Kudos to Half Price Books for Guest Account Creation after Checkout

I’ve studied a lot of in-depth research on e-commerce and one of the more disruptive user experiences is requiring customers to create accounts before allowing them to give you money.

Of the top 100 sites evaluated by the Baymard Institute in a 2012 study, 76% allowed guest checkout.

graph: 35% of companies grossing over $1 billion and 21% of the rest require an account to make an online purchase
Graphs: 76% don’t require an account to purchase, courtesy Baymard Institute

But only one of these companies (ranked #1 of 100) allowed a guest user to create an account after checkout. The checkout process should be linear, so asking a customer to create an account at the end of the purchasing process makes sense and is a better user experience.

It’s difficult to find examples of sites doing this since it requires making a purchase, but I did come across one finally: Half Price Books, a Texas-based used books chain.

Screenshot: HPB.com page allowing a customer to create an account after checking out

Good job! Now just remove the password confirmation field 🙂

Images Embedded in Tweets

Being able to add images easily to tweets is great (even if they aren’t accessible). I find myself frustrated, though, with the inconsistent nature of how those images are displayed.

In the feed, you get a snapshot of the image based on the size of the original image. Here is an example where the original image is very small.

screenshot of a tweet with a small embedded image of the state of Texas with county names too small to read
Tweet with a small embedded image

What I always expect to happen when I click a tweet—particularly one where the text is completely illegible—is to see a larger version of that image. But if the original image is small like this one (480×360), then clicking on the tweet is useless.

tweet with embedded image expanded
Tweet expanded

Conversely, if the original image is large (in this example 600×1067), the feed shows only part of the image cropped at 506×506.

screen shot of a tweet with a large embedded image of a road with damaged guardrail
Tweet with embedded image of 600×1067

Clicking to view the tweet then shows a shrunken version of the original image at 315×558 without a way to really see the full image, which is what I want to see.

screen shot of a tweet's embedded image that is too large to fit the modal container
Tweet with full embedded image shrunk to fit the container

Design Recommendations

I’d like to see an icon that indicates there is a full size version available. That way, after I click on the tweet, I can click on the image to see the original.

screen shot of an icon overlay to view the original image in a tweet
Tweet expand image icon

In the first example of a small image in a tweet, the problem is partially a content issue. People can and should be able to post whatever images they want, even if they have small text no one can read. The absence of the expand icon could indicate there is no larger size to view.

On a mobile screen where even the small example here is likely smaller than what shows up in one’s feed, this problem isn’t as noticeable. But for those of us still using the desktop version, it can be quite annoying.

5 Reasons to Stop Using Carousels, Now

Motion on websites makes me sick. To me, automatic carousels are the equivalent of the GeoCities sites from 20 years ago that would start blasting you with some awful music on page load. The only people who liked the auto-music were the people who made the webpages, and the only people who like carousels are the content owners.

I’m not the first to lament this antiquated website trope. I’m particularly fond of yourcarouselsucks.com; the name says it all and provides a great example. The third slide proclaims:

“We have tested carousels many times and the results are crystal-clear: It is a poor way of presenting content and blocks website sales.”

The next slide demonstrates the first problem with carousels.

1) They move automatically

Oops, did the carousel move on before you could finish? That sucks, right?
Screenshot from yourcarouselsucks.com

When a slide moves forward, not only do I have to fight a wave to nausea, but I have to squelch my frustration with moving the carousel back to finish reading. And if it only has backwards and forwards arrows…

2) They don’t stop

More often than not, I encounter carousels that do not have a pause feature. When I was working with an agency during my company’s last redesign project, I had to point out their code was missing a pause feature—and this was a huge agency.

Some expect the user to click something non-pause-button-like to stop the carousel on a particular slide. Not intuitive, and not useful when you just want it to stop!

screen shot of the Zappos.com home page with a carousel
Screenshot: Zappos.com homepage

3) They have tiny hit areas

It’s common to use little, close together, almost hidden circles as a way to indicate how many slides are in the carousel and to allow the user to jump between slides. These hit areas are hard to click with a mouse, and maddeningly difficult not to fat finger on a phone or table. I frequently end up clicking or tapping the slide and get taken to another page when all I was trying to do was make the damn thing stop.

screen shot of the amazon.com home page with a carousel that has little white circles for navigating the carousel slides
Screenshot: Amazon.com homepage

4) They are plagued with accessibility problems

Even when carousels provide controls, they often do not work for users with disabilities. Take the below example from Sears.com.

Screenshot image of the homepage of sears.com showing a carousel
Screenshot: Sears.com homepage
  • The back and forward navigation controls are hidden unless you mouse over the slide
  • The ‘pause’ button has such poor contrast and is so small, it’s easily overlooked
  • There is no way to interact with the carousel controls using a keyboard
  • The markup used to construct the carousel does not identify it or have meaningful button text, there’s no way to skip it, and the rest of the slides and content are hidden
screenshot of what the Sears.com carousel looks like without CSS enabled
Screenshot: Sears.com carousel markup

5) No one likes them, other than your Marketing department

The most compelling reason to stop using carousels is that they annoy users and reduce visibility of your most important piece of page real estate.

Accordions and carousels should show a new panel only when users ask for it. Otherwise, it should stand still and let users read the information in peace, without having the rug yanked from under them.

Not convinced? Please do a usability study of your site’s homepage and let me know how it goes.