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thrice all american: Design/UX (and Customer Service) at Shoes.com
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Design/UX (and Customer Service) at Shoes.com

· Posted Tuesday July 1, 2008 by jamie

Disclaimer: I’m not a designer or a user interface expert, by any means. Heck, I don’t even play on on the Internet. Maybe I’m just feeling extra design-observant after finishing Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind or something…

Melissa recently purchased some fine footwear from Shoes.com, and various aspects of the site left some impressions on me. Mostly positive, though I had a couple of observations of things that could be improved, too…

First of all, I’m just generally pleased by the overall look of the site. I find the mainly orange/chartreuse/cyan/gray palette quite pleasing to the eyes, and love the typeface of their no-nonsense logo (here’s where I don’t even pretend to know jack about typefaces).

I also sort of dig their interactive search mechanism. Three drop-downs on the page allow you to select the initial category (mens’ vs womens’, type, etc.), size, and color…the basics, nothing magical here:

However, I thought the results screen was pretty bad-ass. In addition to allowing you to page through your search results from those initial categories, they include a number of refinement menus in the left navigation bar, wherein you can narrow your search by more refined categories (e.g., work, bridal), brand, heel height, even narrow to only sale or new items. Neat!

I like the overall simplicity of this experience. The only aspect that leaves me slightly uncomfortable is the interplay between the 3 initial drop-downs and the refinement options on the left. Especially once you’ve refined the results, it can be somewhat non-intuitive to get back to where you were before (via a “clear” hyperlink in the appropriate refinement menu). But overall, kudos.

Now, for the customer service aspect. We were pretty happy with this. I mean, they didn’t have free shipping like Zappos or anything, but paying shipping doesn’t seem so bad. The difficulty came when we attempted an exchange due to some slight imperfections in the shoes that arrived.

The Shoes.com site makes it really easy to return items by allowing you to print a return shipping label that you can tape to the box for either USPS or UPS. However, to get here, you have to bring your order back up. Since Melissa didn’t set up a Shoes.com account, we had to look up the order via order number and ZIP code. No problem, we have that on our packing slip…except…not found???? WTF!? Okay, let’s try ZIP+4, since that what the slip shows, and…no!? Crap. Well, okay, last try, let’s remove the four leading zeros on the order number, and…we’re in!!! But…WTF? Doesn’t it make the most sense that if someone typed in their full order number, the system could find it, especially since that’s how it’s written on the packing slip? Like, maybe the webapp could remove the leading zeros before looking up the order. Anyway we got past that fine…

Until we reached the next point at which I entered info as it appeared on the packing slip. Seems that to do an exchange instead of just a return, they have you enter the item number, color, and size information. So I entered the item number as it appeared on the packing slip. Now, granted, that was just a number, and the browser display if the item I was returning had that number prepended by a couple of letters. But I figured, meh, just the numbers should match (it’s on the packing slip, after all), and after moving past the page, there were no warnings, so I figured all was fine. Until I got to the final confirmation page, where I was informed that the item could not be found. Wow, thanks for the warning, after I can no longer do anything about it. Hmph.

Anyway, those slipups in the customer experience aside, things were taken care of really quickly once I emailed them to figure out how to resolve the problem. Seems they no longer have the shoe in the right color/size in stock, so, given our preference to keep the slightly-imperfect shoes if we could not do the exchange, they credited our Visa for 15% of the shoe price. Woohoo! Way to go Shoes.com! Their customer service makes it all right in the end. Just fix those other things, guys, k?


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