Bad UX choices that cost companies millions | W3 Lab

Bad UX choices that cost companies millions

Everyone makes mistakes, and big businesses and companies are no exception. From no slippery floor warnings that lead to injuries to user harmless bad website design that often cost a business million, user experience mistakes are frequent and numerous.

Today, we are bringing you bad user experience choices that companies have made that resulted in heavy loses, so let’s get to it.

What is bad UX?

Let’s get this out of the way first. UX, despite being frequently used in web design, isn’t exclusive to it. It refers to the overall experience of a person who uses a product or service, no matter if it’s a product they purchased online, bad design of an app or platform they used, pretty much anything.

Bad user experience frustrates users and often makes them never come back again, so when a big company or platform makes a bad UX choice, they often lose money in the form of people stopping to use their services.

difference between bad ux and good ux
Difference between bad and good UX Source: https://dribbble.com/shots/1841859-Good-UX-vs-Bad-UX#shot-description

Here are a few examples of bad web design UX that we can all agree are frustrating:

  • complicated password requirements (like we all don’t have dozens of passwords to remember),
  • auto-play in any shape or form, websites not supporting the browser we use,
  • the search function not working,
  • complicated unsubscribe processes,
  • missing buttons to go back to the menu or scroll to top, etc.  

Honestly, all of these will make me close a website almost immediately, so bad UX choices can be a big loss especially when it comes to smaller businesses. But large companies aren’t immune.

Let’s look at some examples.

Walmart losing $1.85 billion for changing UX

Walmart, the all-around known retail giant with over 11 thousand stores worldwide. It has existed since 1962 so naturally, everyone would think they already made all the possible mistakes decades ago. That’s where we’re wrong.

In 2009, Walmart asked its customers a simple question: ‘Would you like Walmart to be less cluttered?’ and people responded with an even simpler ‘yes’. Walmart then spent hundreds of millions removing excess inventory from their stores, clearing aisles and shortening their shelves.

It makes sense that everyone would enjoy a supermarket where there’s more space, doesn’t it? Only they didn’t.

Despite Walmart removing only 15% of their inventory, sales plummeted, resulting in a $1.85 billion loss. The team that was responsible for this project got fired, and Walmart has since been trying to restore its old ‘cluttered’ look.

walmart changed their ux
Even a small change in UX can be significant | Source: https://www.pymnts.com/news/retail/2017/walmart-stores-legal-name/

Why was this a bad move?

You might wonder, why was this a mistake on their part, if they asked their customers what they wanted and ran a survey looking for feedback.

The problem was the question itself, they already provided an answer, and instead of asking the customers what they wanted, they asked them if they agreed.

They could have asked ‘what do you think would make Walmart easier to navigate’ or ‘what do you think would improve the user experience’. In a way, they ignored the customer’s needs and showed that what the customers wanted didn’t matter.

If you run a survey for your business, don’t do it as Walmart did.

Digg’s series of bad mistakes

Digg was a popular social bookmarking website with an upvote system that decided to switch to social networking, because of the rise of Facebook and Twitter. Their aim was to make it easier to follow people and share content, but all they did was ruin their website and lose all of their users.

People with large amounts of friends started receiving the most upvotes, not because what they posted was quality, but only because they had hundreds of friends. As an attempt to stop this, Digg disabled their messaging feature, which did not make their users happy (at all).

In 2010, they redesigned their site and removed a number of features, which drove a large number of their userbase to Reddit. Valued at $160 million in 2008, it was sold for $500.000 in 2012.   

Icons8 and their vote button

This icon website had the same design for a long time, where people could request icons and users would vote, so the most popular requests would get drawn.

After a redesign where they added new features and replaced the old design, making it minimalist and modern, they noticed a 50% drop in user engagement for requested icons and 50% drop in user engagement for votes.  

icons8 ux change
Icons and their website change | Source: https://icons8.com/articles/how-we-lost-47-of-our-users-after-a-redesign/

By making the site simpler, they accidentally made it difficult for people to see the vote and request button. The arrows to upvote and downvote a request appeared only if you hovered over the number of votes, which was a big mistake, because people just weren’t noticing it.  

It turned out that their old interface, despite looking outdated and not modern, was much more user-friendly.  

Mark & Spencer and their new website

Mark & Spencer are a huge British retail company founded back in 1884.

They spent £150 million on a new website that, at least at first glance, looked really good. It had stunning photographs and a simple enough design, but this article isn’t about things that went well for companies.

mark and spencer website
Mark & Spencer website | Source: https://www.retail-week.com/finance/comment-when-will-marks-and-spencer-fire-on-all-cylinders/5061991.article?authent=1

People started complaining almost immediately: they had to create new accounts on the website, passwords couldn’t be reset, the tablet version of the website was hard to navigate, the website was crashing, and there wasn’t enough information about the products.

Their sales plummeted by 8.1%, a £55 million loss.

CNN’s website redesign

CNN had the same website design for years, until 2015, when they introduced a new website design.

Just like all the other examples in this article, the new design was clean, modern, and beautiful, opposite of the old more cluttered one. But people didn’t like it.

cnn`s old vs new website - bad ux change
CNN’s website in 2010 and 2015.
CNN`s old website and their new website | Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2015/01/02/world/gallery/cnn-homepage-through-the-years/index.html

It had a much slower loading time than the old one, a whopping 20 seconds, all because of all the large images on the website. The images took up the majority of space, so people couldn’t see the headlines and were forced to scroll down a lot. The new design displayed half as many clickable stories in the same space, and took 20% of the CPU to load the home page in.

the web design change bad solution
The web design change was a bad solution | Source: Google

Final word

Redesigning websites and making changes are both big steps that, if not well thought out, can not only result in people complaining but also in a loss of large sums of money.

Mark & Spencer, Icons8 and CNN are prime examples of the bad website redesign and poor user experience, while Walmart lost more than a billion because of a badly phrased survey question. Digg, previously valued at $160 million, was sold at $500.000 after an attempt to be more like Facebook.

We hope that these bad UX choice examples have helped you learn more about what not to do when it comes to your own business and website.

Thank you for reading.

Marija Milosavljević
Marija Milosavljević

Graduated as first in her class. Incredibly quiet and shy until the lag in Warframe turns her into a raging death-bunny.