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Bookseller Borders has launched a revamped version of its US site, with a new UK version to follow soon.

We've taken a look  to see how it measures up from a user experience perspective...

Borders.com

Overview

The relaunch of Borders.com marks the end of the book retailer's relationship with Amazon, which had been managing Borders' online sales for the last seven years, paying the company a commission on sales.

The new US version of the site is currently in beta, while the UK version will be updated within the next week.

Navigation / browsing

Borders has kept the navigation simple, and users have the option of navigating through four main categories from the top bar, using the search function at the top of the page, or browsing via the 'magic shelf'.

Borders navigation bar

The category pages are useful too. For books, users can choose from new releases, bestsellers etc, or browse according to book type.

Borders has around two million books available on the site, so users need a way to narrow their search and choose a title that will interest them. To help with this, the site has provided some useful filtering options:

Borders filtering options

Users can narrow their searches by category, price, format, and sort these results according to price, publication date, A to Z, and so on. The amount of books available in each category is also displayed, which is useful when searching.

The filtering options aren't perfect though, and in would be useful if there were more sub-categories. For instance, if you select history, then the sub category military history, you are still left with around 20,000 books to look through without any other useful way to narrow the search.

The site search worked well for the examples I tried, though it didn't perform so well with misspelled searches or for multiple authors with the same surname.

Magic shelf

The other method of browsing is by using the 'Magic Shelf' feature, which aims to recreate the instore shopping experience online:

Borders Magic Shelf

This is a Flash tool that allows you to browse up and down through a limited selection of books, music and dvds by looking at the covers.

Selecting quick view will give you some brief details of the book or dvd:

Magic shelf quick view

The ability to edit your profile on the site makes the magic shelf recommendations more effective, but I'm not sure this is the best way to display books online.

Also, this bookshelf function slows the page load time down. From arriving at the Borders homepage to being able to actually use the Magic Shelf takes nearly ten seconds:

Magic shelf load time

Borders marketplace

I discovered this section almost by accident, having seen 'search for used copies' when viewing another book.

This marketplace allows users to search for used copies of books, as well as rare and out of print titles. All good, but why doesn't Borders advertise it?

There are no links to it at all from the homepage, which is baffling. The only way I have found to access this section is by links on product pages, but these only appear on certain, mostly older, titles.

Product pages

The product pages are a mixed bag. There is some useful information on the books listed, as well as essentials like user reviews, but delivery costs are not displayed, nor is there a link to other delivery information, so users have to add the item to their basket to find this out.

Borders product page

Shopping basket

The shopping cart is clear enough, and does at least display the delivery charges for the items you have selected, though there are a couple of problems.

Borders shopping cart

While five other books are displayed under the heading 'more great ideas', the shopping cart doesn't do a great job of cross-selling at this stage.

This selection bears no obvious relation to the books I have already chosen and, as just a small picture of the covers is displayed, I have to click and leave the basket to get any details on these titles.

In addition, customers looking for information on shipping time will have to wait until they have completed the order, which is simply not good enough. If Amazon and most other e-commerce sites can do this, why not Borders?

Checkout

The checkout process takes account of some best practice guidelines, it has been kept relatively short, with just four steps, a visible progress indicator has been provided, and customers need not register before they checkout.

Borders checkout

What Borders hasn't done though, is to enclose the checkout process by removing links to other parts of the site, to minimise abandonments. The main navigation bar and search box are still on display, as are the links at the bottom of the page.

Also, Borders hasn't provided a clear contact number for anyone with queries about their order. It is hidden away behind a customer care link at the foot of the page, and even after that it takes some finding.

Conclusion

This is a long overdue return to e-commerce for Borders, and in general the site is easy to use and navigate around, and there are a number of useful tools on the site, like the guest author reading lists and video content.

However, there are a number of improvements which could be made to improve the ability to browse for books, while there are some crucial omissions in the shopping basket and checkout process.

Surprisingly, having had Amazon in charge of its online sales for the last seven years, it has failed to implement some useful features from the most successful online book retailer.

The recommendations and cross-selling on the site wasn't up to much when I tested it, while key information on delivery charges and shipping times is hard to find.

Despite the 'Magic Shelf' function, Borders' new site doesn't do much to actually help users choose books. This is fine if you know what you are looking for, but not if you simply want to browse for something that may interest you.

