BettyThis article is part of the Mom’s Migraines series exploring some of the countless websites out there that offer poor user experiences and result in many a literal and metaphorical headache. This is one of Betty’s migraines.  Who is Betty?



A big part of my professional life is learning about how people shop online, how they find what they’re looking for and the troubles they run into as they navigate their way through the checkout. We aim to talk to people with varying levels of technical proficiency, but people who have never purchased anything online almost always get screened out of our studies (it’s unlikely they will be using the website we are testing). Until now!


My mom

Let me introduce you to Betty, a baby boomer who has never purchased anything online, for two reasons: 1. She’s not comfortable online (lack of experience) 2. Lack of trust with online retailers (lack of experience). The time savings and added convenience of shopping online appeals to her, but it has never been enough of an incentive for her to try it out.


Let’s go shopping

This was the first time Betty would be shopping online, so I thought it would be appropriate for her to shop for something she recently purchased offline.  A men’s sweater… Perfect!


Let’s skip the Internet Explorer and Bing adventure to get Betty to the Hudson’s Bay homepage where she would start her search. Betty quickly identified “Sweaters” in the global navigation when she hovered over “Men’s,” but before she could move the cursor she clicked “Men’s” which brought her to a page with over 10,000 products… this could take a while.

bay 1


Narrowing your search

It took some time and rough attempts to scroll through hundreds of products before Betty noticed the left navigation, which included “Sweaters”, success! We were down to 491 products. Too much scrolling ensued and it became clear that finding a particular sweater was going to take more time than Betty’s patience had to offer. Betty surprised me when she scrolled to the top of the page and clicked on the “Brand” filter without knowing what it was and just like that she was down to 20 items. Nice work mom!

bay 2


Making the purchase

This is where things started to fall apart… Betty checked out the sizing tool but it defaulted to metric units, which would be fine if Canadians actually measured their bodies in metric units, but they don’t. Seriously, how many centimeters tall are you? Back on the product detail page, Betty saw the “Add to bag” button and thought she was on the homestretch, but nothing happened when she clicked on it, so she tried it again. This time she noticed her “Shopping Bag” in the top right corner was telling her that the sweater she wanted was twice the price. Every product in the shopping bag preview was a separate line item, even if they were identical products, which was only obvious if you made sure to scroll to the very top of the page. My mom didn’t scroll high enough on the page to see the two separate products in her “Shopping Bag”.

bay 3


Time to Checkout… but first

Betty needed to sign in or checkout as a guest? This was challenging because she had a credit card with this store, which gave her the idea that she already had an account. Her understanding of the system was incorrect and this would have been a hard stop if it weren’t for me prompting her to checkout as a guest. The checkout flow tested really well, and Betty easily made it through without any guidance.

bay 4


My mom impressed me, I expected her to run into more trouble than she did and Betty was surprised to see just how easy shopping online could be. I’m not sure when/ if my mom will ever try to buy something online in the future, but if she does, I expect a call.


What can we learn?

 Don’t throw customers in the deep end

After landing on the homepage, it took Betty 1 click in the main menu to find herself in front of 10,000+ products – That’s a few too many products to scroll through. If there were a landing page for each of the top navigation options that outlined all of the categories, Betty would have been forced to narrow her search immediately. Don’t underestimate the value of design that helps to guide users on their path.


Filters make the world a better place

It didn’t take long for Betty to realize that there was no way she was going to browse through 10,000+ products to find a nice sweater. Filters are an essential tool that allows users to tailor products for their own preferences without any back-end wizardry of tracking pixels of past purchases. Betty demonstrated that filters are not only for experienced shoppers.


Tell people what’s happening

When we add something to our cart, we expect some sort of confirmation that the item has been successfully added. And if we’re trying to add the same item twice, double-check with us to make sure that’s what we want to do!


Don’t duplicate multiples of the same products in the “cart”

Use the “Quantity” field to indicate multiples of the same products in the cart. This will also make the experience of adjusting quantity much easier from the cart compared to showing multiples of the same products on separate lines.



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