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Grocery retailer Waitrose launched a new website earlier this month after a £10m revamp, but there has been a flood of negative feedback from customers. In response, the retailer has been forced to issue a statement promising to address some of this issues raised. 

Website redesigns are never going to be universally popular, the recent Gawker redesign is one such example, but the new Waitrose website has provoked much more criticism than most revamps... 

new Waitrose

Customer feedback

A quick look at the Waitrose forum topics gives you an idea of customers' opinions. 

Waitrose complaints

Twitter search for 'Waitrose website' tells the same story. 

Waitrose website Twitter

The first post in the 'new website' thread on the forum praises the new site but at least about 90% of the comments that follow are from users that hate the redesign. A very high proportion. 

There are always at least a few complaints when a popular website changes, but Waitrose must be surprised at the level of negative feedback to this version. 

Problems with the new site

Aside from the fact that customers don't always respond positively to website redesigns, as they are used to the old version, there are some genuine usability issues which have been highlighted by customers. 

Shopping / product lists

Shopping lists are crucial for repeat customers, as they allow them to quickly select items that they have previously purchased or bookmarked. 

As the comments on this thread show, the way lists were displayed meant that customers had more work to do to select items. For example, a list of 313 items was split over 28 pages, which is a real pain, made worse by the fact that items are listed randomly. 

In response, Waitrose has changed this to 50 products per page, but there are now complaints that, when items are selected individually, only the first 12 are added to the trolley. 

Slow loading pages

Many of the complaints on the forum were around the slowness of the site, something Waitrose has acknowledged in its statement: 

As a matter of urgency we are still addressing the overall speed of the website and have engaged our technology partners from around the world to help find a speedy solution.

I tried the site today and didn't find it especially slow, but if customers are spending time adding a long list of items to their trolleys, then slow loading pages are a major source of frustration.

Navigation

Several users said they found it harder to find the items they are looking for by browsing, and had to resort to searching by name. For example, I had a problem finding where bread 'lives' on the site. Since it's a basic of most grocery orders, it should be easier to find.

It turns out that you need to select cupboard, food, bakery, then bread is listed. A lot of clicks to find a basic item. Perhaps showing more items on the menu (shown below) would help.

Waitrose nav menu

Also, once you have navigated to a particular sub category, the route back to the start point of your search isn't so easy, while it isn't possible to jump to another category quickly: 

Waitrose nav 2

So, if I'm on prepacked cheese and I want to jump to the bakery section, that's another three clicks away. To speed up the experience for users, a few shortcuts would be useful, or the top navigation menu could provide quick links to product categories. 

Other issues

There are other issues raised by users within the site's forums, including problems with the recipe search, and the loss of offer codes when orders are updated. 

The Waitrose response

Waitrose has been responding to comments made on the site's forums, and has announced that a number of changes will be made to the site, including fixing the issues with lists and working on the speed. 

However, some customers aren't convinced by this, and believe that it is the basic design of the site that is at fault. There are plenty of calls for a return to the old version, and this comment is typical: 

Waitrose complaint 2

Having spent £10m on a redesign, it's hard to see what else Waitrose can do at the moment, other than work as quickly as it can to fix the issues raised. 

It does raise the question of how much usability testing has been done though. Some of the issues raised by users, such as the way lists are displayed, should have been uncovered long before the design went live. 

I have heard that the redesign was running behind schedule, so it makes you wonder whether the anount of time spent testing the site was cut as a result... 

UPDATE: 

A Waitrose spokesman contacted me after seeing this article and left this statement: 

Following one of the biggest retail web changes ever, we're seeing unprecedented volumes with orders up by almost 34% on the same time last year, so clearly the vast majority of shoppers are getting on well with the new site. However, like all new websites there are some problems, and we would like to apologise for the inconvenience and frustration this has clearly caused some of our customers. 

