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Tablets are a big deal for online retailers, with stats showing high AOVs and conversion rates, so it makes sense for websites to provide an excellent experience for users of these devices.

Thanks to some user testing videos from whatusersdo.com, I've been looking into the user experience offered by Thomas Cook for tablet users. 

The user tests uncovered some serious problems with Thomas Cook on tablets, issues likely to cause customers to abandon the site. 

Here's a summary of the issues... 

The task

Users had to search for and book a summer holiday for themselves and their family, stopping at the last moment before purchase. 

They were then asked what one thing would have prevented them from making a purchase.

The tests were carried out using a range of devices. There were five users, two on iPads, three on other tablets. 

The first four videos here show users on iPads. It seems that more high priority issues were uncovered on Apple's devices.

Since this device dominates the market right now, these are perhaps the most significant tests. 

Summary

Overall, users managed to complete the holiday purchase task, and many commented positively about the use of photos and choice of holidays.

However, several users encountered issues which would lead to abandonment normally. These problems included: 

  • Technical errors, such as the site being slow, images not loading and the system freezing with an error message.
  • Problems with pages not refreshing as expected.
  • Problems with the navigation, including use of the browser back button.
  • Some users could not read the full Ts and Cs as there was no means to scroll through them on their tablet.
  • Interacting with the calendar proved difficult for many users.

A number of these problems were categorised as high priority, i.e. they were likely to make customers abandon the website: 

The high priority problems in detail

Difficulty clicking on links

As the video shows, this user is having difficulties selecting the correct link from the drop-down menu: 

This becomes more frustrating, as the user's attempts to zoom in to make the links clearer lead to the menu disappearing. 

In general, the size of links and the space around them is a problem issue on tablets, and adapting to touch screen devices and the 'fat finger' problem is one area where sites can improve. 

Elsewhere on the site, the links to choose from different hotel rooms are too small and too close together, meaning that it is too easy to make a mistake. 

Viewing Flash content

This user is unable to view photos of the hotel and video content on her iPad. If she cannot view photos of the hotel, then making a decision is much harder. 

According to the tester: 

The website failed to download photos of the hotel and when I tried to return to the previous screen it crashed altogether which was frustrating and meant that I had to return to the search page and start again. I would have considered dropping out at this point

Users cannot scroll T&Cs on iPad

In the exact questionnaire, the tester cited this as an issue which would have stopped the purchase, as she would have to check them on a PC later, and may then end up on a different site. 

Server identity error message

In this video, just as the user is heading towards the payment page, she gets an error message saying the identity of the server cannot be verified.

As the tester says, outside of the test environment, she would abandon the process after seeing such a message. 

Website errors

This may have nothing to do with the fact that a tablet is being used but, whatever the reason, it's a conversion killer. 

Form filling

This is one area where many sites can improve for tablet users. Input areas are often too small, drop-downs can be awkward to use, and if options are too close together, then users can easily make mistakes. 

In fact, this was cited as a reason to abandon the purchase by the tester: 

The lack of attention to detail on the forms the inputs were far too small and it didn't bring up shortcuts like the correct keyboard etc. Some of the information could have had an auto population feature also.

Conclusion

While most e-commerce sites do work reasonably well in iPad, and the relatively high conversion rates are proof of this, there are areas where retailers can improve.  

Retailers should be looking at their visitor numbers, as an upward trend in visits from tablets may indicate the need to optimise. 

After this, they should be seeing how their website works on an iPad, by trying it themselves, conducting user tests like this one, and looking at abandonment rates for tablet users. 

In the case of Thomas Cook, though most of the site works well enough on an iPad, there are enough problems here to cause users to abandon purchases. When this is a holiday for £2,000, then you can see how an investment in testing and optimisation could pay off. 

Graham Charlton

Published 26 April, 2012 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 (3)

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Ifraz Mughal

Great review - well structured report. Thanks!

over 4 years ago

Sarat Pediredla

Sarat Pediredla, Partner at hedgehog labSmall Business Multi-user

I think Flash and unusable forms at the biggest killers when it comes to using regular desktop websites on iPads. Responsive design might be the solution but it's a challenge getting clients to now budget for building sites that work across desktops, tablets and mobiles.

over 4 years ago

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Charles

Good article - we need more of this kind of device-specific review to understand technical and UX challenges faced in an increasingly multi-device/multi-OS world.

over 4 years ago

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