Related research:
Online Retail 2007: Checkout Special

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Graham Charlton

Published 29 May, 2008 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (20)

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Tim Mills

I have been trying almost an entire day to complete an order with Borders.com,and each time I got to the final step, I got a message that
the service was not available.

about 8 years ago

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Lawrence Williams

Funny. I'm getting the same problem. I can't order anything from the borders.com web site. I tried to send an e-mail to their customer service department and I got the same error. Border.com sucks.

about 8 years ago

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Jonathan H Barnhart

July 2 and they are still (or again?) having the same problems.
This is the slowest and most annoying website I have EVER attempted to use. After two hours of VERY slow searching and adding to shopping cart, I have not been able to checkout for 2 full days.
I called and they could not tell me when this problem would be fixed.
Borders is creating a LOT of ill will putting up a website in this condition; they would be better off to take the entire mess offline until they can fix it, which I seriously doubt they can do.
THis experience makes me not even want to shop in the store!

about 8 years ago

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Diane

I have had a horrible problem with an order I placed on June 13th, 2008. As of July 10th, it still shows as "order in process" for 2 books that are listed as "usually ships in 24 hours". It is clear to me they severed their relationship with Amazon and went online way before they should have. They obviously didn't test their website well. Every time I have called customer service, I'm told there is a computer glitch and they are having to manually push the order through. I have yet to receive an explanation for why manually pushing the order through is, apparently, such an impossible task for them. I would cancel the order, but I used a gift card to pay for it and, quite frankly, I'm worried the gift card would never have the funds reinstated. I agree with another poster that they are doing possibly irreversible harm to their reputation by not getting this corrected. I used to turn my Discover cashback bonus points into Borders gift cards, but I don't think I'll be doing that any time soon!

about 8 years ago

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mencken

the website is the single worst site I've ever used. worse, and this is saying something, than ikea's.

nearly 2 months on, here are some of the problems I'm experiencing: although I've placed and received an order through the site, I can't retrieve my password, my email address is not recognized, the site won't allow me to register my border's rewards number, and $20 in gift card value suddenly vanished.

customer service is little better. it takes more than 72 hours to get an email response. when you call the 800 number, the automated message preens that "due to the overwhelming success" of their new website, they're experiencing higher than normal call volumes. uh huh.

I'm actually on hold as I type this. for the last 20-25 minutes I've been getting "we are experiencing greater than anticipated call volumes . . . your call should be answered in 5 minutes or less."

I hate this freaking company right now. and it's times like this that I hope amazon.com buries these shmucks. with the dollars involved in e-commerce there's simply no excuse for these problems.

I can only conclude that borders gives about zero priority to quality control.

about 8 years ago

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Randy Carels

I tried to place an order at borders.com, but kept getting the "please enter a valid address" sign. Apparently they saved me a whole lot of trouble by not letting me move forward. I did a google search and found this site and read all of your postings and must thank you all for doing so. I think I have avoided a huge headache. Again thanks to all of you posters and I am sorry you had to experience all of these woes. I am off to a brick and mortar, or oh I don't know, maybe amazon.com.

about 8 years ago

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Vivienne

I have terrible experience with Border Rewards Site and their customer service. I have been trying for 5 months now to register the card and till today it has not been resolved!Their loyalty program is nothing but a nightmare. This whole experience has been utterly frustrating .

At the rate that it's going, they seem to be losing their customers instead of keeping them.

almost 8 years ago

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Kevin

July 31 and I agree with all of the reviews. This site is almost impossible to navigate. I constantly receive service not available errors. It makes the whole experience to difficult to bear and I am not sure I will shot there anymore.

Kevin

almost 8 years ago

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Bryan T

I have also had a horrible experience with this new borders.com website. I ordered a book the first day there were up. I keep calling every week to get a status; they kept sending it to their "research" department and they would get back to me; never happened. After three weeks I finally told them to cancel the order and give me a refund. They said they could not while the order is "in process" status; they would send it to the research dept again. And, I agree with the very slow website comments, especially with trying to check my account and order status. I find it funny that when you call their help desk, the recorded message says something like 'due to the overwhelming success' of the new website; HAH??!?!? I will not order from their website again, but I do like their stores.

almost 8 years ago

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Mike

I have order a textbook for my class using borders.com.
It is now 20 days later, I have not received it, and when i try to go to view order status, or contact the cutomer service, it give me "service not available" message. I can't even find the phone number to call them.
I am out 100 dollars, now have to drop my class that ive been going to the last four weeks, which will drop me to part time school instead of full time, and now i am ineligable for the Financial aid that i was going to get.

