Developer Chris Jolley takes a humorous look at a day in the life of a truly terrible ecommerce website. Chris’s tongue-in-cheek look at what can be going on behind the scenes will make you laugh, but also offer an insight into some common customer frustrations, encouraging you to ask “is your website easy to get along with?"
01:00: It’s quiet tonight - always is around now. Short of a repeat visitor adding absurd quantities of particular products to their basket, just the usual international shoppers. Some can even find what they're looking for in their own language! Pity we can’t ship to them.
01:30: Automated back-ups whirring away. One day those could be needed, hope the drives they’re saved from work, nobody has checked. Overnight reports started to run too, oh except one, it’s called “priority orders”.
02:30: The pages are loading r-e-e-e-e-a-l-l-y slowly, must be why those 2 customers clicked off. I like running reports, back-ups, and serving customers at the same time. Sorry… got distracted, back-up just failed. It always happens though, I’ll just alert Mrs Message returned: Mailbox Full, she’ll deal with it.
08:00: Noticed 'Roy', searching for a very specific product. It’s stocked but he’s being redirected when ordering. He’s been trying for an hour…
08:30: OK, so my day’s starting to get busy now but our “overnight” reports are still running. Roy will just have to wait.
09:00: This is embarrassing, seems product databases are out of date and orders are being placed for out of stock items. Sort of ironic that Roy’s item is in stock but he can’t order it. Someone will notice eventually, maybe Mrs Mailbox Full?
09:30: Looks like pay-per-click campaigns for leading products has gone live, based on a sudden surge in the number of ‘404’ page not found errors; landing target page probably isn’t live either.
09:45: Fun’s over, the developers have stepped in and fixed the ‘404’ error and they’ve updated the stock management controls too. Oh great, they’ve corrected data issues, and spruced up the look / feel of key pages in the store - they load faster. This is when my day really starts. I might have a coffee break.
11:05: So now I’m on standby… unless... yes! Something viral! I’m busy. This usually happens, causing my processors to overheat as the traffic spikes. I used to panic but it happens most days now so it’s fine.
11:10: It’s really busy now, so I just slow down to a crawl so it’s easier for me. If only this traffic had been planned for but that’s not my issue; easier for me to just slow down, I can’t serve everyone.
11:13: SERVICE UNAVAILABLE…or a nice little coffee break for me.
11:39: Break over, developers, sys-admins, hosting and IT departments are all communicating and now they’ve co-operated to solve the problem... real neatly :(
11:40: Ha! The mobile site stopped loading, break 2 here I come, they didn’t check the “m.” mobile domain. The site's behind a Content Delivery Network though so no one's actually affected :(
14:30: How strange, just spotted some important and popular pages - basket and checkout - are showing up quite differently for random users! Big mistake, but not my mistake so I’ve left it.
15:00: It’s all kicked off - Marketing have just sent an email, wonder if they knew about today’s issues? I hate marketing, more work for me. Visitor numbers are up again so I’ll have to slow down until someone tells our hosting company.
15:20: Worse! All these visitors are navigating the site pretty easily, even picking up additional related and recommended products left, right and centre! Arrghh. Mainly ones with great reviews. Figured that one as soon as they integrated that review service.
16:00: Noticed someone uploaded “HoldingPage.html”? What’s that? Lots of developers I’ve not seen before having a look around too.
16:05: Looks like those random different page versions from 2:30pm were intentional! Something to do with A/B Testing…what's that? They already opted to keep the versions that perform better; I’m not sure what’s going on, think I’ll slow down again.
16:10: Oh, they’re testing different tweaks to the pages for different audiences, times of day and even seasons! I wish someone had told me, I 'clock off' soon.
17:00: Looking forward to the usual 5pm lull, when suddenly.. all the pages say:
“We are in the process of updating our online store in order to offer you a faster, better, more reliable experience. You can still browse our product range, and better than normal service will be resumed by 6:00pm”
17:39: What…I’ve been fired and replaced with a new ecommerce website?
We hope you enjoyed our completely hypothetical and somewhat exaggerated look at a terrible ecommerce website. We wanted to highlight some common perils that are surprisingly easy to fall into if you don’t check, care for and support your ecommerce website. Remember, there is always a solution and new possibilities. Online commerce is always evolving, we need to ensure we evolve with it.