We're working hard to correct the issues that some shoppers are experiencing as fast as we possibly can. We're using the feedback from our customers to prioritise the changes we need to make. The first batch will include improvements to the login and ordering process and these will go live soon. We are using our online forum to let everyone know which changes are being made and when these have taken place.

Graham Charlton

Published 23 March, 2011 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

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Lisa

omg navigating this site is horrendous! Surely they didn't do user testing, especially on the information architecture. Even the layout of the products is shoddy with controls closer to items they don't actually belong to and yes there are bugs all over the place! Terrible! Hope this is a lesson learnt for them. Never underestimate how important user centred design and user testing are!

over 5 years ago

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Mark

Does anyone know which agency was responsible for this re-design?

over 5 years ago

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Jason

I'd like to see the testing results for prelaunch work, a hands up to the fact that they didn't do any or honest surprise that it's not working/liked while having done well in tests.

over 5 years ago

Chris Hoskin

Chris Hoskin, Chief Marketing Officer at MetaPack

http://www.infosys.com/newsroom/press-releases/pages/integrated-online-experience.aspx

Excerpt: "London, UK - November 17, 2009: Waitrose has selected Infosys Technologies (NASDAQ:INFY) to co-develop a new multi-channel web platform which will deliver a fully integrated online experience from waitrose.com and provide Waitrose customers with an even more rewarding and enjoyable online shopping experience."

You can't blame the IBM WebSphere Commerce platform given that Argos, Boots, Halfords et al use it.

Such a shame. But recoverable none the less.

over 5 years ago

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John Gibbard

I am absolutely certain this was user-tested with the principle user-types. I am confident that decent User Experience people were involved in this work. They simply would not have progressed with £10m worth of effort without checking it. What needs to be examined is what was discovered in those tests and whether the testing was sufficiently rigorous and specific to core customer tasks.

It would be great to hear from Grand Union and any other user-experience partners (testing agencies etc.) to understand what happened.

It is also worth noting that simply counting clicks from one place to the next is not indicative of effort. We need to understand the perception of effort - if each click leads clearly and progressively toward the goal it can still feel like an 'intuitive' experience.

Beware also the vocal minority, particularly in this segment of the aspirational middle class. Any criticism is valid, of course, but we can be disproportionately swayed by a group of people resistant to change who, with time and perspective, may well feel quite different.

over 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi John,

There will always be complaints when a popular website changes, but reaction here does seem to be much more negative than is usually the case.

Perhaps it has to do with the time users have to invest in grocery shopping online. If people are used to filling their trolleys in half an hour, but the changes and various problems means it takes them twice ads long, they're going to get annoyed.

I take you point about counting clicks, but I think Waitrose has made it too hard to navigate here. For example, on both Tesco and Ocado, through the use of drop down menus, shoppers can easily switch back and forth between product categories.

over 5 years ago

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John Gibbard

Would this be classed as a category drop-down? Admittedly once you are viewing the specific product you are a little unsupported but in the browse task I think the interrogation of categories is supported - if executed in a bit of a clumsy way:

http://bit.ly/gWkVRp

over 5 years ago

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Sarah Inman

I am one of 'the vocal minority... in this segment of the aspirational middle class'. I have been brand-loyal to Waitrose for many years. I am resistant to change for the worse but eager for change for the better. The new Waitrose website is unfit for purpose and beyond fixing. It's the old story of web-designers out of touch with the web-users. We were happy with the old Waitrose website, but I suspect the company wanted to collect more information from us about our shopping habits, and were keen to improve the look of the site. They just forgot to make it easy for real people (including the elderly, ill, busy, house-bound) to shop there.

over 5 years ago

Adam Tudor

Adam Tudor, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at The Black Hole

Sounds like their design principles followed the old supermarket layout tradition. Give the store a random layout with the most popular products placed in the most far reaching areas, meaning customers have to spend longer doing their shop and typically buy more in a visit.

