Following in the footsteps of Zavvi and Woolworths, BOOKSetc has emerged from administration as a web-only business, with a new version of the site launched this week. 

The BOOKSetc brand name, as well as the database of customers from Borders UK, have been purchased by Capital Ideas Retail Ltd, which already has two other e-commerce sites. 

I have been reviewing the site, but it has crashed this morning under the weight of what it calls ‘overwhelming traffic’, which suggests that the site wasn’t fully prepared for the launch.  Here’s my review so far…

Homepage

The new site needs some work on SEO, since it only ranks fourth for a search on its brand name. In fact, this Books etc site is higher in the rankings. 

The homepage is fairly standard fare, though clear enough to understand and use. There is a community element to the site, indicated by a number of profile pictures on the top left, though there is little else to explain this. 

The prominence of the thawte and other trustmarks indicates that BOOKSetc is eager to reassure shoppers, though perhaps they are trying too hard? 

Navigation

The main navigation bar, with some general categories, is at the top of the screen, with more detailed book categories along the left hand side. 

There is also a site search box, but it didn’t seem to work when I tried it, returning no results on several searches for well-known books: 

The navigation didn’t work either, perhaps thanks to the ‘overwhelming traffic’. For instance, it could find no books in the entire history category: 

Product pages

Thanks to the site problems, I couldn’t actually reach any product pages to review them. 

Checkout process

There are a couple of issues with the checkout process which could deter customers. Firstly, unless you happen to have previously registered with BOOKSetc or Sell Student Stuff, another Capital Ideas site, then you need to register first. 

Registration can be a barrier between customers and purchases, so a better plan would be to do away with the need for registration, or provide a guest checkout option. 

Also, the checkout process hasn’t been enclosed, and all the navigational elements, search box etc, still remain in place. This means that there are plenty of visual distractions for shoppers when they should be concentrating on entering the details necessary to complete the transaction. 

The links also provide plenty of exit points from the checkout. Enclosing the process and removing unnecessary elements helps to concentrate the customer’s mind on making a purchase. 

Conclusion

The site, as much as I have managed to review of it, is reasonably usable (at least it was yesterday), but there are elements which could be improved, such as the checkout process, though the navigational issues I have outlined may be more to do with the server / traffic issues experienced since the launch. 

Whatever the reason for the problems with the site, and it has been down for at least three hours now, the relaunch has been undermined by this. Perhaps more could have been done to anticipate possible traffic levels and take steps to cope with this. 

Unfortunately, the poor performance of the site, and the downtime that has resulted from this, has undermined the site’s relaunch, and could deter potential customers.