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An informal, stream-of-consciousness reflection on business ideas, events and issues in modern business, modern life and with some specifics to the web-software industry by Paul Tomori, Internet Entrepreneur

A Dazzling E-Commerce System... That Doesn't Work Very Well
By Paul Tomori
Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 15:25:06 (EDT)

I am always shocked when I see websites that try to wow you with fancy graphics and Flash effects but which don't ultimately work very well. They are all "form" with poor "function".

Perhaps I just had some bad luck today ordering tickets online from the National Ballet, but it struck me that here, very likely, was one of those sites that has its priorities mixed up.

They have a spiffy seat-level selector with lots of movement and mouseover effects:

When you select a level, it slides into position so you can see available seating:

But as you can see, you don't get to see everything at once... and you only get to see availability for your one date. To check for better seats on a different night, you'd have to suffer through all the clicking and fancy screen gestures sequentially FOR EVERY POSSIBLE DATE! How tedious.

Then, when I selected my seats and clicked to add to cart... I saw this message for several minutes:

Finally, I just re-started the site and discovered the tickets I originally wanted were gone. So, I picked others (took me another 10 minutes of trying different dates and different levels). This time, the seats instantly went to a shopping cart... BUT... my original seat selections were also there! They were better, so I scrubbed my second choice seats and went through the payment screens. Of course, they require you to have an account with them (instead of just letting me buy my tickets)... So, I filled out the forms to create an account and was then informed I had 2 minutes left to make payment.

I am fast... So, it took me 30 seconds tops to enter my credit card number. Then, when I submitted these details, I got the following message:

Sigh... I decided to close the browser and start fresh. The next run through actually worked. But, only because I persisted. You shouldn't have rely on customers to be persistent if you are trying to have a successful business.

I say... cut the garbage and make the experience quick and easy and painless for the guest. Ditch the flash special effects. I will be entertained when I go to the show. I don't want to be entertained when I am trying to buy tickets.

There's my rant for today. And folks, the above is why my company "underdoes" the competition (in terms of fancy graphics and effects)... and THAT is why we are successful.

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