Google's new smartphone, the Nexus 4, is available to buy and the search giant is currently accepting pre-orders through Play, its version of iTunes.

However we've been hearing some negative feedback around Play and the way Google is handling the entire purchase cycle for the Nexus 4, so decided to investigate the user experience.

We used the same e-commerce best practice criteria that we used for previous posts, the full details of which can be seen below. 

The verdict? Wait and buy the Nexus 4 in store. Here is why...

Google may not be an innovator in social networks, media devices, or really much of anything that begins with a consumer need (beyond search) but you’d think they would be able to design and implement a simple e-commerce site for their latest flagship phone, right?

Enter the final purchasing stages of the doomed sales and marketing campaign for the new Nexus 4 and we can spot glaring errors in simple e-commerce best practice.

Sure sales via Play might be up, but that's because smartphone sales are unstoppable, and iTunes still beats Play downloads 4 to 1, so get with the program Google!

The criteria

These are the main points that sites need to follow to ensure a great user experience during the checkout process:

  • Clear calls-to-action. The user shouldn’t have to search around for what to do next.
  • Standard delivery costs are made clear. Unclear delivery costs continue to be one of the key reasons why visitors abandon their checkout process.
  • Clear product details. Alongside a thumbnail, customers want to know the size, colour and quantity.
  • Total price is made clear. As well as knowing the delivery cost, customers need to know the total amount they are paying with no hidden costs.
  • Delivery options within the basket. Customers should be allowed to choose the delivery option before the checkout process, thus ensuring they know what they are paying and the delivery period.
  • Secure shopping is made clear. Though e-commerce is no longer a new concept people still need reassurance that the transaction is secure.
  • Clear payment options. Not all visitors have a Visa card – are there options for lesser known cards or PayPal?
  • Don't force users to register before checkout. This is a great way to cause people to abandon their transaction. ASOS managed to halve its abandonment rate at the registration page simply by removing any mention of creating an account.

So where is Play still playing around and how can Google grow up a bit in its e-commerce efforts?

Unclear copy/call to actions

Unfortunately Play fails on the first hurdle of our criteria, because not only is there small text on the “Proceed” button after you’ve added an item to your shopping basket, the text also has a negative effect (call it a call to non-action).

It reads: “By clicking Proceed you agree to the Device Terms of Sale”.

There is no indication from here as to whether or not I’ll be able to change my mind in the purchase cycle if I move past this point, since I as the consumer have not been given any Device Terms of Sale to review. Fail.

No upfront delivery cost

As a smart consumer, I want to know what the total cost for my order will be all in, including shipping.

If waiting until the Nexus 4 goes on sale at my local phone shop means a lower price and convenience (meaning ditching a tedious online purchase process) then I’m more than likely to drop off. 

There aren’t any delivery costs made clear on the product page before placing the Nexus 4 in your online shopping cart.

Clicking “Learn More” opens a separate window of about 1,100 words on shipping time, redirects, trouble with packages.

Then down at the very end of this new page, the text: “Total shipping cost is calculated based on the item in your cart with the highest individual shipping cost, as determined by our shipping provider.”

Come on Google! Not even a ballpark figure? An easy way to solve this would be to show a table illustrating pricing relative to spend. Fail.

Jargon and offsite FAQs

While it is not as blatant an offense as making a user register an account (we’ll get to that in the next bit), placing FAQs offsite that discuss returns, delivery times, and other information to provide confidence for purchasers is also not a good idea.

Play’s FAQs are found on a generic Google support site and the text is written in a bizarre form of technical legalese.

The only way to pay is with Google Wallet

If you want to pay for any item on Play, the only way you can do so is using Google Wallet.

This goes against best practice which is to offer third party checkouts (ahem…PayPal) to increase conversion rates.

Google takes it further still and is continually striking a negative chord with developers by forcing them to use Google Wallet as the payment method for in-app purchases. Wow! "Don’t be evil" my foot.

Further to this, the fact that credit card information has to be provided up front, with no indication that you will be able to review your order, destroys any trust and likely causes a fall in conversion rates as well.

Terrible optimization for iOS

Sure, Apple is one of Google’s only real competitors, so you expect to see friction and closed ecosystems between the two.

But lets face it, a large percentage of mobile traffic will be coming from iOS devices, and Play is not scaled correctly for global visitors since the mobile site continually defaults to United States which is a big minus point for shoppers internationally

In addition, loads of stuff is hidden below the fold on the mobile site...

