Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Michael Bissell's Blog

A Retail Store Built Like the Web

2010-10-04 17:16:38
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The problem with "Web Design" is that anyone with a 5th grade niece thinks they have a resource. I got to thinking about what the world would be like if I went shopping in a store built by that 5th grader -- not a web site, but an actual store.

First trick, getting there... Most people have a company name that's a lot like someone else's, which is fine if you're not right next door, but with the Internet, XYZ Co. is next door to XYZ Net, and XYZ UK, and XYZ Biz, and XYZ... You get the picture.

I'd be driving around the block, looking at these stores wondering which one was the right one. Walking into them I find that they're close, but not what I'm looking for. Oh, and there's that XYZ XXX store with all the pictures of naked women tied up...

My fictional store solved the name war by calling themselves "" and effectively hid the store at the end of a twisted back alley with a chain link fence out front... Of course, when I actually get to that front door, I have to wait for a bouncy animation and a song to play before the door opens. I'm still not sure what that's all about...

Once I'm finally in the store, I can't find anything... I'm looking for a red widget... And I find... Let's see... There are some two year old press releases sitting on the front desk, there's a TV that starts blaring the store's latest commercial as soon as I walk in, there's a BIG sign with a phrase like We will strive to inspire dynamic initiatives with better outcomes for the benefit of our colleagues and other private partnerships.

Oddly enough, they seem to have a lot of doors leaving the store. Some lead to other stores and each time I go through one of those doors I hear a nickel drop behind me -- apparently that's how much I'm worth to

I find a little door marked "Buy Now!!!" with a room piled with products that are just scattered around. As I start blindly wandering down the aisles I find most of the products are in plain white boxes with an "Image Coming Soon!" sticker slapped on the outside. All the cartons are the same size, so I have to read the descriptions for what's in the box, which would be okay, except it's all printed in such a tiny, blurry font that I can't tell if it's the description or some kind of barcode...

Turns out there is some kind of organization to the shelves, but as soon as I leave one aisle I either get completely lost and can't find my way back to it, or I keep finding myself in exactly the same aisle, over and over again in some kind of Escher like market.

When I finally find what I think I'm looking for, I try to find a way to buy it. I can put it in my cart, but for some reason, my cart is built in such a way that it's almost impossible to see what's actually IN my cart. Then, getting my cart to the checkout is so obtuse that I find myself running in circles, coming back to the shelves, then over to the press release table, then...

Finally, I'm at a place where I can give them money. First thing they do at the checkout counter is ask me if they can keep my credit card... forever. Um... no... so I start to fill out a long form, then enter some blurry letters to prove I'm a human being (ironically, because the checkout person is obviously a robot -- as a matter of fact, I don't think I've seen a human being all day).

Then I look in my cart and I see the checkout robot has slipped a whole bunch of stuff in my cart that I didn't want when I wasn't looking. When I try to pull the junk out, they keep asking, "Are you sure you don't want this stuff you didn't ask for?"

As I pull my credit card out, and I'm told to go outside to another company to pay. "But I'm buying this from you guys..." "Oh, we use PayPal to handle all our money."

Apparently the banks don't trust these guys anymore than I do at this point, so I go outside to a little kiosk for the "trusted" people, give them my credit card, and come back in with my little slip of paper that says I can have the stuff I just bought. Which I'm told will arrive at my house in a few weeks...

My fun is over, but now some stockboy in the back has to get the order... He only works Wednesdays and Fridays and has to work through the arcane paperwork that the retail store produces. Only they don't send him the orders, so he has to keep driving to the retail store, go in the back door, and look to see if there's a pile of orders... or not.

He doesn't get the SKUs for the product that actually sits on his shelves, but rather, some kind of weird numbering system unique to the retail store.

Half the time he doesn't even have it in stock which means changing my order, going to the "trusted" bank people to give me some of my money back, which takes almost as long as getting the product was supposed to, and I'm stuck back where I started... Wandering the streets of poorly marked warehouses with dancing animations on their doors...

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