Eight years ago Dell did me a favor, a favor so great, it changed my life forever. I was starting my new small business, armed with all of my dreams and aspirations of conquering the interactive marketing world. However, I soon realized that you needed computer equipment to do so! With credit cards maxed out and a stone-faced bank manager, Dell was the only company that would give my new business a line of credit to finance the equipment I needed to get going. (You’re probably wondering why I didn’t choose Apple, the common choice for creatives. It was simple; they wouldn’t give me any credit.)
So with Dell taking a chance on me, I ordered the best laptop I could find, the XPS M1530 with the 4GB memory and all of the bells and whistles. Four years later, I followed it up with the Dell Precision M6600 with the 8GB memory. I am now ready for my third Dell laptop, and this is how I discovered how I could return the favor to Dell.
The lease for my Dell Precision M6600 is coming to an end. My only real issue with it has been the weight. This nine-pound behemoth really shouldn’t be hauled around, and I decided I wanted the lightest 16GB laptop Dell had as my next lease. Going to the website, I started my new search and found the website cumbersome and complex. So I took screenshots of what I encountered along the way and I share my thoughts on improvement.
Dell started off so well on the homepage (below): simple, clean, easy to select an option.
Then on the very next page (below), Dell is determined to show me everything but the kitchen sink. All form and structure is lost in the pursuit of showing me every conceivable option and discount available. I think the decision was made to hammer home Dell’s competitive advantage over Apple, presumably offering the most options in the known computer universe. In my case the competitive advantage was the easy financing, having a quality product to build my business around and having a laptop that actually works with Microsoft Office and QuickBooks.
On this page, Dell has wasted the top two lines and in turn pushed down the informative carousel to below the fold. I am basing this off the most common browser height of 768 resolution. Thus for a $299 deal at the top, this page loses half of its structure and effectiveness.
Also Dell only has five different laptops: Inspiron, Precision, Latitude , XPS and Alienware. Wouldn’t it be better to have the taxonomy structured around the laptops and not the 5,000 options which leave the user dazed and confused? When I go to the Apple website, I have five choices (below). It is a simple, uncluttered masterpiece of simplicity.
I am a computer geek, but to scroll down and look at all of these options is tiring, especially when I had a very specific request for a lightweight, 16GB memory laptop. I selected “On-the-Go.” This result screen could have given me a summary of all of the lightweight laptops sorted by weight size, thus allowing my purchase decision to be made on weight and convenience—and not by price(below).
I decided to do a mockup of what I would like to see after the home page. As you can see below we abide by the 760 resolution height rule and are still able to get all of the important information above the fold, thus eliminating the need to scroll down and for any carousel.
Using this new structure, if I was selecting the XPS, the next screen I would like to see (below) would allow me to very quickly go through and see all of the laptops within the XPS product line. I would also do a similar layout for the models broken down by laptop deals, On-the-Go, etc.
I could talk for days about this, but in a nutshell what I am trying to say is that simple form and structure should always trump sheer volume of information.
The next major issue is that there is limited website automatic browser detection. With Dell having a Microsoft ASP website, there is plenty of information on how to correct this issue (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/x3k2ssx2.aspx) so there is really no excuse for these types of pages (below).
It’s easy to criticize and point out the obvious flaws as an outsider with clear lack of appreciation for the website size—at 15.8+ million pages with multi-national, multi-currency and multi-language capabilities—not to mention catering to a diverse customer base from students to governments. However, Dell was built on innovation and with the company going private again in the hands of its charismatic leader Michael Dell, I can only see Dell going from strong to stronger. I am sure Dell will correct these issues and deliver a website platform ready to dominate like its computer products. My gift to them (and to our clients) is to provide some helpful feedback along the way to enhance the buying experience.