Ryan Sommer

Published 5 December, 2012 by Ryan Sommer

Ryan Sommer is web veteran and recovering expat who contributes to Econsultancy on startups, content marketing and new media. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter, or add him to your circles on Google+

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Comments (13)

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Hannah Norman, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

I recently got my Nexus 4 I love it. After the frustration of being one of the first to place my order only to find out (2 days later) that it was on backorder I decided to complain.

Although the person who handled the complaint was polite they didn't actually know how to explain the mess up.

How could Google mess up?

over 5 years ago


Mark Reeder

While I'll agree that it was difficult to purchase a Nexus 4 on launch day, it had almost nothing to do with the UX issues you mention here. In fact, there was such demand for the device and enough people who weren't bothered by these issues that Google's servers couldn't keep up with demand. Tons of issues actually getting items to stay in cart, issues checking out, etc.

However, now that launch day has passed, it should be significantly easier to complete a transaction on the Play store, even with the issues mentioned here remaining. The cost savings of buying direct are well worth looking past sub-optimal UX.

over 5 years ago



If anyone has ever thought that google was good at user experience or even e-commerce has not been paying attention.

What google is VERY good at is leveraging their search system.

I can't think of any google product that is better then others when you remove the network effect of it being part of the google ecosystem. The usual draw outside of the network effect is the fact that it is free and subsidized by the revenues from their search engine business. Problem is that all of those products are super susceptible to the whims of google and might not be here next year or next month.

over 5 years ago


Monkey Thumper

I ordered on 11/13, and still have not got past a pending status for my order. Their customer service is terrible, and has been no help after 2 phone calls, and over 20 back and forth email exchanges.

over 5 years ago

Ryan Sommer

Ryan Sommer, Freelance Consultant

Hi All,

Yes the stock and server outages were obviously purely based on demand -- but it took this level of people all trying to use Play to shop for the device to surface some negative impressions on blogs and social media, and this was the catalyst for the post.

Dan I agree that from a business stand point, Google knows exactly what they have going for them (search), and use it to great effect to force us all into other platforms. They should be called out on the bad design and non-human UI when you consider how much they pay devs and engineers and the rigorous process they put people through in order to come on there.

I've heard once you get past the tests/brain teasers/multiple rounds of interviews the job is quite lax ;)

Maybe they should just put down the Nerf guns and pick up a few Econsultancy reports??

over 5 years ago


Dan W, Digital Marketing / Ecommerce / Optimisation Professional at Personal

I can thoroughly recommend the memoirs of ex-Google Marketing Director Douglas Edwards called 'I'm Feeling Lucky'. No fawning or fluff so far (I'm halfway).

over 5 years ago


George, Project Manager at Penna

Don't many of these apply equally to iTunes?

Unclear calls to action
Jargon/dreadful legalese
Only one way to pay
Apple's store is not optimised for mobile

None of this excuses Google, but equally, it's possibly a problem across the sector.

over 5 years ago

Ryan Sommer

Ryan Sommer, Freelance Consultant

Don't even get me started on iTunes. Worst. Software. Ever.

over 5 years ago

Ryan Sommer

Ryan Sommer, Freelance Consultant

Thanks for the tip Dan! I'll track it down.

over 5 years ago


John Garner

That's a good summary of what happened to me just yesterday but with the Nexus 7. Living in Paris I got a French Playstore experience. I don't know whether it is down to my Chrome browser being set to UK or not but I got both French and English pages during the purchase cycle. I also had links to accessories 4 (3 of which were not available) including a US charger.

I got to the Playstore via Google. I have the page in French for devices (Nexus 4, 7, 10) and buttons like "Learn More" in English and at the bottom of the page a link that says "English (United States)". Even if I switch to French or "English (UK)" I can still see the charger described as "North American NEMA 1-15 plug".

It seems that the page picks up I'm in France, serves part French content and part English. The system then offers products that don't apply to the region and/or products that are not in stock without pushing or highlighting products that are in stock.

When I got to the checkout and found extra cost for delivery plus a 3-5 day delivery delay, I just gave up. Local carrier SFR sounds like they will be selling them so will go through them.

over 5 years ago

Ryan Sommer

Ryan Sommer, Freelance Consultant


Keep the fail trail coming. Lets see if we get shut down by Google's skynet...

over 5 years ago

Ryan Sommer

Ryan Sommer, Freelance Consultant

According to Larry's recent interview, folks "rave about" wallet:

over 5 years ago


Carl Dean Catabay

Hey guys! Can someone tell me how much nexus 4 from google play store cost at checkout? In USD, if you guys don't mind. Thanks!

over 5 years ago

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