Kristoffer BohmannKristoffer BohmannWeb Usability Expert
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Site Comment of Boo.com

by Kristoffer Bohmann, May 20, 2000


Boo.com were too focused being innovative and paid too little attention to basic usability.

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European Dot Com Crash: Internet retailer of fashion and sportswear Boo.com collapsed this week due to lack of funds from investors. The user interface is commented briefly, while recognizing that the collaps is likely to be affected by other factors than the user interface.

The design seems to be driven by these assumptions about the user:

Visual Experience

Assumption: Graphics and images are more important to the user than text:

Boo.com is a visual experience. Enough said.

No Content Homepage

Assumption: Advanced functionality is important to the user:

No content is presented at the Boo.com homepage. Before entering the actual site users need to choose between 18 countries and two graphical modes (why not start in English in some standard mode?).

These choices lead to a slow-downloading home page filled with animations and graphics that provide little information. It also enables users to view products in 3D.

Slow Download Time

Assumption: The user don't mind slow download times:

Download times are in general slow despite optimized graphics (1 KB) and image items (5-15 KB). The problem gets much worse when viewing products in the 3D product viewer on the site. I believe mainstream users will drop this feature after two tries as it is too slow to use and too difficult to control in a mouse interface.

Low User Freedom and Control

Assumption: The user wants the site to control the online experience:

Boo.com presents the screen in a small browser window shown in the same way to all users. This leads to the use of small fonts, which are difficult to read and cannot be upscaled in the users browser window.

Also, standard page navigation is not supported. For instance, page down-scrolling is not possible in product overview pages; pages cannot be bookmarked as URLs are hidden; users are also prevented from interlacing (e.g., view two product in two different browser windows), which is unfortunate as interlacing is a common user behavior.

Read More

Associated Press: Boo.com May Have Web Implications (no longer available)
Reuters: European online retailer boo.com collapses (no longer available)

Miss Boo

Update (October 31, 2000):
Miss Boo is back. Boo.com has reopened as a vertical portal that reviews and recommends fashion wear products. The site opens with a Flash intro that downloads slowly. Still, usability on the new site has been improved compared to the old design: Other usability problems remain: Download time is long everywhere. Clicking is extremely cumbersome as links are hidden. Searching for the next link seems to be an important part of the intended user experience (no kidding!).

Navigation support is shown as an attempt to help users understand where they are (e.g., shop:men:walk) - unfortunately it is neither obvious enough nor used consistently. Back-button does not work from homepage to the previous website.

Bottom-line: Boo.com no longer has the provocative/innovative Web design that helped make it famous (and contributed to its financial death).


About the Author
Kristoffer Bohmann (biography) M.Sc. thinks and writes about high-quality user experiences. His philosophy: Users first. You can contact him at kb@bohmannusability.com.

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