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Just Take My Money: How Bad User Experience Can Cost You Customers

I wanted to book a flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand on Orbitz. I’m no stranger to travel, and I’ve booked quite a few plane tickets in my life. But sometimes, even when we go to do something we’ve done about a million times before, things just don’t work out.

And sometimes, you end up muttering swear words under your breath, frustrated that you’re in the middle of this shit show. When that happens, we’re not talking about user error anymore. Now this is about shitty UX. UX, if you haven’t heard of it before, is User Experience. It’s the whole shebang of how the user feels when they use a website: Could they find the “Buy” button? Can they find something within the site easily? Are they frustrated with the layout because they can’t find what they’re looking for? You know, those kinds of things.

Now, I spend a good chunk of my time writing, and I love it. But the time that I’m online and not writing, is usually time spent ranting about UX. I am not a UX expert. I have not been hired as a UX consultant. But goddammit I’m a user and I hate it when shit doesn’t work!

Okay, so back to Orbitz. I’m super excited to buy this ticket to Chiang Mai because it’s cheap and I can’t wait to see Loi Krathong and Yi Peng. I’ve found a deal on the ticket so I’m ready to buy now. Basically, I’m the ideal customer that Orbitz loves to have saunter onto their site. I have money, and I want to give them that money in exchange for goods. Pretty simple, right?

The Problem with Bad UX

I go through the process of putting in Jason’s and my information, watching the little progress bar on the top tell me that Step 1 of 4 is complete. I get through the seating arrangement and onto the credit card info. Step 3 of 4. Almost done now. It’s only been like 8 minutes so this has gone really quickly with no problems.

I put in my card information and that’s when it all goes to hell.

As soon as I click “Pay” I see the third party security check system come up. I’m filled with a mixture of fear, rage, and defeat. They are finicky at best and at worst fail basically every time they’re used. So the authorization check fails (you know, like it usually does), and I hang my head in knowing despair, having assumed it would all turn out this way.

But Orbitz doesn’t stop there. Why bother? That would be so simple. I’ve already tried to give them my money, only to have them say, “Sorry, we know you want to give us your money but we, like, totally aren’t sure if you are who you say you are. We, like, tried to check the system, and it just totes didn’t work. Sorry.” No, instead, they kick me back to… you guessed it… the fucking home page.

Why? I ask you why? Defend your reasoning motherfuckers because that’s just idiotic.

And, to add insult to injury, they don’t even tell me what went wrong. The error message is just a yellow bar at the top of the screen that basically says, “We’re not sure what happened, but something failed, please try again later.”

So, I have to put my information in all over again and waste more time to do the same stuff I’ve already done once.

Now, I know that this is the epitome of a first world problem. Let’s be honest, if we’re complaining about any issue on the internet, we’re just rolling in nothing but first world problems.

That being said, no one likes trying to buy something only to be kicked back to the beginning.

Imagine going into Home Depot, and you want to buy some gardening supplies. You fill your cart up, and go to the checkout line. As you hand the cashier your money, he looks at you and says, “Oooooh… sorry… we’ll need to check and make sure that this cash is actually your cash. You know what, we just aren’t able to take this. But, um, you could leave the store and then come back in and try again.” Then some kid in his first crappy job skulks over, rolls your cart away, and proceeds to put everything you tried to buy back on the shelves. They escort you out of the store, turn you around and places you back in front of the sliding glass doors. Time for round two.

Does that scenario sound stupid? Good. Because it is stupid.

Creating Good UX

So, you might be thinking, You’re doing a whole lot of bitching but not a lot of problem solving. What would you do to fix it? Well, luckily for everyone I’ve got solutions galore.

Use reliable tools. The Verified by Visa system is in place to protect merchants from fraudulent charges made by credit card thieves. It’s a protective measure for the consumer, card company, and merchant. It’s a good idea. But… it’s an unreliable system for people who make purchases while traveling. I’m a huge fan of two-factor authentication, but if we’re not there yet, then at least use a system that’s more reliable. And if there is something I should know that will help make the system more reliable, then tell me that, too.

Give me a real error message. Yet another reason why having someone who is good with words work on your website. Tell me what failed and give me a few possible reasons as to why. In my case, it failed because I am trying to buy a ticket out of my home country, so throwing up a VPN fixed the problem. I only know that from a lot of trial and error (mostly error). You have to tell people what the possible problem is and give them solutions. Here’s what they could have said instead: “We’re sorry, but there was a problem verifying your card. Please check with your credit card provider to identify the issue.”

For the love of all that is holy, don’t kick me back to the homepage and flush my information. I get that this is a security measure. But, instead of deleting everything and making me do it over again, they could have deleted my card information and pushed me back to Step 3, where I put my card info in again. That, coupled with a real error message that actually guides me, would have been fine. I would have been frustrated, but at least felt that the problem was easy to solve.

Sadly, good UX is rarely noticed by users because we expect things to go smoothly. When they do, we don’t bat an eye. But when things go wrong, we can’t seem to forget.

I was pretty heated by the time I got to the final page again. This time, I had the VPN up so I figured it might work, unless there was a different issue that I didn’t know about because the error message was total crap. I clicked “Pay” again, and watched the little dots go in a circle, thinking… thinking… until it finally accepted my payment. I was irritated, but at least had the tickets now.

What Does Your UX Look Like?

So you might be thinking, Why are you making such a big deal out of this if you got what you wanted?

I’m making a big deal out of this because your own business site can easily fall victim to the same types of crappy UX that Orbitz did. And when that happens, people won’t stick around. They’ll jump off your site and find someone else to give them what they want.

In my case, Orbitz was the only site that had the tickets at the price I wanted, so I couldn’t go to a competitor. If I’d had another site as an option, I would’ve taken it. But now when I buy tickets in the future, I’m going to remember how frustrated this made me, and I’ll gladly pick someone else over them.

You need to look at your site from your customer’s point of view. Have a friend go through and see if there are any issues. Or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, this guy will test your site for you. Don’t fall victim to shitty UX! Because the last thing you want is some little curly-headed user ranting about it on the interwebs.

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