Supermarket web design is by far one of the more complicated design areas. Continual user testing should have been carried out at all stages of design and development, without question. Supermarket websites need to easily convey a massive range of product across many many categories as well as providing offers, information, and online services.

over 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi John - yes, the others use drop-downs for this, which I find easier.

over 5 years ago

Angus Phillipson

Angus Phillipson, Director at Byte9

@ john Gibbard

If they did user test they missed some howlers.

They certainly didn't browser test adequately. (Product image enlargements just killed my chrome, for example)

They appear not to have load tested.

& They missed a whole bunch of QA testing (selenium, anyone?)

wow. no excuse for any of those really.

angus

over 5 years ago

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Noelle Leahy

Such an ugly design - colours are awful and the logo is lost. Anyone could have done better!

over 5 years ago

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Nikki Davis, Creative Director at Interactive Workshop

They've probably lost £10m in orders because of all the issues!

over 5 years ago

Daniel Easterbrook

Daniel Easterbrook, Digital Marketing & Business Strategy Consultant at Radium Digital

It's interesting that they didn't get the UX element right in the beginning, as I beleive they were scouting the UK for good ecommerce/digital & UX talent earlier this year. All I will say is that we all make mistakes, but not when a £10m budget is involved.

over 5 years ago

Jonathan Kay

Jonathan Kay, Managing Director at 120 Feet

I can't remember where I read this, but it's an apt saying, "People don't get bored with web sites, they get frustrated with them."

By all means improve key aspects of the site, change the CMS, do whatever you need to in order that the technology [and therefore the site] is more efficient and adaptable, but don’t throw out everything that was good about the old site.

But putting the change in to context, people who respond to surveys are the minority and are typically very happy or terribly unhappy as rarely will people reply who believe things are ‘fine’ or just ‘ok’. So, the comments perhaps come from a fraction of 1% of the customer and prospect base and if it’s possible to take swift action to correct issues that shouldn’t have been present at launch - the product / nav categories are not at all intuitive - I’m sure the new site will achieve its objectives.

If people are still unhappy, they should use Ocado instead. It has the same great products and exceptional delivery service (we’ve used it for 2 years), though some of their new own-brand foods are quite bland (avoid the houmous).

over 5 years ago

Paul Postance

Paul Postance, Profit Optimisation Consultant at t? ??????

A nice example of old-skool Big Design Up Front, spending £10m and appearing in a big bang type unveiling, to cries of derision.

This is what is seems to be looking from the outside, but to be fair I dont know directly the approach they used or success metrics and I doubt many of the other commentators do either.

It could be the case that they spent time on a UCD framework, Agile development and iterative design changes before launching...and even now are performing split traffic testing on variants.

It would be very interesting indeed to see hard numbers indicating site performance. I dont agree with putting commercial goals over user experience but the converse is wrong as well, unless you have a charitable benefactor!

Ultimately, if they are coining it in with a true 34% order increase [due to site conversion, NOT traffic volumes] then they can afford to take the criticism...

over 5 years ago

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Lar

What do rum, nappies and carrot cake have in common? They're all in Cupboard.

Information architecture, anyone?

over 5 years ago

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Sarah Inman

I'm very sad about this.

I read yesterday that the CEO reported increased web based sales and customer satisfaction from the new web platform, compared with this time last year, so I concluded that much of the problem must be at my end of the process.

I use a Safari browser from a Macbook most of the time, but have access to (and have tried on the new waitrose website) Explorer and Chrome, on a faster, more powerful, 4 month old computer. I use Amazon, M&S, National Rail & East Coast Mainline to buy things regularly over the internet. I am a competent computer user. I have experimented with the main competitor supermarkets over the last few days, but refuse to sink to their ethical depths, and, anyway, I want to keep my regular Waitrose delivery team in work.

I've tried working with Waitrose's fixes, suggestedby them yesterday, and I've managed to half fill a trolley ready for next weeks order, but it's taken me best part of three hours. It's not workable for me. So what do I do to join the ranks of the majority of Waitrose customers who are enjoying the new web site?

over 5 years ago

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Matt Isaacs, Senior Ecommerce Manager at Perricone MD

Doesn't take an expert to see that this is a complete disaster.

