Four bugs in the Ali Express email flow

Today I would like to take a simple workflow — getting a post-purchase email from Ali Express — and talk about four things that annoy me in this flow. All these are bugs/missing features — things that can be improved to make the user happier. We will show how this flow can be improved.

1. The message should be embedded in the email

This is how the email I received look like. It does not contain the message, but prompt me to click on a link and visit the website in order to view the message.

If I only had to do this once, sure. However, transactions often include a dozen or so exchanges with a seller, post-delivery, recall etc. Each time I need to work around my normal email flow and go to a different website just to read what message I got. Instead: the message should be included inlined.

2. I can’t reply to the message from my email client.

This feature depends on #1. A lot of websites do put the message body inline in the email. However when the user wants to reply, they still need to go to the website. Instead, a simple solution is putting a unique identifier somewhere in the email (this is often done in the sender address, buy using something like reply-messages-264326817152245760–

Notice how Meetup start the email by telling you you can reply directly, saving you a lot of time — you can’t help but be informed about this feature.

3. Don’t make me login, silly

When I click the link to Ali Express, I get this screen:

I get this login screen just about every time I click on an Ali link.

What gives?

Why do some websites insist to keep bugging me to login all the time? It’s annoying and time consuming. Everybody uses Cookies and other means to keep a user logged in … but a lot of websites do it wrong. Expiry dates for sessions should be practically never for most websites other than banks.

Users are more annoyed, and their time is wasted, by having to login over and over again, compared to the little extra security that you get by bugging them with a login box.

One could say “well, money is involved here, we better make sure the user is who she says she is”. I call B.S. I just checked Ali’s largest competitor, ebay, (after not having logged on there for a few weeks), and zero login boxes required. If it works for ebay, it should work for Ali, and the fact it’s not implemented this way is bug.

4. Losing me after the login

Ok, so you made me open a link … fine.

Ok, so you made me login … fine.

But why on earth would you not bring me back to where I was, after i login?

Remember this little bit from the login screen?

The role of the returnUrl parameter is to ensure the user’s flow isn’t interrupted, and that after she logins, she will be where he wants to be — which is the message she was trying to read in her email reader in the first place. While well intended, the sad news is that it doesn’t work for Ali, at least where the user authenticates using Facebook like I did. After my login is done, I am presented with Ali’s home screen rather than the message page.

So what do we have?

A flow that could have taken the user 5 seconds to execute (read the message inline and reply), now takes about a minute or two (click a link, login, reclick the same link from the email, reply). Repeat that over 10 or 20 messages, and you’re wasting a huge chunk of the user’s time and attention span.

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