An open letter to Middlesbrough Football Club Official Direct Store

After visiting the Middlesbrough Football Club site and MFC Official Direct shop (http://www.mfcofficialdirect.co.uk) today, I was left embarrassed as a Boro fan at the state of both web sites. Below are open letters which I hope representatives of both will see and respond to.

Dear MFC Official Direct

When seeing an advert for the 30% off sale and Boro replica kits for only £15 I was very happy and ran straight over to the store to get myself a replica home kit.

However the experience I had left me shocked, disappointed and embarrassed. Now let me say that I am a Boro fan and a front end developer (so I can understand when things aren’t perfect), but still feel the need to expose the pitfalls of this site in public.

My first issue was when I tried to update my delivery address, having moved jobs and so I couldn’t have the parcel delivered to my old place of work. However it appears I am not allowed to move companies, the company name could not be edited. ANYWHERE. Not on that form, not on my account page, not on mange addresses through my account page, nowhere. The company isn’t even called Gyro International anymore!

Following that annoyance, I thought “Fine, I’ll just add a new address. But then I couldn’t add a company name to go with that, and being in a shared building with many other companies and nowhere to add a company name and few form fields for address I thought I would have it delivered home.

Delivery details on MFC Official Direct Store

I thought that would be fine, but alas no. Following selection of delivery type in step 2 I was thrown to the confirm order page. Step 4. Hold on. That’s missed step 3, and I haven’t entered my payment details yet? But I’m on the last step? Oh well. I guess this really is a good shop! That was confirmed by a nice page telling my my order has been successfully placed! Excellent, I don’t have to pay it seems. Maybe now Mido is back he is funding a shirt giveaway to try and make someone love him!

Alas no, after a second or two I was delivered and Sage Pay (formerly Protx) payment page. Now this possibly isn’t MFC Official Direct’s fault, however it is still part of a flawed process. And anyone that spends £12.7m on Alfonso Alves must have some cash somewhere to invest in a seamless checkout process. Or at least one that allows the checkout page to be on brand, not hideous and at least not be included as step 5 of 4.

The hideous Sage Pay checkout screen.

So after all that and finally getting my payment details in, I notice that Sage Pay have thankfully printed my delivery address so I know its right:

Flat E
London

(They printed my postcode too, but that’s private!)

Now I know the postcode will probably mean that as a delivery address might just make it, and maybe the full address has been stored, but why print only part of the address. Thinking about it, there are quite a few flats in my area so Flat E, Putney might not make it. My address is a required 2 lines before the town and postcode so why not just show me the details so I don’t think you’ve lost half my address along the way. Same goes for invoice address. Just show it all or people (including myself) might not be confident you have managed to pass the correct delivery information and that we may never see our goods, many of which are quite expensive on the MFC Official Direct store.

Anyway, after this traumatic experience it’ll be a while before I use the MFC Official Direct store again, however I also have some gripes with the Middlesbrough Football Club website itself, so this probably isn’t the last you’ll hear from me. Thankfully however, at least the agency that built the site are linked to in the footer, so it can act as a reminder to never, ever recommend Black Magic Digital of Glasgow as a digital agency. They apparently missed out on the user experience chapter of every book they ever picked up.

Yours,

Matt Bee

Boro Fan and Front End Developer

Wireframes

Here at GyroHSR (I had nothing to do with that site, thankfully) we are all a little bit confused over wireframes. Essentially, I think that the main issue lies in what exactly is a wireframe supposed to deliver.

In my opinion I believe a wireframe should simple layout exactly what information should be displayed on a page and define the importance of that information, in relation to the rest of the content.

With this idea in mind, a wireframe does not necessarily have to provide any sort of guide to the actual layout of a page. There isn’t really anything wrong with this for a simple contact page wireframe:

Header elements

Logo – prominent positioning.
Search box – enable users to search whole site.
Navigation – full site navigation.

Main content

Contact form – main content on page, encourage users to use this method of contact.

Secondary content

Postal address – specify preferred correspondence address.
Email address – link to create email for users that prefer this method of contact.
vCard – Download contact details to an address book for future use.

Other content

Company details – registerd company address and registration number.

That will provide the main information required by a wireframe, and producing this format for every page to be developed should meet the designers needs.

However one point above is always missed, producing a wireframe for every page. Without doing this you are not creating an information architecture for a designer to follow, resulting in questioning why wirframes for any pages were created at all.

The same problem applies to wireframes that incorporate some form of layout:

Example wireframe - courtesy of http://totheweb.com
Example wireframe - courtesy of http://totheweb.com

Creating a wireframe for every page becomes even more important with this wireframe style, in my opinion. Creating this type of wireframe for only a small number of pages during the information architecture stage of a web site process results in designers feeling restricted to make all pages following the same layout. Often the content will lend itself to a completely different layout, which means it needs its own wireframe and if not it should be easy to create another wireframe based on what has already been created.

One other thing I often find missing from wireframes are annotations. Visual representation is fine, but if you really want to let a client or designer know what you plan for the page, it needs to be annotated well. The annotations let the wireframe make sense and are vital to communicating the user experience. A poorly annoted wireframe wil result in poorly communicated ideas and will very probably hinder the final user experience.

So that’s what I think about wireframes, feel free to correct me if you think I’m wrong, or to add to this because wireframes are such an important part of the web development process that I think anyone involved in the industry should input into how wireframes can help ease the pressure on project management, information architecture, design and development.