I’m a systems analyst and deal with complex software every day. However I’m still amazed when companies release bad code on their customers. Case in point: Pizzahut.com
I received an email from Pizza Hut offering their Panormous Pizza for $10. I happened to be lazy and hungry at that very moment and clicked on the “Order Now” button in the HTML. As the site loaded I notice that the URL was passing several knapsacks (marketing and order variables) to the site. I was then prompted to login. For some reason the website for ordering pizza has a login that is more restrictive than most. If you screw up either your login ID or password it doesn’t tell you which you entered wrong; it just says “login incorrect”. After a few attempts at remembering my login ID and password for a fast-food website, I figure out the combo – and the real fun begins.
First I’m presented with a screen after the login that shows my “hometown Pizza Hut” – the closest store to my home – correctly and asks if I want carryout or delivery. I select carryout because I may be lazy but I’m also cheap; having worked as a pizza delivery guy in my youth I always tip them well – so most of the time I pick up the orders myself. The next screen I’m prompted to select the location nearest my house and presented with a Microsoft Virtual Earth satellite view of my neighborhood complete with all the Pizza Huts in southeastern PA and northern DE shown with tiny Pizza Hut icons. But my “hometown pizza hut” was displayed correctly on the previous page. Why am I being asked to select it again? I do it anyway.
By this time I notice that all the knapsack information is gone. The site doesn’t know that I want the Panormous Pizza for $10 – so I have to find it. Is it a featured product? Nope. It sure isn’t a Tuscani Pasta. After clicking on various tabs I finally find it hidden under “Pick Your Crust”. The Panormous is not a crust – it’s a pizza. So what is it doing there? Now I’m not just hungry, I feel hungry AND like I’m still at the office.
The website allows you to customize the toppings per pizza – but the Panormous is actually two separate pizzas packaged together. Each pizza can have a separate topping but I can either double my order or have both pizzas be the same topping. The page is confusing and offers too many choices (why? I’m ordering a pizza, not building a house) – but the page cannot handle two pizzas, two different toppings, one price. To make matters worse the Panormous is showing up at regularly price, not the $10 promised in the email.
I search the website and find a phone number to call. I speak to a woman who mispronounces my name after I’ve spelled it twice. I explain my trouble with the site and ask her how to order a pizza on the website. Her solution? “Call the store and place your order over the phone. Do you want the number?” I mention that they will need a coupon code to complete the order (I’ve actually gone through this before a long time ago). She said that the website may not be displaying correctly because the store doesn’t offer the pizza. I laughed. “You don’t really know, do you?” I said and hung up. Now I’m not only hungry, I’m really annoyed.
I find a feedback form and start typing away in the memo section… And run out of space. The memo field is limited to 520 characters including line breaks – that’s about 80 words or so.
I call my “hometown pizza hut” in desperation and they hook me up – no problem.
The whole ordering online process is a mess. It clearly hasn’t been quality tested thoroughly. It seems laid out more for product placement and advertising than it does for ordering products. In fairness to the web designers they probably did what they were paid to do. The site requirements came from the marketing department where everybody thought about how cool the site looked and nobody considered its purpose. Had they actually tried to order a pizza the errors would have been easily apparent. A round of QA would have kept this multimillion dollar firm from releasing one of the worst websites I’ve used that doesn’t have a URL that ends in .gov.
In the Grand Scheme of things the failure of this website means little, but it doesn’t take much to do a decent website in the year 2009.