Passionate Development From Journeyman to Master

Reviewing usability of computer online shops

I am in the process of building a new system to replace my 5 years old system.

I was originally planning to get all the parts from MSY, they do live up the reputation of being the cheapest in town. But one of their problems is that they don't have a consistent level of stock, so I got my mobo and video card from MSY Ultimo today but they didn't have CPU and RAM that I'm looking for.

I then tried my luck by going to Capitol Square, asked for a quote in one of the shop, the price was $40 more than MSY, I concluded the price in other shops would be similar so I left.

At home with the help of Staticice I went shop around in different sites.

The sites vary greatly in terms of usability and design. And I will try to give some quick review of the sites that I visited on those 2 criterias.

Shopping Square and Sky Comp are simply the best from the rest. They both have a really straight forward checkout system (I think my old company might have something to do with Shopping Square so I might be a little bit biased). And the best thing about these 2 sites is they provide shipping cost (estimate) early which I found to be extremely useful. The worst of these sites, requires me to complete the online order and then the store representative will contact me to confirm the shipping cost and finalize the purchase, way too complicated to my liking (an example of such site is IJK).

Austin Computers is not bad in terms of design, but the menu and layout are a bit confusing, navigation on top, left and right which is just too many in my opinion.

In terms of web design, these sites are just .. oh well just have a look yourselves:

Worst:

  • MSY. Those glaring giant fonts in varying colours really hurt my eyes. I understand that they are not selling their stuffs from the website and the website mainly serves to provide price list, but surely a little expense on design wouldn't hurt.
  • Fluidtek. Same as above but with additional graphics unnecessarily slapped here and there, very long page had to scroll a lot. Again selling things online is not the main purpose of the site, but the brochure ware approach is just so.. dodgy!

 Bad:

  • IJK. Plain and boring. Feels like 1990 all over again!
  • CCPU. Again feels like 1990 design but a reasonable 1990 design.

In terms of usability, the weirdest and un-intuitive site is The PC Pro. It uses 3 panels, the main panel is the list view, when clicked it will update the detail panel on the bottom, if click add item to shopping cart, then the right panel is updated. See screenshot:

pcpro

I tried to submit an order today, but I got an error, so I contacted the customer service. I was told that my credit card has already been charged as well as notifying me that the price of the item that I purchased was actually wrong (it should be higher because of the fall in AUD recently). He kindly offered to refund my purchase due to the pricing difference (which I gladly took). So at least good customer service there.

I ended up purchasing from IT Estate as it has the best price combination for CPU and RAM (and delivery cost) that I am looking for. This site usability is ok, design can be made better but not too terrible either.

I really wish some of these companies put a little more effort on their online front. I believe even if you are not the cheapest around if you provide a good shopping experience people will buy from you or at least people will keep you as the first place to look for when they are shopping for something.