Outdoor Advantage Online is a straightforward online shop for buying fishing lures, providing what you tend to expect when purchasing items over the net. By fixing some minor flaws, Outdoor Advantage could build a much more trustworthy user experience.
My Usability Test
The first thing I see when I load OutdoorAdvantageOnline.com is the Outdoor Advantage logo (with a big fish in it), followed immediately by “Takin’ Names & Kickin’ Bass”. I’m on a site that has to do with fish.
Beyond that, I have no idea what the purpose of the site is on first glance. There is a big “New” graphic that draws my attention, but I can’t tell if the site is new, or if the graphic is telling me that something else is new. It would seem as if I should be focusing on it — though it doesn’t really explain to me what it’s for.
Continuing, I notice a big header that tells me to “Get the Advantage!”. There’s a short blurb underneath it, so I decide to read. It tells me that Outdoor Advantage makes custom lures. It’s a good explanation, but in retrospect, it shouldn’t take me this long to realize what the site is all about. Now I know where I am.
My next inclination is to check out some of the lures, which just happen to be right after this explanation. They are nicely laid out with thumbnails and prices, and I can quickly decide which one I want to look at. Red seems like a nice choice *click*.
Now I’m on a Products page with a picture of my red lure – but the first thing that I notice is a dropdown telling me that I currently have the “Green Pumpkin w/Black Flake” color selected. This isn’t too bothersome, as I assume I can go into the menu and choose red… but upon doing so I’m presented with a list of nearly 20 color options, none which allow me to preview what it actually looks like.
If I am actually shopping for a product, it’s always nice to see an accurate representation of what I’m purchasing. This is a turnoff for me as a consumer. It’s confusing to me.
There is an average customer rating provided underneath the product options, which is nice (though it would probably serve its purpose better moved towards the top of the page). After seeing that this red lure only has a rating of 3/5, I decide to look for a new lure. Finding the “Shop” link is easy enough in the top navigation menu, though it could be made even easier to find if distinguished from the other links in some way.
The shop is easy enough to navigate. Entries are formated in a way that is self explanatory. I keep scrolling down the page since none of the the lures have good ratings (or they do, but only 1 review meaning it’s less dependable to me). I get to the bottom of the page to click the Next Page link…
Um… there is a next page, right? Apparently not, as there is no navigation system. When I see results listed in entry like format, I assume there must be a navigation at the bottom (and often times the top) of that page. I scroll back to the top and notice some links on the sidebar that appear to look like lures. From here, I’m able to find what I’m looking for (and strangely enough, I’m brought to a page that looks almost identical, only with the page navigation that seems to be missing on the main Shop page).
After shopping around, I decide that I want to check out the “Fishing Tips” Outdoor Advantage has to offer. A blog like format is pulled up, so the first thing I do is look for categories where I can find posts that fit my interest. I’m stuck with the linear format organized by date which is not something I’d really be interested in browsing though. Searching proves useless too (the search bar only brought up entries from the Products on the website).
I click a tip that seems interesting to me, only to find that the full entry is only about a sentence longer than the description given to me on the previous page. I don’t feel inclined to see any more tips, as going back, finding the next and clicking it is going to be a long, mundane process. A simple “Next Tip”, “Previous Tip” navigation that would assist me greatly from here.
I stop by “Classfields”, and leave almost as soon as I enter. There is nothing listed to gain my interest.
There is a “Service” link in the Navigation. I have no idea what it is without actually visiting the page. Does Outdoor Advantage provide a service? Is it Customer Service?
The forum seems easy enough to use, has some active discussion by the looks of it, and looks pretty standard. I like forums that don’t try to break the typical styles and conventions. I’m used to this forum layout, and know what to do with very little thought.
I don’t have too much trouble getting around this site, which is a good thing, but I can suggest quite a few changes that would improve the user experience.
First, there is the header of the site, which provides very little information while taking up LOTS of space. Having the fish symbol is a good touch, as it informs me that the page has something to do with fish, but something should immediately tell me what this site does. Adding a few words somewhere like “Buy Bass Fishing Lures Online” would inform me about my whereabouts almost instantly.
As mentioned in my usability testing, the individual product pages need some work for an optimal experience. I’d suggest taking a few ideas from Amazon, one of the most popular online shops, to see how they format listings. I think users would be more satisfied if the thumbnail auto-updated with the selected color. Also, the rating seems to make more sense up top where it is traditionally placed on product pages.
The Shop page lacks a pagination system of any kind, which is a huge problem. Users should be able to quickly navigate to the next 5 or previous 5 products without searching for a means to do so. It probably also makes sense to list the categories and brands closer to the top of this page since that will be what many users look for first.
The visual quality of this site is not its strong point, but the information is organized in a way that makes sense most of the time. With some more time spent on the visual appearance of this site, it would almost certainly build greater consumer confidence in me on this particular shop. Even simple adjustments like a type better suited for screen format as opposed to the default Time’s New Roman would make a big difference.
Some aspects of the site do however require a bit more visual attention. For example, the main navigation offers nine options presented in a horizontal format (Horizontal navigations tend to be more difficult to scan compared to vertical ones). By reducing the number of options here, and highlighting the more important ones (Shop), I could navigate much more quickly. Also, by changing “Service” to “Contact”, I’d have a much easier time finding a contact form to request customer service.
The shopping cart is very messy, and doesn’t convey information very well. Everything feels squished making it very difficult to read. Styling could be adjusted to make this easier to scan through. Also, there is no way to remove individual items from the cart in the sidebar — something that is quite bothersome.
As a consumer, I consider appearance when shopping online. The store that looks the most professional will often get my business, simply on the grounds that it seems more trustworthy. Seeing that the intended use of Outdoor Advantage Online is to sell products to a customer, I’d say that visual appearance plays a great role in usability (after all, if there are other customers like me, what’s to say they’ll want to use this store?)
It wouldn’t take a great deal of effort to bring this shop’s visual quality to my expectations as an online shopper though. With some minor touchups, this store could provide a much better, trustworthy user experience.