If this went through usability testing, they clearly didn't test it against their old site, or a competitor model. I think you would struggle to find someone who believes that nav set up is better than Tesco's current effort.

I mean what is the point in having a category called "fridge" and then another called "salads and vegetables"? Do some of these not go in the fridge? Am I organising my kitchen incorrectly? And its not like products are cross category as I have to go to the "fridge" to get my fruit juice, but if I visit "drink" its not there? Why give two options that could include the same thing if only one does?

All this would have taken would be to sit my mum down in front of each site with a shopping list and time the results. Could have saved a few £Millon...

over 5 years ago

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Ailsa McKnight, Senior Director at Ladbrokes

I have shopped with waitrosedeliver.com since 2002. The site was taken down for 2 days for the changeover to waitrose.com with no warning to customers, and then the new site was mostly down for the first day. That's 3 days' trading lost. When it came up I found it unusable. Couldn't add previous orders to trolley with one click as previously, needed 12 - 15 instead, could only add 12 items to the trolley from previous orders, got logged out when I tried to add chicken... I complained several times by e mail and the frist reply didn't even include an apology. Subsequently I got the same generic "thank you for bringing this to our attention reply". Eventually I rang up and was given a discount code for my trouble...but there's nowhere in the checkout process to enter it. And if I want to amend my order I have to reload the whole lot back into my trolley and go through the whole checkout process again. My usual 10 minute shop has turned into an HOUR of frustration. The only reason I bother is because we get on so well with our delivery driver. Waitrose, this is a text book example of how to make a total disaster out of a website rebuild and customer care For a brand with such a strong service ethic, you really should know better. You have a long journey ahead of you to truly remedy.

over 5 years ago

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Sarah Inman

The newly released weekly sales figures for the John Lewis Partnership show that Waitrose Online was the only sector of the business to show a percentage decrease in sales for week 7 (12th to 19th March) compared with the same period in 2010. Until Week 7 Online sales were 14 percent higher than the same period last year. The new website was launched on 9th March.apparis

over 5 years ago

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Christina Hollis

I've used Waitrose online since it started because I live in the middle of nowhere, work crazy hours and it WAS convenient, but no longer. I could do my entire weekly shop in under 30 minutes from my computer. I'm now spending 2+ hours per week driving to the nearest village and shopping for vastly inferior stuff, because it's MUCH quicker & far less frustrating than trying to navigate the new Waitrose site. Like Sarah, I welcome innovation and improvement - but only if it makes things better!

What really concerns me is the fact there are one or two gushing comments on the Waitrose forum saying the new system is brilliant and much better than the old one. If they aren't planted by the web designers, I'll eat my hat - or go back to using Waitrose Online, which at the moment is the least likely option.

over 5 years ago

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Andy McGovern

Yes, it does seem unusually slow for me, and further digging illustrates why.

It gets a Google Page Speed score of 64, which although not a true measure of speed or performance, it does indicate the number of things they can and should be doing to improve performance.

For example, on a very light looking page like the 'main Course' page where there are only six product images as well as the interface, there are 129 total resources totalling 1.57Mb. This includes 19 separate JavaScript files and 6 separate stylesheets.

A couple of the JS files are well over 100Kb and one of the CSS files is 263Kb!

That is extremely excessive and very poor indeed. It seems clear that any usability testing was done on an internal network.

over 5 years ago

Emma Harris

Emma Harris, Head of Digital Marketing at British Gas Connected Homes

Agree with everything here, I WAS a diehard Waitrose shopper and used to sing their praises until I tried to do a "big shop" over the weekend.

Slow load/response time, awful navigation, shopping lists are so deeply hidden you aren't even sure you are at the right page when you get there made my efforts painful and slow.

Ended up giving up and just doing the unthinkable and driving to my local big Tesco's and did the shopping myself (gasp!)

