OMG Target. Really?

I don’t even know where to start with this. Target launched a new site last week. I guess they’re pretty proud of it, but they’ve managed to completely fail in so many ways.

The Backstory

In 2001, Target elected to partner with Amazon in order to leverage Amazon’s e-commerce technology. This may have made sense at the time, but Target should have started to move toward being off of Amazon by the time the 5 year deal was done. Instead, it has been renewed a couple times and was extended through 2011. The last renewal was announced 2 years ago and Target knew at the time that they were going to move off of Amazon. That means they’ve had at least 2 years to get this right. That’s a LONG time.

The Good

Honestly, I haven’t found a lot that’s good about their new site. It’s possible that getting away from Amazon’s technology will benefit them in the long run and that would be a good thing.

The Bad

There is a lot wrong with this site. It’s definitely not ready for prime time and was either rushed out to meet a deadline or there is a big team of idiots behind it. Maybe both. A quick run through the site exposed a lot of basic items that are being handled poorly. I could probably spend days picking this piece of junk apart, but here are a few things you guys can learn from:

Don’t feature “out of stock” items at the beginning of a search result – It’s not difficult to filter these out or at least not show them first. It’s basic but if your customers show up to that page and see that half the products are out of stock, they’re going to move on.

Check for Validation – Maybe you don’t need to shoot for a perfectly valid site but it’s always a good idea to make sure you don’t have a ton of errors. Target.com’s homepage has 244 errors showing. Most of them are basic and missed out of laziness.

If a site: search doesn’t have your homepage in the first few results, there’s likely a problem. If the results are full of search results pages, you’re f*cked. – You can learn a lot from running a site: search on your own site. Look at the titles. Are they something you would click on? Now look at the descriptions. Are they unique and interesting? In Target’s case, the answer is “Hell no!”

Don’t use tabbed navigation just to be cute – I’m not sure what they were thinking here, but on their TV pages (and likely others), they have tabbed navigation about half way down the page. One option is “item details” and the other is “item specifications.” The “item specifications” tab doesn’t offer anything unique.

If you’re selling something, don’t throw AdSense ads all over your site – There’s no logical reason to let your competition show ads on your site. If it’s making enough money to warrant putting them in the page, you’re failing at conversion.

Don’t forget to replace characters with HTML entities where necessary. – This is a good way to break something. For example, Target is outputting quotes to meta tags and breaking the code rather than using the proper entity (click on the image to see the suckiness in all its glory).

I could nitpick the hell out this site. Viewing the source nearly makes me sick. There is javascript in places it doesn’t belong, random css scattered everywhere, and as I noted above, all kinds of validation issues.

The Fugly

Sometimes people do things that warrant a good beat down or at least being fired over. I’m normally not a fan of calling for peoples’ jobs but when a project that appears to have been ongoing for 2+ years shits itself like this, someone’s gotta go.

I have heard reports of long outages since the rollout. Last night it was offline for at least 5 hours that I was monitoring it. That’s not good. That’s a miserable, amateur, fail. These days, unless something is completely unexpected, a site should NEVER be unavailable. Even if you’re doing maintenance, there are very few excuses to have a site go offline.

Now that the site actually loads and I was able to check it out, I ended up poking around for a bit. One of the pages was left open in a tab that was long forgotten and minimized. Well…guess what? That little tab came back and started haunting me. After being hidden for a few minutes, I got the following message and the tab brought itself to the front of everything on my screen.

I decided to close that and see what happened if I left that tab in the background. A minute later, I got this one.

Come on Target. I’m not logged in. This is amateur crap. You don’t pop messages up like this. You’ve guaranteed that I won’t be back. Do you guys honestly think this is smart? Let a session die silently. Even if you think this is a reasonable thing to do for people, don’t do it to guests.

How Could This Happen?

We may never know what has gone down behind the scenes at Target.com but there are quite a few pieces of evidence to base some theories on.

