by: CaulynDarr (This is my first time posting here as a guest author. )
I really was done talking about GW and their games. At least for a while. But as a professional software developer, I couldn’t let their new website go by un-critiqued. Especially when it is so…awful. I mean really. The surest way for a site or an app to fail is to produce one not knowing what the user wants and needs. So this is just another example of how GW has no clue what their customer want or need.
First off the home page:
|So far so good|
Flat and simple is the currently favored design ascetic. It’s nice to have at least some color in your theme; something soft like a gradient so that things don’t look too boring. The “Why Shop with us” ribbon” is a little superfluous. It’s not like there are any other websites to buy their stuff from anyway.
|Almost gone in the right corner|
|Pop-outs and small screens don't mix.|
So what If I want to find something specific? I’ll click the 40K button and play a round.
|Again, so far so good|
Shows a bunch of random stuff. And a filter panel. I guess I have to filter.
|Not so good anymore|
Yep, selecting Imperial Guard just dumps 8 pages of random guard models into the main view. Default ordered from price high-to-low. Because most players buy the $140 kits every day. Units that a shopper would reasonably buy most of the time barely make it onto the 4th row of the first page; way below the scroll on most screens. Order by relevance and popularity! Their sales data should allow them to reasonably score a product's popularity and put the big sellers first.
And yes, for some reason they decided to list them by model and not product. So instead of showing the bane blade or shadow sword kits, it lists them as every separate things you can build from those kits. The fact that it’s a multi-model kit is only shown after clicking a “Read more” text break on the product page.
|Filters make more sense when the site can return 16,000 random things|
The old website was a bit dated, but at least they organized the product in a way that made sense in the context of the game. This filter list doesn't help the user find what they want. It’s not overall a bad feature for a web-store to have, but it makes more sense on a site like amazon where I might be getting 10,000 results of my search. With this site it took me a minute to find the core rule book. And I was looking for it because I know it exists, and I am an expert user who has a pretty good understanding of where a UI programmer might stick something like that.
A domain like what GW’s web store covers can be pre-filtered because they should know what the user is going to be looking for 80% of the time. And the old store managed that well. The only problem with the old store was that it looked ugly and ran slow(and was broken on mobile devices). But the functionality and organization where much better than this incarnation.
|What GW thinks you need to know|
Notice how they devote as much screen real-estate to the shipping and returns policy as to the product description. The key to every gamer’s heart is apparently the basic retail stuff that every store under the sun offers as standard. FREE RETURNS you say! Well, here have ALL OF MY MONIES SIR! Oh yeah, and apparently these guys are baldest bad-asses short of Space Marines. Whatever big-whopdee-doo, DID YOU SEE THE PART ABOUT SHIPPING WITHIN 2-9 WORKING DAYS!!! YEAH!!!
Let’s talk about a few things I couldn’t find. like FAQ’s or any type of content other than product pages. As far as I can tell it’s gone. The site search gave me this:
|Who needs a FAQ?|
The googles gave me this:
|Dead space marines apparently|
Unacceptable. IBooks Space Marines Codex force builder level of unacceptable. GW could be selling self-sealing stem bolts for all the context this website provides. I’m convinced this website is basically a canned product they bought that reads from a GW filled database with very little customization done(yep, it is. These same guys do the Lego web-store, I knew certain elements looked familiar. The Lego store is better implemented and organized by theme, so it's not all the platform's fault).
I was able to find only two hobby related items. A pair of instructional videos hidden halfway down the Painting and Modeling section. The What's New blog still exists, but it's hard to find. You have to click on the picture of the white dwarf poking out of the banner on the home page. They didn't bother to import the old post so it only has the new web-store announcement and a link to the only social aspect of the site: the GW Flickr stream. In a market where everyone is trying to bolt social aspects to their products(whether it makes sense or not) this site further retreats from the internet at large. No event announcements, review options, or even Facebook like buttons. It's a site for buying things and nothing else.
Having to take the website down for a day was also pretty weird. Competent IT can do that kind of switch seamlessly. You get both sites up and running at the same time and then just redirect traffic to the new site when it’s ready. Even if there was a problem they should be able to rollback or resolve it in an hour or two. If they self-host it means they don’t have the hardware to handle both sites simultaneously for a short period of time. If they don’t self-host it means that they wouldn't pay out for a few days of extra virtual servers to support the transition. And we aren't talking massive sums here. Dollars per hour at the most.
I've also heard that they blew away all their user accounts in the transition. I tried to confirm this, but I have forgotten my GW website password. I tried to recover my password and didn't get the recovery email like I should have. Either that feature doesn't work, or the above statement is indeed true. Amateur mistake.
I looked at the site in a script view briefly as well. It has quite a few TODO's and test's left in the code, so it looks like the site is incomplete. Though I have to say the most cringe-worthy thing I saw was the help bubbles for the entering you email and password. "Enter your eamil" and "Enter your password" respectfully. HEADDESK-HEADDEASK-HEADDESK
I didn't test out how checkout works. That would require me to buy something from them. The one improvement is the mobile version of the site. It still sucks, but it does at least work. The only improvment of the previous site they made.
When a company is failing, everyone runs around trying to do something. Anything, to try and fix things. The problem is that they don’t know what to do. They are too scared to take the risks and invest the time and money to do things the right way because if it fail things will get worse. I've worked at companies in that situation, I can see it under the surface here.