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Web usability >
Why the toysrus website is pants
First problem. The homepage. Wow is this advertising in your face or what? Never mind that I can't actually see some of it because the page is too wide and I have an intrusive horizontal scroll page needlessly taking up room. I have my browser set to the standard width of 800 pixels. Too bad ToysRUs were making garish adverts instead of testing for standard browser sizes.
Note: this site requires slightly larger than the 800 pixel width because at 800 pixels exactly there isn't enough room for an 800 pixel wide standard size screen dump plus the standard page margins on a web page. I've tried rescaling the images to make them smaller but it causes significant loss of detail on the fonts used on the screen dumps.
Next problem, my shopping basket is empty. Well I know that, I haven't put anything in it yet! Only problem is I didn't ask to see my shopping basket. I entered "scooter" in the search box and pressed return to search. Return should have gone off and searched for scooters, but instead it decided to map to the button to show me that I had an empty basket. Useful or what?
Next, the actual search results. A bit of work required here on formatting I think.
Next the Big Brother registration form. How not to do it.
The comment "We comply with the data protection laws in the UK". The relevant legislation here is the third principle of the Data Protection Act, this states:
"Personal data shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are processed". The wide definition of processing should be borne in mind when considering the Third Principle. In complying with this Principle, data controllers should seek to identify the minimum amount of information that is required in order properly to fulfil their purpose and this will be a question of fact in each case. If it is necessary to hold additional information about certain individuals, such information should only be collected and recorded in those cases."
It would be difficult using the above to justify why a title (making revealing gender mandatory) and a mandatory date of birth (the field is starred) are all absolutely essential to shop. ToysRUs is a toyshop and incorporates BabiesRUs which is a shop for babies. I think their shops are great, however merchandise with a selling age limit makes up a miniscule percentage of their total stock. Read carefully the bit about data protection above and the "certain individuals" and "in each case". In this case this is those people who purchase age related goods. The vast bulk of customers are not purchasing goods with an age limit and clearly in this case the mandatory age gathering is probably more for marketing reasons rather than legal ones. It would be fair enough if they asked my age only when I was buying 18 rated games or videos, but this is not the case - they make it mandatory for me to reveal my age to buy anything on the site, even a toy for a baby.
Put another way, how would you react to entering a high street shop and being forced to reveal your date of birth to buy childrens toys? If you wouldn't do it in a shop, where at least you have people on hand to explain the policy, why do it on a website where the user has no handy sales assistant to explain the rules?
A quick digression to Amazon here, once again leading the field. Not a pants website at all since unlike ToysRUs no age related information is required to register. Instead, if you come across an age related product you follow the third principle of the Data Protection Act and become a "certain individual" buying an age related product. It is only at this point, as Amazon correctly point out, that is is necessary to confirm your age, see the highlight.