Tab Hell aka Online Shopping

I don’t shop online a lot. I like to try on clothes before I buy them because I’m very picky about how they fit. I also buy a lot of clothes second hand (the online market will likely never be able to provide an analogous experience to second hand shopping in the suburbs…). That being said, I do indulge in the occasional online purchase of shoes or electronics.

As a casual online shopper I would classify myself as a mainstream user. I don’t go looking for extra features or download apps. I am an average consumer trying to find the best deal on a product. For this reason, I find it infuriating that nobody has come up with a solution to this:

Trying to buy the cheapest pair of shoes I can because I destroy all shoes within 2 months of purchase. 25 tiny tabs later and I just want to give up.

This happens every time. I have never encountered an online shopping website which effectively deals with the issue of having to open products in separate tabs. My computer has less storage than some iphones and the processing power of a gameboy color so it doesn’t handle this many tabs very well at all, making my shopping experience even more unpleasant.

As I write this, with two programs open (spotify and chrome) my computer sounds like it’s trying to render a full length animated movie while live streaming an HD photoshop tutorial.

I conducted a survey in which I simply asked: Do you open too many tabs while online shopping. 7/7 surveyed replied that they did.

I’m not the only one!!!

On sites such as Zara, continuous scrolling means that if I want to check out an item’s details I have to either click on it or go back and try to find it when I get to the bottom of a very long page. You wouldn’t immediately go try on the first item you like in a store without looking around at the other things you may want to try on. Shoppers walk around the store, collect the items they like, then distance themselves from the rest of the options and look at/try on the items they’ve gathered. Online shopping forces you to look at items one at a time, without the option of gathering first. It’s unintuitive and causes this tabbing problem.

I’ve seen a few attempts to fix this problem. The first is “quick look”.

I’m buying an unnecessarily expensive light bulb so I want to at least do my research on it. I click on quick look to see what the deal is with this sick looking pink lightbulb.
The product page itself.

In contrast, the actual product page provides all the information you want, reviews, shipping times, different colors etc. etc. Quick look is useful for deciding that the product is not what you’re looking for but it pretty useless in helping you decide if you want it.

The next option is to put everything you might want in your shopping cart. The issue with this is twofold. Firstly, most online customers will not buy everything they’re interested in (hence the ‘gathering’ phase of shopping). This means that you’ll have to go into your shopping cart and take out all the items you don’t want. Secondly, adding items to the shopping cart instead of opening in them in new tabs only delays the tabbing problem. When you’re done shopping and going through the shopping cart to decide what you want, you end up opening tabs anyways, rendering this whole exercise useless.

When it comes down to it, the customer tabs because they want that “middle shopping phase” of grouping, and deciding what stays and what goes. They can move around and close tabs easily and efficiently, in a way that suits their needs. The pages have all the info on a product so comparing two products is simple when they’re open in tabs next to each other.

I don’t intend to propose a solution to this (as I don’t have to resources for the research and it would be a large and lengthy project), but maybe a within-site tabbing system would be a good start? I know for me at least, it would be a small help in the visual clutter that is my computer/online shopping experience.

why do I do this. why.