Big Fat MASSIVE fail

over 5 years ago

Pauline de Robert

Pauline de Robert, Product Manager at Foviance

I've been a long time Ocado user (6+years) and didn't even know there was a Waitrose site you could order from...Ocado also recently redesigned and I personally found the old site was more usable - similar issue with number of clicks needed to navigate to one product, confusing layout, having to go through about 6 screens before you get to checkout (have you forgotten/you might want to try/these are also on offer/enter your coucher/shoppign cart content/pay). In fact there was some press though perhaps because it was around new year it made less "noise"! The lesson here would be, if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1347294/Customer-rebellion-baffling-new-Ocado-website.html

over 5 years ago

Pauline de Robert

Pauline de Robert, Product Manager at Foviance

Speaking of usability - how about being able to edit your post if you spot a post-publish typo...in the the above comment, read "voucher", not "coucher"!

over 5 years ago

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Ian James

Believe me Pauline you can't compare any shortcomings on the Ocado site with Waitrose. I went back to Ocado last week after 2 years using Waitrose and found it a breeze compared with Waitrose which is now IMHO unuseable.

over 5 years ago

Chris Long

Chris Long, Director at InterWeave Consulting Ltd

As a web programme and project manager, I suspect the problems were not with the Usability testing, I assume they were sensible enough to do it - if they did it would have highlighted the issues. No, looks to me, given the size of the budget, that it is more to do with bad management at some level. As a result the feedback from the testing wasn't fixed; perhaps because stakeholders didn't believe it, or because there was not time (directors demanding the launch date is adhered to), or because the project planning didn't allow enough room to fix them. Same applies to the performance issues. Plenty of tools that would allow the issues to be identified before launch, but in this case you might add inappropriate user journeys and incorrect test tools to the list of excuses.

BTW, I've just started using mysupermarket.com - a sort of supermarket aggregator. In my opinion it has a better users interface than any of the major supermarkets.

over 5 years ago

Emma Harris

Emma Harris, Head of Digital Marketing at British Gas Connected Homes

What is most baffling to me is that it appeared that the major "benefit" other than a dreadful redesign was supposedly to bring together all their online brands (Groceries/Wine/Entertaining) together - at least that is what the email they sent me to tell me
http://ebm.e.waitrose.com/c/tag/hBNYnFUB7S5qLB8Y$3RCkagaypQ/doc.html?

Best part of the email?
"What do I need to do?

The great news is that you won't be affected by any of the changes we're making, and you can continue to shop at Waitrose.com as normal."

Umm no, clearly I and thousands of others have been.

over 5 years ago

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Matt Wilkinson, Senior Ecommerce Manager at Gatwick Airport

It would be great to invite Robin Phillips the E-commerce Director at Waitrose to fill in the gaps on how this went so wrong? I certainly wouldn’t want to be in his shoes at the moment.

over 5 years ago

Emma Harris

Emma Harris, Head of Digital Marketing at British Gas Connected Homes

Me either!! Interesting to see what he says and whether he agrees that it has been an unmitigated failure or not. Do we know if Robin is a member or eConsultancy??

over 5 years ago

Emma Harris

Emma Harris, Head of Digital Marketing at British Gas Connected Homes

Oh interesting update. Just thought I would post on the forum mentioning this blog and the (potentially) valuable feedback from experienced and highly skilled web professionals and they have deleted my post!!

