In the comments of a recent article by Matt Curry on e-commerce platforms and Javascript, Playmobil was mentioned as an example of particularly poor usability. 

One of the problems that Matt found was the threat to lock users out of the site for 24 hours if questions were answered incorrectly, which is astonishing.

There are plenty more user experience crimes to be found on the site though, and if Playmobil wants to make the most of the online channel, then it should look into solving the following issues, if not redesigning the whole site… 

Detect visitor’s country of origin

The first screen you see when you arrive at the Playmobil site via the search engines is this, which asks the user to select their country:

The website should detect the visitor’s IP address and automatically direct them to the relevant site, why make them work any harder than they need to? It’s just annoying. 

Don’t make users register before browsing

Like the lockout threat, this is pretty staggering stuff. Someone at Playmobil seems to value the capture of customer data well above the user experience. 

Basically, if you want to view the full product page, browse the online shop on the site and add items to your basket, you have register first. This is absolute madness. 

Making users register before they checkout can be a bad enough idea at times, but at least by that point customers have added items to their basket, and shown enough purchase intent that registration may not put them off. 

By asking people to register before they can even view further product details or add items to the basket, Playmobil must be deterring loads of potential customers, something which is not helped by the lengthy registration form, which asks for email address, password, name, address, phone number, as well as inviting you to set up separate accounts for your children. 

The text at the beginning of the form perhaps provides an insight into the thinking behind this baffling process. It says: ‘We encourage you to visit your local Playmobil retailer to make your purchase’, before going on to describe how you can touch, view products in displays, and ask advice from store assistants. 

So, Playmobil doesn’t actually want visitors to its website to shop online. Never mind that they have already shown an intention to purchase by arriving at the site and clicking to register so they can actually start to shop, they would rather send you offline where, who knows, you might find a competitor’s product which you prefer. 

Messy URLs

Playmobil has some lengthy URLs that have no connection to the product displayed on the webpage.

Adding related keywords to product page URLs can help SEO, as well as making them more understandable to the site’s users. 

Login madness

Just in reviewing this site, I must have created at least five or six accounts on Playmobil. This is because it doesn’t seem to remember cookies and, if you leave the site alone for half an hour or so, you have to login all over again. 

As you may have already guessed, this can be a tortuous process. You cannot create another account using the same email address so you need to either go through the reset procedure or start a new account, which is the lesser of the two evils. 

While perhaps I should have remembered my password, I’ve not had as much trouble resetting passwords and logging in on any other site. If this was online banking I could understand the fuss, but on an e-commerce site it is unnecessary and will just put people off. 

Like the example in this post, where a retailer made $300m by removing registration, I would wager that there are tons of duplicate accounts on the site. 

Children’s accounts

Playmobil allows users to create accounts for their children, if the hassle of creating one account before shopping wasn’t enough.

This creates unique logins for children so they can browse and add items to wishlists, though they can’t buy anything from the site. In the run-up to birthdays and Christmas this may have some value, as kids could create a wishlist that parents could select presents from.

In practice though, it just doesn’t work, since I can find no way to link the children’s wishlist to the parent’s account to actually buy the items on the list, which totally defeats the point of wishlists. 

Ludicrously long T&Cs 

Entering the checkout brings up a page of Terms and Conditions that should deter a few of the shoppers that have made it this far through the process. 

Most e-commerce sites sensibly keep the T&Cs out of the way of the checkout process. Yes, you have to agree to them, and they are there for users that want to read them, but to place them so prominently within the checkout process is just bonkers. 

Rude error messages

While sites should do what they can to anticipate and avoid common user errors, they will happen, and therefore error messages need to alert the customer to the mistake and help them to correct it, while also being polite. 

This error message (click image for a larger version) doesn’t fit the bill. The exclamation mark is totally uncalled for, and will just annoy users. It annoyed me anyway… 

Shipping costs that deter higher orders

This has to be one of the most bizarre examples of delivery charges I have seen on an e-commerce site: 

Yes, the more you buy, the more you spend on delivery, which is nuts. What better way to discourage customers from adding extra items to their baskets? 














Long waiting times for delivery

Then there are the delivery times. Some e-commerce sites can deliver same day or next day, while most manage it within 2-3 days, so why does it take 10-15 working days for delivery?

 Would anyone bother when the wait is that long? It certainly doesn’t make it an attractive destination for Christmas shopping after October. 

No contact number and slow email response times

If you want to check up on your order, or else ask any questions, then there is no contact number for you to contact Playmobil, just an online contact form which promises an answer within five business days. 

Telephone or live chat options should be provided for customers, as this offers a quick and easy way to answer product queries or follow up orders. If there is no phone contact option then, as ASOS does, emails should be responded to promptly. 

Doing neither will just infuriate customers, especially when delivery lead times are so poor. Customers could conceivably wait three weeks for an item to be delivered, then another week or two for a response to a problem with the item. Transactions could take months. In a digital age, this kind of service is totally unacceptable. 

Conclusion

I’ve only scratched the surface here; i could easily find plenty more usability issues with this site. For a well-known brand that people will search for online, this website is a very poor effort. In fact, I was surprised to find that this site was apparently relaunched in 2007, as it seems like a relic of the late 90s. 

Whatever the thinking behind this website, it seems clear from this website that Playmobil is simply not paying enough attention to its e-commerce operations.

Just by following some basic e-commerce best practice guidelines, it could make a huge difference to its conversion rates and online sales. 

Playmobil is a well-known and trusted brand, and one which surely could do well online, so it’s a mystery why they seem to have got it so badly wrong so far…