin it' on every page. Doesn't help a bit. And whatever, I just close the article that is hung up in my browser before I get to anything I want to save anyway.
SIN #2 - FLASH STUFF
For a while, I wondered why my entire browser kept seizing up, then I turned off flash and I realized how much of it you use and how much better my experience got. From your ads to your menus to your embedded lookbook stuff to random ways to track my journey through your site, you are choking the hell out of my browsing experience.
Hint: there are TABS on most browsers and most people are using them. When you test your site, test it with at least 10 tabs open and several tabs should be persistent: email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and a calendar application. These are all dynamic applications that really shouldn't be running in our browsers persistently either, but they do because they are our lifeline. You are not. Remove anything that slows the loading of your content down and you'll have less bounces. I promise.
SIN #3 - PRODUCT VIDEOS
I know, I know. Someone sold you this idea for a LOT of money and gave you stats on better conversion rates with product videos. And yes, I appreciate a good product video now and then, but it should NOT be default on every product page (see Flash stuff above). Here is how most customers shop: (a) we browse and click around furiously until something catches our attention, (b) when something catches our attention, we want more information and will seek it out at every angle - zoom, seeing it on a model, video, customer reviews, etc.
Don't put (b) before (a). It's just plain frustrating. I think the single biggest innovation in retail was the 'quick look' on products. I love that feature. Then when I'm hooked and I click through the product page, let me poke around quickly and choose a video. K?
SIN #4 - MAKING ME LOG IN TO CHECK OUT
Why on heaven's earth is there an extra log in step before I check out? Can't you get my information in one fell swoop? Send me a temporary password for goodness sake. You don't need all of that information. I'm giving you a credit card, my mailing address, my email address, my size...as a courtesy, would you please just let me check out?
SIN #5 - SPLASH PAGES
What year is this? 1999? I especially love it when a store has a FLASH SPLASH page! What? Add music and you are officially in Web 1.0.
SIN #6 - THE MISSING SEARCH BOX
I'm thinking that you removed the search box from your homepage because you didn't think it looked very pretty there? Or maybe you want me to get frustrated and leave. I know. You want me to get lost in your lovely site. Get over yourself. I'm there for ME. I'm looking for something for ME. Don't get in my way or I'll go elsewhere.
SIN #7 - B.S. SIZING
I wasn't born yesterday. I know that different designers and manufacturers size things differently. So supplying a site-wide sizing guide is NOT helpful. If you are going to provide sizing details, please provide it accurately. And, yes, it's a LOT of work, but it would go a long way to making your customers feel more secure about their order. I bet it would go further than those videos of the pencil thin models walking down a runway in the dress or pants.
And, pray-tell, what the hell does "Fits true to size" mean? To whose size?
SOME BONUS SINS
Unreal Models - Speaking of the models, I just can't relate. I know you want the clothes to look their best and you could never provide enough model body types to satisfy everyone, but it would probably help your customers to know the model is more average sizing. I recently had a situation where I ordered a pretty dress from Shoptiques that must have been modeled by a 5'0" woman because it fit me like a tunic. For a really great example of models, see ModCloth. They are also killing it with their sales.
Artsy Product Shots - That dress looks lovely behind that bush, but it's not getting me any closer to imagining it on my body. Lookbooks are nice, but they aren't super helpful when I'm shopping for something. I know how important branding and having an editorial point of view is...but don't get in the way of my shopping.
A 'Shop' Site That's Different Than Your Corporate/Showroom Site - I don't understand the logic behind this one. And you usually make me open your shop site in a different browser tab, which is a pain. You know, there is software that allows you to do both quite easily. And if you are an indie designer, Etsy allows you to embed your shop in your site, complete with checkout! Unless you are only distributed through other retailers, I don't understand why you need two sites. I see this so often it makes me scratch my head.
Lack of a Story - One of the best ways to create loyalty and a following is to have a story - your designer/founder's story front and center on the site. Once again, Modcloth is the darling for this. I actually first fell in love with Susan's pug, then Susan. Her story made me want to shout them out from the rooftops.
Summarized RSS Feeds - This one is for publishers. Perhaps if you didn't crash my browser with all of your flash and plugins and community bars loading and stuff, I'd click through those summaries and read the story. But the combination of the two just makes me remove you from my feed reader.
Facebook Comments - I'm on the fence on this one, but I'm increasingly annoyed by them.
Driving Me to Your Facebook Fan Page - Why are you doing this when I'm already on your website?
Pin to Win - Stop it. It not only sounds stupid, but you are polluting my social networks. I've already written about this.
I'll stop there for now, but fellow customers, feel free to add anything else that annoys you about the Fashion Web experience. Also, I'm a big fan of simple sites like ASOS and smartly social sites like ModCloth. What are some of your favorite experiences and why?