3 surprising UX fails by massive web companies

It’s easy to assume that large, successful websites with their dedicated in-house UX teams always have the right answers when it comes to delivering an optimised user journey. Of course UX isn’t an exact science and there are no black and white rules – what works for one might not apply everywhere else. I took a look at three well known consumer sites where I spotted some less than flawless web form experiences that show how even the web’s best-loved companies can make mistakes.

Paypal consumer accounts – Settings > Add an Address UI

The Paypal settings UI delivers some really nice, clean forms that make the experience feel quick and easy for their users. But let’s take a look at the screen consumers use to add an address to their Paypal account – potentially for billing or delivery purposes.

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I was fairly surprised to discover that I could enter anything into the address fields when creating a new entry in my Paypal address book. Sure enough, there is some validation on the postcode field, but to find out what the problem is I can’t click on the alert icon, instead I have to return my cursor to the field.

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Unsurprisingly, I’m advised that I need to enter a valid UK postcode. But it feels a bit strange that I’m responsible for capitalising the characters, even if the text I’d entered was valid.

Perhaps the thing that surprised me the most was that after capitalising the letters in my made up postcode, I could then go ahead and add my fake address. Not a single line in this address was valid (except the formatting of the characters in the postcode) and (presumably) this address is now available to me for future Paypal transactions. I’d be surprised if a Paypal merchant would be happy to receive my order with this level of data quality.

It would be pretty easy for Paypal to apply some validation on either the postcode or every line of the address captured, and I’ve no doubt this is a valuable benefit to their merchants, so I have to assume they have a good reason for not doing so. Of course, it’s unlikely that a user would try to enter a completely made up address for their Paypal transactions BUT it’s very likely they would make a typo, especially on a mobile device where the street name might get auto-corrected.

Ebay registration form

There’s a certain paranoia around buying and selling on eBay that means it’s really important for them to make efforts to verify their users are real, traceable people. Aside from this aspect, I was almost shocked at how easy it was to set up a new account without giving away any of my actual personal contact details!

Again, the form is quite clean and lay out is optimised to encourage a decent completion rate.

I begin my test by entering a random email address (I checked it wasn’t valid using our own validation demo tool first). After entering the same details again, the email appeared to be accepted in the form.

I continued, adding a password that met their recommended specification, a single character in each of the name fields (clearly not a real name?) and a made up phone number (also tested via our own validation demo).

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Amazingly, this all went through without a hitch, creating me a brand new, anonymous account.

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AirBnB – search filters

I’m a BIG fan of AirBnB, I love the entire concept as well as their normally user-friendly and beautifully designed apps. So it came as a bit of a surprise when I became frustrated searching their accommodation for an upcoming business trip.

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It’s really great that you can get up and running really quickly with the search feature; I can pretty much enter as little information as I want, eg: ‘London’ and get straight to reviewing a list of properties, right from the home page.  But it’s when I started to refine the results using the search filters that I became stuck.

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When you look at the full description of a property, the page displays a number of attributes, among things like the ‘bed type’ and ‘cancellation policy’. But weirdly these options are not available in the search filters, so while I wanted to secure a great room with (of course) a ‘real bed’ in a convenient location, my travel plans were not firm enough to book something without a ‘flexible’ cancellation policy. It was fairly frustrating to get tempted in by the photos only to read on and discover that a property was not going to meet my needs.

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There are a good number of search filters and, of course, everyone has different priorities. But I wonder how many people, like me, would welcome the option to refine results by these attributes, maybe more so than whether the host supplies coat hangers?

Have you spotted any surprising UX issues online recently? We’d love to hear about them.