Website teardown:

Posted by Dave CollinsWebsite Usability

Today’s website teardown is a little brutal. I’ve been in touch with today’s victim, and in the last email he had the following to say: “Dave, please be as brutal as you need to be.” I am delighted to oblige. “I look forward to having the shit kicked out of my site.” Excellent. “I hate it more than anybody else and it is a product of me being so overwhelmed that I’ve neglected it for too long.” We’ll see about that.

Transcript for people who like to read (and search engine spiders):

Here we are at At first impressions, the colour scheme is, let’s be charitable and say striking. I know this is a Zen Cart, I can see this at the bottom of the page. I’ve no idea why you’ve got a link to that at the bottom but anyway.

The first impression of the website is that it looks like you’ve taken an existing Zen Cart template, probably something called fiery or hot spicy or something, and done as little work as possible to make it look unique. The problem with that being, you’ve done quite a good job and it doesn’t look unique.

Animal cremation?

The logo, to be honest, looks suspiciously like a burning person or a burning dog, which probably isn’t the effect that you hoped for. okay, showing your passion for home made pizza bread & pasta; it doesn’t say that much, but anyway there’s nothing here. Welcome to the online store. That’s the first thing that my eye sets on apart from the burning dog. It doesn’t say anything, “If you have an account, we suggest you log yourself in.” This information here is actually the only significant information for the new visitor.

I bet if I click on Home, I’m on the same page and if I click on Shop I’m also on the same page other than the fact that you are rotating some of these things; not very well either to be honest. Having three almost identical products – that could be a whole lot better.

Where are the calls to action?

“If you have an account we suggestion you log yourself in.” Let’s see what happens if I click. Eugh – looks like Front Page, actually it is pre-Front Page. It’s very dated looking. I am guessing this is the same as clicking the log-in at the top, yes it is. Do you know, I haven’t tested this yet, but I bet if I click on subscribe, nothing will happen. Nope, that’s incorrect, I’m taken to a blank page. Okay, let’s go back to the main page. Let’s have a look at some of these categories.

We’ve got pizza over here, I see the sub-categories. Pizza Peels, these all look pretty similar. I’ll ignore the dead image, pretend I didn’t see that. Let’s look at next, it has a distinct lack of anything of substance here. I’m not sure why you are listing a product that is actually sold out. Also, I am not sure why the product that is sold out is the only one with a link to more info.

The problem with these pages is that they are pretty much identical, and this looks suspiciously like the content supplied by the manufacturer, meaning, anyone who sells this thirteen inch rectangular Perforated Pizza Peel with a twenty inch handle is going to be using the identical word-for-word text. That’s bad for the search engines, more importantly, it’s bad for business because there is nothing there. There is nothing compelling here. That’s the problem with the home page, there’s nothing that compels me to do anything at all.

You’ve got some New Products, I suspect they’re not New Products. Best Sellers, I’ve also got my suspicions about, but anyway, what can I do? I can click on Categories, Shipping and Returns, let’s have a quick look there. Shipping information, orders typically ship in one to two working days, typically, some cases may take longer; it may take three or four, please review the other important notes. “We ship from multiple locations.” I don’t care to be honest, I really don’t care. “If you need to light fire under us to make sure you get your items for your big party on Saturday, then contact us to see what we can do.” Why is that not a link? You are now making me wade through your site to see how to contact you. “We work with you, but please give us a fighting chance.” Hmmm.

Lots and lots of waffle.

Heavy items such as the flour or canned tomatoes typically ship by … I don’t care about this, I don’t care. I don’t care what’s the most economical way to ship flour across the country. Really, this is the important information? “When your order is shipped, you should get an e-mail with a tracking number for most shipments,” either I don’t get it or I don’t know why I should wait four days after placing the order and they can contact you, at least there’s an email address there; there’s nothing particularly worthwhile there.

There’s a privacy notice, I am probably one of the few people to ever, ever click on that. There’s a contact us. Contact us; Contact Us: We’d prefer you send an email. To be honest, I don’t care what you prefer because I want to spend money with you. “Please give us at least 24 hours. Email is preferred,” because your staff can be awake. “We do have a toll-free number if e-mail doesn’t work as well for you.”

“If we are not available please leave a message”, blah, blah, blah. Okay, then there is a form. Okay, I like the fact that there are options.

“Send email to only Sales and Support.” Again, this really doesn’t look good. This is probably only going to one person never mind a department, so why do I need to fill that in? Full Name, E-Mail Address, Message. A suspiciously faded looking button, now let’s click send. “Sorry, is your name correct? Our system requires a minimum of one characters … ” It looks like it has just been installed, it looks like this is not even the beta version of the site.

What’s missing?

Okay, so I’ll tell you what is missing here; actually there is a lot that is missing here: Quality, original content… Something else that is missing here is who are you? Who is Who is the person or people behind it? Where you based? How long have you been in existence? If I’m about to pay you, I have no idea how I’m going to pay you, I don’t know if I can pay you with PayPal, with credit cards, send you a cheque in the mail, no idea.

Gift certificates (or not).

Oh, gift certificates, I like that. Let’s have a look at the gift certificates FAQ. Okay, I like that I can purchase a gift certificate. Except I can’t; Gift certificates are purchased like any other item in our store. How? Okay, let’s try that, let’s try Gift Certificate, excellent. Okay, enough said about that. Site map… again looks like this is standard generated by Zen Cart, nothing in there about you.

The biggest questions here are, even if I want to buy what it is that you sell, why should I risk handing over my credit card when I don’t know, number one, whether you will even take my card, number two, whether you are actually in business, number three, whether you actually have the items in stock. I’ll assume that’s the case because some of them do say that they are sold out, but I don’t know when I’ll get them.


There are far too many questions. I would love to get an e-mail from you telling me, “Dave, your completely wrong. A lot of people order from us,” but I have my doubts. I don’t even know who you’re aiming at. Are you aiming at people at home who have a brick oven? Are you aiming at small restaurants, large chains, massive organisations, hotels? Absolutely, no idea. There are an awful lot of questions that need answering, and there’s very little, by the way, of solid answers. You did say that you wanted brutal feedback and I hope you found this to be useful.

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