Designing to create an excellent web experience doesn’t have to be rocket science. Sometimes it just takes good common sense, an understanding of the product category and the customers who frequently order from you.
In the case of a pizza delivery site, you have the advantage of being able to leverage the experience that’s already being provided in the restaurant. So why is it, when designing for web, we don’t simply try to emulate the in-store experience, keeping it simple and intuitive. On the web, there’s no one to show us to our seat, help us with our menu questions, or take our order. You need to ensure everything is covered – you don’t want the phone to ring when someone is trying to order online. Sadly, few sites in this category get this, and fall well short of delivering a good user experience.
After ordering from several online pizza sites over the past year, I remain disappointed that one of the easiest products to presumably buy online has yet to attract the appropriate resources or thinking to deliver a knock-out punch in the category. It’s surprising considering how much competition there is for home-delivery pizza.
In Toronto, for example, you can choose from the chains: Domino’s, Pizza Nova, Pizzaiolo, Pizza Hut, Pizzaville, Pizza Pizza, as well as a raft of smaller independents. The closest that comes to excellence in web ordering is Pizza Pizza, which I guess comes as no surprise given their powerful marketing machine and keen sense of the consumer. I mean, we all know the jingle, and no matter what, for those of us who grew up with 967-11-11, we know who to call when we aren’t holding any menus. Pizza Pizza clearly gets the business and how to deliver a winning web solution. The rest are sub-optimal at best, and I’ve pretty much given up on them. And yes, for me, a key factor in deciding which pizza I’ll order is based on the web experience. I won’t order a pizza I don’t like, but a good web experience is more than just a tie breaker for me.
I haven’t worked the pizza space, so I can’t really explain why this category is filled with sites which all seem to lack the ability to deliver what’s required. The suggestions below don’t involve an outrageous amount of coding. They seem like common sense. Given all the competition, it seems to me there’s room to drive a point of differentiation through slick web design which is grounded in a keen sense of customer behaviour.
At the risk of sounding like I have all the answers, here are some suggestions I believe would go a long way to offering up a better user experience. It’s not a comprehensive list, but I believe these enhancements would drive greater user acceptance and a higher degree of repeat business. Of course, you still need to make a good pizza:
- Recognize customers are ordering online and take into account they may have questions they’re not prepared to call you about. So make this easy. If they have to call, many will just click to another option.
- First thing to note on your site is your delivery area. If visitors can’t see this, they’re already moving on, especially if it’s their first time with you. Show a map, or offer a postal code look up – something that tells the visitor up front that you’ll deliver to them. This is the equivalent of the “open” sign you have hanging in your restaurant window.
- Allow customers to order as a guest, or to sign in, or to create an account after ordering (but be sure to save their current order if they register after placing their first order).
- Allow customers to save an order, so it can be re-ordered in the future. Allow for the ability to save at least 10 previous/different orders.
- Allow customers to change a saved order, and re-save it under a different nick-name.
- Allow customers to give nick-names to their orders. And provide enough characters to make the name meaningful or even, perish the thought, fun.
- Allow customers to create an order for delivery at a later date/time. They should also be allowed to create an order when the restaurant isn’t open. Customers should also be able to create an order to save for some undefined future date, so they can simply return to the site at any time, click a few times and presto, their order is on the way.
- Allow for 1-click re-order of an order already in the list.
- When creating the pizza, if there is a limit on toppings, make it clear up front what that is, and why there’s a limit.
- Allow customers to fully customize 2 sides of the pizza. That includes adding double or triple or more of a topping on either side of the pizza. Even allow for 1 side to have double of a topping while the other side has a single.
- Provide a field for notes, which become part of that order, and future orders if that order is used again. Offer notes for the account also, for entrance/location information.
- Offer “well done” as an option.
- Let customers see your pricing and menu options at the beginning of the ordering process, before insisting on collecting any personal information.
- Allow the site to handle credit card transactions, and bill it before coming out for delivery. Be sure they can also apply a tip online.
- Accept all major credit cards. If you don’t, make that clear in the order flow.
- Create a mobile app so customers can order from anywhere. If you have a mobile app, make sure it’s integrated with your web ordering, so customers don’t need to manage two accounts.
This category, for the most part, is woefully lagging behind in the online world. Here are some of the “greetings” you’ll see:
— Perhaps this is their way of building a database, but first things first. If they check their web stats, they’ll notice this is the page they’re getting the most drop off from. It’s not because it’s the first page in the flow, it’s because they hit visitors with this question before welcoming them first.
— It’s probably not their “first time online” although it might be their first time at this site. It really is inappropriate to ask someone to “Create an account” before showing them anything, or even letting them through the purchase flow. Just think about the restaurant experience, where the pizza is ordered, made and brought to the table or the counter before customers even pay. The online pizza delivery experience doesn’t have to be difficult. E-commerce sites figured this out some time ago, over time adding features such as wish lists and guest checkout.
None of this is really all that complicated, nor does it involve much in the way of innovative or creative thinking. For me, these are the simple table-stakes required to do well in this business. Selfishly though, I like ordering pizza online, because it makes life simpler for me, which is why I’d really like to see some changes to the experience – so I can branch out and grab a pizza with a couple of clicks from wherever I want.