Censorship!!

over 5 years ago

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Matt Wilkinson, Senior Ecommerce Manager at Gatwick Airport

@Emma.. great idea posting something on their own forum.. shame they deleted it.

over 5 years ago

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Ailsa McKnight, Senior Director at Ladbrokes

I have also posted on the waitrose website forum - a firm but polite post - and they deleted it, referring me to the "House Rules" section. The link to House Rules didn't work, however (what a surprise) and so I called up their customer services team and made a formal complaint. I have also asked @waitroseUK three times for a comment on Twitter and have been ignored. I believe Waitrose should be tackling this issue in a much more proactive way. Not only have they made life very difficult for their customers but now they are damaging their reputation for customer care as well.

over 5 years ago

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Naomi Klenerman

This is a sad day for me.I have shopped almost exclusively at Waitrose since you opened your first shop in Finchley Road in London. I have used your very efficient on- line shopping for the last 5 years ) but I will resume Waitrose shopping when you radically fix this site. I have just spent about three hours trying to do a shop which usually takes twenty minutes.
I am computer literate and have a new super fast Apple book so it is not my technology
It is appalingly slow.It is difficult to navigate.There are too many steps to move around and one seems lucky to get back to the right place.. If you had to remove favourites which made shopping very quick at least make the "my lists" easy to use. The saved lists are in an illogical order. I am unable to order everyday items from "my list" or "previous orders" with message "not in branch" and then unable to delete the rogue item in order to continue- do you really expect me to sit for hours going through a couple of hundred items to find my staple products and make a new list and that Pineapples are not in branch.. I cannot believe it was tested by experts who do any shopping.How could you have got it so wrong? Most other websites are easy and quick to use
In future my big order will have to come from Tesco and my Waitrose favourites will be the two bags I can carry from your little branch around the corner.I expect you will find the many of your regulars will have to abandon shopping on your updated site. I am happy to give your experts a demonstration of the difficulties.

over 5 years ago

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Rivaldo Gibbs

And even after so many problems of users, they are still managing a good page rank, that is 6. And when i will check the site for online grocery i would definitely follow the one with better page rank. Does Google just ignore what users of that site feel? Is this campaign going to have any effect on that page rank? Or bad reviews about any site have no concern with page rank? Do anyone have an idea?

over 5 years ago

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Ailsa McKnight, Senior Director at Ladbrokes

They are STILL being panned by users a month after the relaunch. Their website forum now has a 579 topics posted under the heading of website. One from today reads:

"I am appalled. Only because an illness has meant I can no longer get to the supermarket to shop have I decided to use the facility.
Congratulations Waitrose on having the most user unfriendly website I have come across in 14 years of internet shopping. I buy all over the world from shops who have more product lines but seem to be able to organise their sites for their customer. NEVER before have I had to ring a helpline to use a site. I have rung up four times today. Four times! I am losing the will to live. And it still doesn't make sense."

What does the econsultancy community think of Waitrose's handling of this disaster?

over 5 years ago

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Ian James

My open letter to the Waitrose E-commerce Director in response to their placatory offer of £5 off four deliveries.
Dear Mr Phillips,

Thank you for your offer of £5 of my next 4 orders. However, I will willingly pay NOT to use your new site. I resent the fact that you and your Customer Services reps refer to 'the issues you may have experienced' not the 'foul up we have inflicted on you'.

Please will you try and understand that this whole site is doomed. Although lack of speed amplifies the many problems, the root design of the site is deeply flawed and requires a total rebuild. The basic stuctural flaws are best illustrated by the fact that you have been unable to effect ANY meaningful improvements in over four weeks of (I presume) frenetic activity.

Will you please publically state the reasons why you can't consider reverting to the old site. I know you have blown 10 million pounds but that is water under the bridge. Your board must just write that off if they want to remain in the ecommerce business.

over 5 years ago

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LH

The forum is terrible! I cannot post anything without it disappearing either a few hours later or after a few minutes - that's if you're not censoring posts.

I can see that others have complained of the same thing and this has been going on for months. Shame on you! get the web development company to sort out the problem, or find another.

almost 5 years ago

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Kunkel

I think the admin of this website is truly working hard in favor of his site,
because here every stuff is quality based
information.

about 4 years ago

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Gerard, Director at Caressa

They have gone live today with another revamp and its another disaster - from both a technical just fails to work and a GUI point of view.

For example previously bought items will not load in full and the description in the trolley as you select items is replaced by a useless tiny thumbnail pic

about 3 years ago

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