Update: the post I quote below seems to have been removed as of 29/10 but it's still available in Google's cache
Unless you've had your head stuck in the sand with your fingers in your ears for the past month, you will have heard about Radiohead making their latest album available on a pay-as-much-as-you-like basis. It wasn't until reading this critique of the site's usability that I decided to check it out.
In that post, Clodagh Kelly writes:
I was willing to pay a reasonable amount for the album and for the convenience of being able to download it, but a bad user experience made it difficult for me to part with my hard earned cash!
Intrigued I decided to give it a spin.
Oh my! My, oh my, what a mess.
I encountered problems with the site before even seeing it! The trouble is there's no redirect from inrainbows.com to www.inrainbows.com. The latter is the correct address for the site but these days most people assume that it's safe to drop the www. It's a minor annoyance but there's really no good reason for it.
Once I got the site up I was greeted with not one but two splash pages. OK, this is an arty site and the second splash page does have some useful info but still, there's no need for both. Then there's the fact that all the 'text' on the site is actually composed of images with such helpful names as 'INTROPAGE1.gif' and, of course, no ALT text. That's a bit like Radiohead saying "We don't want blind people to listen to our album".
The home page, once you get to it, is a bit confusing. For instance, as Clodagh mentions, the big button marked 'DOWNLOAD' doesn't let you download the album, instead you have to click on 'ORDER' which conceptually doesn't make much sense.
She also mentions the use of Flash as an obstacle but as far as I can tell, Flash is only used as a background on the splash pages and is not required to access the site. To check this, I tried to access the site on my phone's WebKit browser (which doesn't have flash) and found a further problem: at browser widths of less than 450 pixels, the 'continue' button disappears off the left of the screen and there are no scroll bars!
So OK, I 'order' my download then I can download it right? Well, no. I had to click 'view basket' and then enter the amount that I wanted to pay. The thing is there are only two products on the site: the physical box set and the download. The box set includes a download and you can only have one download in your basket at a time so... why does the basket even exist?
Once I muddled through all that and clicked 'pay now', it made me register. I understand that they want to gather a bit of data about their audience but making me create an account with a password is just pointless. Furthermore, forcing users to enter data that they don't perceive as necessary encourages them to provide you with false data which dilutes the value of your real data.
Pretty rubbish huh? Hold on, it gets worse.
Submitting that page took me to a blank screen with a MySQL error message after which I was redirected to a credit card details page. Hardly fills you with confidence. But I entered my card details anyway, clicked submit and arrived on this screen:
I hear it's a good album though.