They screwd me.

almost 8 years ago

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WENDY

I HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO GET TO THE SHOPPING CART IT KEEPS SAYING SECURITY VIOLATION. I CAN'T EVEN GO TO CUSTOMER CARE IT SAYS SECURITY VIOLATION SO I CAN'T GET A PHONE NUMBER. ISN'T THERE SOME WAY TO GET IN TOUCH WITH WHO EVER IS IN CHARGE OF THE WEBSITE??

over 7 years ago

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Gloria

I'm also having navigation problems with borders.com, I constantly get security violation error messages.  I contacted customer service but was told it had something to do with my computer, rather than their website.  It's very frustrating & I wouldn't even bother anymore but I have two gift cards to use & don't live near a borders bookstore.  I do a lot of shopping online & have never had a problem like this before with any website that I've visited.  I made sure pop ups were allowed & added borders.com to my safe list but I'm still having the same problem.  BTW the customer care number to call is 1-800-322-2000.  Good luck!

over 7 years ago

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Winston Murdock

I've got some borders gift cards and have been trying to place an order for several weeks.  I keep getting the error listed below.  I've tried using both I.E. and Firefox and have tried this on several different PC's.

"We're sorry, but due to technical difficulties we cannot place your order at this time. The contents of your shopping cart will be saved so that you may place your order at a later time."

about 7 years ago

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K Mora

over 6 years ago

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Cyberxion

Almost two years after this post went up, the website is still having the same issues that it did back then. I've been trying to use a coupon on their website, but any time I get to the point where I want to check out, I find myself unable to actually proceed. Not that I'm really itching to do so, being that even with the coupon, their prices are generally higher than any other retailer, online or off. So yeah, the site still times out at checkout, and their customer service is non-responsive, providing of course that you can get an e-mail through to them in the first place. Borders has always sucked, but this is just the bottom of the barrel. Can't wait to see 'em tank.

over 6 years ago

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ANGRY PERSON lol

Well, a week ago, i had ordere dlike 6 books. the past couple days i have gotten 2 books. on the site it says it had been shipped. i am WAAAAIIITTTIINNNGGGGG!

about 6 years ago

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Stupid

So, is their someone in corporate or higher up that we can talk to about actually providing a decent website in which to buy books off of?! I've literally been going at this for 3 straight hours trying to take advantage of some Bonus Bucks, but I'm about to just quit.  They are wasting people's time with crap like this.

over 5 years ago

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Anton

Border's prices are higher than anyone else and once they have your money they do not ship. Speaking to someone in India only raises your blood pressure. They are crooks. Stick with Amazon.com. Check the web and you will find many others with the same issues.

over 5 years ago

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Trudy

Same thing still going on. I don't know that I've ever been as frustrated with a website, and with their customer service personnel. Just horrendous. I received a gift that had me as a member of their Rewards Plus program. I also had a gift card I wanted to use.

I went to their website to register. At the appropriate place, I entered my Rewards Plus card number. The very next screen I got to gave me 2 choices -- purchase Rewards Plus membership, or register for their regular Rewards program. What??! Didn't I just tie my Rewards Plus membership to my just-created username and password? Really? Your system isn't smart enough to recognize I'm already a paid member!?

Called Customer Service, and was on the phone for a very long time with a woman whom I could barely understand. She asked me for my user name and password. I said, "Uh, I don't think it is standard practice for a company to need to ask me for my password in order to check my account," and didn't give it to her. She proceeded without it. Which -- if she could proceed without it, why did she ask for it in the first place?

She "assured" me that somehow my username didn't get tied to my card and that her tech dept would rectify the problem and phone me back later within that same day. Of course, no call back.

The next day when I finally managed to get my order all the way to the end to submit, I was taken to another page advertising how I should purchase the Rewards Plus membership; no matter that I had just used my Rewards Plus membership on the order. No confirmation of my order followed. Logged in to my account later, and it showed no orders for this account.

Nonetheless! The following morning I got a confirmation email regarding my recently placed order.

Think I'll actually get it?

over 5 years ago

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Mark

Tremendous issues here. I am very glad to see your article.

Thank you a lot and I am taking a look ahead to contact you.
Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

about 4 years ago

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