Boos for an example of how not to do it

The online clothing retailer is in many ways exemplary - in the sense that it offers a perfect example of how not to do an e-commerce site....

The online clothing retailer is in many ways exemplary - in the sense that it offers a perfect example of how not to do an e-commerce site.

For example, the first thing a visitor sees when they access the site is a message informing them that the opening window does nothing - and that another one is being spawned elsewhere. It also warns that you need a fast modem - roughly equivalent to criticising potential customers as they enter a shop because they are scruffily dressed.

The hijacking of the browser persists throughout the site as other windows are created willy-nilly. The intention is laudable - to offer advanced features like the ability to "try on" clothes, using a rotatable, zoomable mannequin image. But the constant piling on of advanced technology means that even with a fast connection the pages load slowly, and the visitor is constantly given opportunities to get bored and go somewhere else.

And while a host of too-clever tricks are employed, basics are neglected. There is precious little information about the products viewed, and no scope for existing owners to offer comments on items. The only area that does work well is the check-out - a series of small coloured blobs show clearly where the customer is in the process.

The basic problem with Boo is that it has been created for the designers, not for the customers. It is impressive, in an abstract sort of way, but a disaster as a practical e-commerce site.

Boo represents the newest of the new, while is one of the oldest e-commerce sites in existence. Originally called VirtualVineyard, it was launched in January 1995. This has given it plenty of time to learn - in particular, to learn the value of simplicity. has a very clean design, optimised to get customers to the wine they are looking for fast. It is rich in its content, with very helpful tasting charts, and only really falls down on the community side. Wines are an area where the opinions of others could be a real boon to newcomers or to those who just can't make up their mind. The checkout sequence is notable for its very full accompanying explanation of the process. This, added to the express checkout option, is exemplary in the best sense.

Compare the two

Design *
Navigation ***
Content **
Community *
Checkout ****

Design ****
Navigation *****
Content *****
Community *
Checkout *****

Read more on E-commerce technology