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[We like it when our readers share their insights with us. Here is one such review of Indiatimes shopping site by Syed Sameer of Cubeflow]
Indiatimes.com is owned by Times Internet Limited which has been in the internet space for over ten years and happens to be a very large and successful internet company in India with several popular online properties. Indiatimes.com Shopping portal is one of India’s most popular e-commerce websites.
Knowing this, I was expecting at the very least an average looking website that is functional and lets the users do what they want easily — i.e. buy, review, research & compare various products on their website. Boy oh boy, little did I know that I was in for a big, awful surprise.
Usability & Simplicity… What Does That Mean Anyway?
Upon landing on the site, my eyes were subjected to a lot of random banners (some of them animated), large photos plastered all over, countless links — a lot of them random, large chunks of text which is mostly unreadable and irrelevant.
In simple words, I felt like every little thing on the site is competing for attention, regardless of its importance.
A chaotic, cluttered and down-right confusing design.
Improper Visual Hierarchy
I can’t figure out what exactly should I be looking at first — the huge banners, or the special deals, or books and magazines, and all the dozens of other things that are placed randomly with no clear visual hierarchy. I found my eyes darting all around. The poor, monotonous & dull typography doesn’t help it either. There’s also a lack of a proper color scheme and a very random and dull-ish tint of green is used for elements which don’t necessarily have to stand out. The icons in the navigation and for the search area are dull and hardly stand out — when they should.
Although an attempt is made at categorizing the different features & offers of the site, you still can’t help but feel lost as the content is overwhelming due to poor placement and lack of whitespace. Once again, distinguishing between headings, sub-headings and other similar things is difficult due to poor typography. There’s a lot of visual clutter that prevents a visitor from getting to the actual content of use to him.
The following screenshot is taken from this page which is selling a ‘Rico Rechargeable Fan with Built in Battery’.
As you can see, at a first glance it seems like this is a great deal. The actual MRP of the product, i.e. the ‘Maximum Retail Price’ is supposedly Rs. 2700 (and I actually think it must be a lot lower than this — but that is another story), and the ‘Offer Price’ by Indiatimes.com is Rs. 2,399 only. Nice isn’t it? You save Rs. 2700 minus Rs. 2399 (MRP – Offer Price) i.e. Rs. 301. Wrong!
If you don’t notice the ‘Shipping Charges’ at a first glance, you’ll definitely notice it once you click on ‘Buy Now’ and your total price ends up being a lot higher than the expected Rs. 2,399. The actual cost of this product will be the ‘Offer Price’ plus the ‘Shipping Charges’, i.e. Rs. 2,399 + Rs. 575 which comes down to Rs. 2,974. This means that instead of ‘saving’ Rs. 301 you end up losing Rs. 274 instead.
Isn’t it quite ironic that the final price of the product actually exceeds the MRP (Maximum Retail Price) by a significant margin?
One can argue that the shipping charges aren’t supposed to be included within the ‘Offer Price’, however, I think it is quite dishonest to not to do so when at the end of the day the product is actually going to cost way more than its maximum retail price itself. And to be honest the maximum retail prices listed on most Indian shopping websites are highly inflated and do not reflect the true retail prices of the products. This gives the customer an impression of a huge discount – when in reality the product is already priced a lot higher than what it is selling for offline. Add to that shipping charges (which are inflated sometimes as well), and in some cases, additional hidden charges, this tax and that tax, and you’ve got a product selling at an outrageous price, when the same product can be obtained offline at normal market prices. I assure you a lot of would-be / first-time buyers are turned off instantly as soon as they recognize this.
In-fact, I was actually looking for a rechargeable fan like this for a friend of mine who happens to live in a hostel with a lot of power cuts, and I decided to buy it despite of the inflated MRP / offer price. However, as soon as I noticed the shipping charges and the actual cost of the product, which was way more than the already-inflated MRP itself, I just abandoned my cart and the site in disgust. “Hell, I can probably get a similar quality product at the nearby electrical market at a much lower (market) price.”, this is exactly what I thought.
SEO Strategy? Let’s Just Say Shameless Keyword Stuffing.
Here’s something that is quite shocking: A company as big as Indiatimes.com is participating in such a low and downright dirty practice called keyword stuffing (aka keyword spam) i.e. stuffing lots of keywords into the site in the hopes of getting a higher Google ranking for the stuffed keywords. Look at the footer area and you’ll find these absolutely useless spam keywords that have been forcefully stuffed onto the page:
I have a strong feeling that this particular area is not really meant to help users ‘Shop by brands’ but is just keyword spam in disguise, however, even if it is meant to help users in such a way — it shouldn’t be placed right here on the front page of the website.
So what exactly does keyword stuffing accomplish? It accomplishes squat…nothing. It doesn’t get you better rankings. It simply bloats your website, makes you look extremely unprofessional, could get you banned from search engines, and it does annoy some users if not all of them. And why would a huge company like Indiatimes.com do this? I’m not sure, but if there’s one thing I’m really sure about it is that Indiatimes.com Shopping needs to fire their SEO guys right away.
In conclusion I’d like to say that being such a huge company and a reputed name in the online & print industry, Indiatimes.com Shopping leaves much to be desired in terms of design & usability. There are a couple of other problems with the site such as a complex & in-efficient ordering process, etc. It is difficult to believe that it is one of India’s most popular shopping sites.
What’s your opinion?