Fast, hassle free online donations

Recently friends of mine have been active participants in fundraising events for charities. Naturally quite inspired by their endeavours I’ve wanted to sponsor or donate to their chosen causes. But two sites most recently have shown vast differences in their online models, it begs the question that their website design are huge barriers to onboarding potential donors ! This is quite topical for me at the moment as I work to simplify online registration for a global beauty retailer that severely hampers visitors becoming members.

Firstly Oxfam Australia. A friend is competing in the Trailwalker hike. 100 kms. Wow, I want to support her team. I follow the link to their page where I see a clear Donate call to action. Clicking this button takes me to a form asking for my donation amount, name, email, physical address (why?) and finally credit card details with a final Confirm button at the end. Phew, all done. Yet clicking the Confirm button does nothing. The fields which I had filled are all in focus so I suspect that this is a validation exercise. So I recheck the details I entered and click Confirm again. Again, nothing.

oxfam2

I try this a number of times, wondering if my credit card also has been charged the same number of times. What I had been failing to see was a slimline drop down at the top of the screen which was asking me to login. What? Why allow users to enter all of these details if it’s necessary to be a member? Not to mention that I’ve never been to this site before – I just want to make a donation and go. I don’t have the time to register !

My friend who’s competing is a good friend so I persevere. I register and I get my subsequent registration confirmation email. Go through the motions and I’m back on the site to login before another attempted donation.

Now the site doesn’t recognise me. I retype the password I’d chosen and typed twice on the confirmation only a minute ago but to no avail. I’m getting well passed annoyed now. Every second I am re-evaluating how much of a good friend the willing 100km hike participant (just kidding, Ron !). My guilt gets me in the end and I click the Forgot password link. A temporary saviour arrives, I type it in and bingo, I’m finally recognised !

But before I try to donate again I want to check the Donation History to make sure my credit card hasn’t already been received or processed. This screen asks me to select the dates I want to check. Rather strange as a new registrant. Also the pre-populated date range seems a bit random – some date in November 2012 to June 2013. Today is 28 April 2014 right? I change the date to today and phew, no transactions display. Then I read the text above the date selector – “If you’ve made a recent donation, please note that donations may take up to five working days to appear.” Oh dear – a simple listing of donations made with a given status of ‘pending’ wouldn’t do here? So do I wait 5 days or go ahead with the donation?

The other site I’ve used recently is Virgin Money Giving. What a breeze! I don’t need to register. I don’t need to login. I select the charity, the amount and chose how I want to pay. Simples. Done in less than 3 minutes.

Multiply 3 minutes by the number of steps taken on Oxfam, amplified by factors of annoyance and frustration and that’s how many potential donors you’re missing out on Oxfam.

Stop and question how much you really need to know about donors. If you were selling raffle tickets at the local shopping centre you wouldn’t find out much at all. It’s called fund raising for a reason, not data collection.

Fundraising is hard enough – I know; my mother fundraised for charity for the best part of 20 years before the convenience of online tools. Use them wisely and be smart.

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Signposting our ruin

Last night in a busy Tesco I saw 3 self-service machines vacant while a queue circled around the fruit and veg section? Why? The customers were waiting an instruction. An instruction which didn’t come as the attendant on duty was helping a very flustered customer with a technical problem on another machine.

As I’ve watched the increase of self-service machines take over the number of peopled cash registers, so too the reliance of customers on the attendants. They were originally stationed to help with technical problems. But the waiting queue now wait for the attendant’s command to go and which self service machine to go to.

On another occasion while standing second in line, I alerted the person in front that a machine had become free. The response was, ‘the attendant will tell me if its okay.’

It wouldn’t seem that difficult a concept. One customer vacates the machine, another engages it. Like waiting for a pump at a petrol station. Do we wait for an attendant to tell us where to go? No, no one stands at the pumps to hold our hand and lead us through. We line up sensibly, the car in front leaves and we move up.

This got me around to think about signposting – triggers we all use in interface design for messaging or instruction to the user. But do we ourselves do too much hand holding and impede the user from thinking for themselves?

Recently I have been working on a scientific content enrichment project. The target user is chemists who are very familiar with the content and its subleties. Yet I work with stakeholders who are not, and who question screen designs that don’t give enough instruction or context.

What’s the balance? Clearly AB testing is the solution here and has proven that the less amount of noise the better, the content speaks for itself. As a previous head of UX used to drill into me, the efficacy of design should eliminate any need for explanation.

But is there too much noise out there already and does the Tesco observation show we are a society that expect to be told what to do?

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Sweet packaged cupcakes

I love startups … creative, food, culinary. And this weekend I saw a cupcake startup hitting their stride with free samplings at a large gourmet supermarket in London. Woo hoo !

I arrived on time for the tasting – didn’t want to miss out – but I couldn’t find their stand. Did I get the date wrong? No, the store’s bakery staff were expecting them also. So I wander the bakery counter and see that they’re already stocked in the superstore. As I want to investigate the different flavours, I am unable to easily see what’s inside the boxes.

The problem? The packaging design.

The individual cupcake was beautifully housed in a clear plastic box with a dovetailed lid. The entire front of the box however was covered in their promotional label. You get a much better view of the cakes on their website.

The space on the shelf was tight, so picking up the plastic boxes was difficult without disturbing the neighbouring boxes and pulling the entire shelf load to the floor. I was becoming a little annoyed. All I could do was stand on tiptoe to look through the top of the box to see the morsel inside.

I eventually bought one. Not the one I wanted because I couldn’t see the description of the cake easily – this was written on the back of the box. Hmm…

I pondered the situation as I stared at the empty box at home after finishing the baked good. How could the packaging done a better job of presentation?

Firstly, a reimagined packaging design so that the label did not cover the merchandise from view. Allow people to freely see what’s inside – why do you need an illustration on the label when you have such a pretty cupcake inside to do your advertising for you?

And secondly, the strapline that describes your cake – for eg. a vanilla buttermilk cupcake with a juicy passionfruit centre – should also appear on the front, not the back. Let people know what they’re buying. You don’t want the customer to have to pick up box after box just to find basic information. Don’t let them get the cake home to realise that the simple chocolate cupcake they bought is really a chilli chocolate cupcake laced with brandy … not everyone likes liquer in their cakes.

Two simple steps to package your wares could save people time in perusing and entice them into filling their baskets with more of your goods. I know I would have 🙂

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Redundancy

At the moment I seem to be witnessing a glut of grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors in online media. Unfinished sentences go begging in some of the biggest name newspaper and magazine sites, that is just plain slovenly.

Just because the medium is instantaneous doesn’t mean that it requires any less pride in creation or editing.

Take this example – the advert at the top. ‘Introducing’ by definition means something that is not yet seen or is being presented for the first time. Is ‘new’ really necessary then?

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More info please…

While recently exploring the latest summer flight deals on a well-known and recognised travel site, I was presented with this screen on their mobile site.

The mobile site …

Well, I could provide more information if I knew what the acronyms stood for. I can guess some of them, but the rest …

Out of curiosity I then checked the same journey on their desktop site and got something quite different.

… and the desktop site.

Luke Wroblewski writes that mobile first should be the only design strategy for a seamless experience across mobile and desktop sites. In some cases however, long established sites are either working backwards or relaunching their site with mobile at their heart.

If the former is your only recourse at present, beware of cutting too much congestion to enable a quick to the goalpost experience on mobile. You may, as in the above example, cut a little too thin. Trying to use your site shouldn’t be a guessing game.

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