Takeaways from ordering online

I ordered some take out food recently, I was time-pressed with the kids and ordering beforehand, ready for pick up, just made sense.

The online ordering experience was really, really poor.

When I first started in the web, many things were new, we were trying new things & experimenting – learning as we go. However, now we have standards, best practices, agreed approaches etc – so you would think the Wild West era of the web was over; but sadly not.

What went wrong?

When I first saw the website I wanted to order from, I knew there was going to be trouble – I could just tell this was going to be hard work. The immediate lack of polish spoke volumes to me as to how this was going to unfold. As someone who has built countless websites over the years – you have a spider sense for such things.

Note: I did have screenshots etc that I was going to post but no, I’m not going to do that as (even when blurred) this could somehow be misconstrued as an attack against a sole proprietor – whereas this is meant to be more of a ‘canary in a coal mine’; warning about the state of websites today.

Allow me to summarise what went wrong:

  1. I had to jump through hoops to select which store I wanted to pick up from (when there are only two stores!).
  2. The order picking page did not allow you to select quantities per item.
    (Well, there was a quantity dropdown, but they were all set to 1, bizarrely).
  3. The process of adding to your basket was confusing & complicated (to say the least!).
  4. The credit card page failed the first time with a bland generic error – leaving me clueless whether my order had been processed or not.
  5. I managed to get around the error by guessing that the error (relating to ‘3D secure’) was simply because their code had badly handled the acceptance of the authorisation back from my card (Monzo). Using the back button on the browser and trying again allowed the transaction to go through.
    Note: I’d never normally recommend anyone doing this, but as I was sure the transaction had not gone through, and I had a good handle on why I thought the error occured, I was happy to try.
  6. Order placed (phew!)
  7. Shortly after I received a text from them that, due to an issue, they needed some extra information (I had stated that I wanted both).
    I was to text SALT back if I wanted salt on my chips or text VINEGAR back if I wanted to vinegar.
    ….errr….and what if I wanted salt and vinegar?!
  8. That was a moot point as any response to the text was received with a network error; so that didn’t work either. Great.
  9.  When I turned up to collect, there was a queue of people placing orders (understandably as this venue is popular). However, with no provision to service ‘pick up‘ orders quickly, I had to wait – all the more jarring as I could see what I correctly guessed was my order ready to be picked up (and getting colder by the minute).
  10. The food was great – that bit is never a let down; if it was in doubt, I wouldn’t have gone through the pain of the above!


In terms of takeaways (ha!) from the above, I would say this:

Businesses can’t just rely on the fact that they do ONE thing well; hoping that that is enough to prop everything else up. Ok, this is a takeaway – but that doesn’t excuse a sub-par web presence.

Such businesses have two choices:

  1. Ante-up and put in place a well-crafted system; it won’t cost a fortune and, better still, it will pay for itself over time. How? Because a well-crafted solution will cause fewer people to drop off from orders and, better still, can encourage upsells, and repeat orders.
  2. Use a system like Just Eat etc instead. Whilst such group systems charge and/or take a commission on each order etc – there are no upfront costs to developing a more polished web presence.

Even without doing any of the above, at the very least go through your own system – order as a punter – see what the experience is like first hand.

I appreciate it’s hard for some business (especially small ones) to look beyond the aspects they class as core (the bit they hopefully do well), but if they raise their eyes a little and look to the larger landscape of their business, they will spot other opportunities.

A great benefit of improving your online presence is that it is the gift that keeps on giving – if you spend time improving the performance and experience of your website today, that improvement will continually deliver an uplift in performance from this day forward.



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