We highlight commercial websites that are unreasonably hard to use, don't work properly, or don't actually offer what they promise. It's a way for web developers everywhere to learn what kind of mistakes they should avoid -- and of course, an opportunity for the companies listed here to fix the problems we document.
How to not wind up here
reviewed Dec. 29, 2006
Many business websites fail to provide enough information about their products. This is especially true when the visitor is trying to compare the various products to learn what the differences are between them.
I was interested in selling bicycle lights from one of my websites, so I went to CatEye.com to get information about their products and see if it were possible for me to become a dealer.
I got to the product page for the HL-EL530 and saw that it's designed for use with alkaline batteries, which means that it would be considerably dimmer when used with NiMH rechargeable batteries. Since I preferred to sell lights that were designed with rechargeables in mind, I tried to see if any of their other products met that description.
So I clicked "Comparison Chart" to look for models that are designed for use with rechargeables, but that information didn't appear in the chart.
So I thought I would painstakingly go through each of the models to read the description, but I was thwarted again because the individual product pages aren't linked from the chart.
So I closed the chart window and from the HL-EL530 page I clicked the link for the HL-EL520. But that page doesn't even make any mention about what kind of batteries/voltage it's designed for.
Okay, clearly CatEye didn't care to give me that information, so I'll decided to look for something else. I saw from the EL520 page that it provides 1200 candlepower of light. I naturally wanted to compare the candlepower off all the other lights, so I clicked the Comparison Chart link again. And of course I find that the Comparison Chart is completely devoid of any information about candlepower. Not really a surprise at this point.
So I resigned myself to painstakingly going through each page and manually writing down the candlepower for each model. It didn't take long for me to be stymied again. The page about the HL-EL220 doesn't bother to mention its candlepower rating.
There are a number of other minor problems and annoyances. The page that lists all the models doesn't have a link to the comparison chart. (You're forced to go to an individual product page first to get there, though of course you have no clue that a comparison chart even exists when you first arrive at the page that lists all the models.) The comparison chart itself is inconsistent, listing one model as "White LED x 3" and another as "LED x 3 (white)", even though they're apparently the same thing, making it hard to scan the table to see which items are the same and which are different. And the table lists models that don't even appear on the page that's supposed to list all the models. And finally, the table itself is titled "COMPARISTION [sic] CHART". More importantly, the comparison table gives no clue about which models replace what other models, and what (if anything) is better about the newer models. And the individual product pages omit crucial information, such as whether the "120-hour runtime" is for steady or blinking mode. One page mentions the runtime for the low beam mode, but inexplicably provides no clue as to the runtime with the high beam. Finally, the <title> of the comparison chart is tersely worded "CatEye", making it hard to find that window from the Window menu in a browser when there are several windows open.
So it looks like I'll have to write to CatEye since their website is less than helpful. But when I get to the Contact page, it's not clear which, if any, of the contacts listed are appropriate for my inquiry. There's zero there about becoming a dealer, or whom to contact for that kind of inquiry, or where prospective dealers can get answers for product questions.
Even if the visitor were an end-user customer and not a prospective dealer, they'd still be stuck. CatEye brushes off customers by referring them to their local dealer for technical questions about their products. But how are dealers going to be able to easily answer those questions when CatEye doesn't provide sufficient info about its products on its website in the first place?
I did write to the generic service address for North America, but as of this writing I haven't heard back from them.
How CatEye can fix these problems
Update, Nov. 2007
I checked back at CatEye nearly a year later, and not only are the above problems not fixed, they're even worse. Now when I click "Comparison Chart" from the HL-EL530 page, I get a page not found error!