Too many cooks in the kitchen – According to the numbers in Target’s press release, they had far too many people involved in this:

More than 20 vendor technology partners were involved in the construction of the new Target.com.
Key contributors include:
SapientNitro: Lead partner and primary systems integrator
IBM: Multichannel eCommerce platform provider
Huge: Site creative – visual and interactive design
Infosys: Global inventory visibility and cross-channel order-management functionality
AT&T: Hosting provider

Laziness or a lack of quality control – A lot of issues I’m seeing on Target.com are basic. They are things that should be able to be cleaned up quickly and easily if they just put in a little bit of time.

Lack of knowledge sharing – Some of what I’m seeing here could likely be corrected if people just communicated internally and worked together to create a better site. I wouldn’t be surprised if the developers have never talked to an SEO over there. The whole thing reeks of red tape & corporate segregation. If that’s not the case, shame on the team that did this as it’s half assed and they might as well be stealing from Target.

Overall, there are a ton of lessons to be learned from this. I just can’t believe that they rolled this site out after having so much time to work on it. I don’t see how a company that lets this kind of mess happen can survive for more than a few more years. It’s no wonder they’re getting their butt kicked by Walmart.

Update – September 13

Missoni for Target Launched – Site Down for Hours

It looks as though Target launched a new product line called Missoni for Target today. The site has been down for several hours. I know of an IT department that needs a good overhaul.

About Brian LaFrance

Brian is the Marketing Director here at AuthorityLabs. He has been involved in various aspects of internet marketing since 2009 and enjoys helping people solve problems.

Filed under: Featured, Tips

139 Comments

Alan Bleiweiss

It’s really pathetic how completely borked some big brands are, all these years into web. We were creating Fortune 1000 eCommerce solutions 15 years ago for cryin out loud. You’d think after all these years, there’d be at least one intelligent decision maker who had the skill to properly coordinate such an important effort.

Whoever it is at Target that should be held accountable for the terrible UX issues, well OMG how sad. And I <3 your pointing out the AdSense. ADSENSE? ON AN ECOM SITE? hahahaha stupid stupid stupid.

Mike Halvorsen

I don’t believe how FUBAR the new site is. I can’t believe such a terrible site was launched. I would imagine the majority of the issues stem from the number of vendors involved with the new site. Either way, what a total and complete FAIL.

Rob Woods

What a freaking mess. Not sure for other users but the very last element that loads for me on a product page is the Add to Cart call to action! Yeah, why would you want that to load early? I actually used to use there site for what to “do” with an ecommerce site….looks liek they gone all the way over to deep in the “don’t” column. BTW, what the hell is going on with the home page? Was it designed exclusively for the visually imparired? Giant text and images, a home page that scrolls abou 10 screen heights, and navigation that is virtually invisible.

Brian LaFrance

Yeah. I’m pretty sure we could spend an obscene amount of time finding more and more issues. I keep going back and finding more issues. It’s like watching a train wreck. :)

Katie

I agree with you on the home page – I am not a web designer but just as a consumer was very turned off by the fact that there were many sections that you had to scroll down to see and large text.

Watkins

According to Alexa.com, Target’s bounce rate is up 7%, pageviews per user is down 14%, and traffic from search is down 9%…in the last week! Ouch. Now in Target’s defense, they had AdSense on their Amazon site and they make a crapload of money on paid ads. They’re a for-profit company, and Adsense is sheer profits. As for how they screwed up this bad, one thing to consider: all development work was sent to India. Please note: this isn’t a racist comment – Indians are great…for help desk and telemarketing. But when you’re trying to build a world-class ecommerce website, maybe using the cheapest labor available is NOT the best strategy. In the end, all of that money Target “saved” by outsourcing to India will be spent rebuilding their website and their brand. Just sayin’.

Ash Nallawalla

Watkins, I agree with your comments about India (despite being born there). The Indians who code these sites and who work in testing roles are mostly 2-4 years out of college. They are *textbook* coders, i.e. there is a “website” at the end of the project, but don’t expect search friendly features unless you spell out what that looks like. The code is usually Java and there could be portlets in the design. Each page view might generate a new URL for the same page, until you point out why this is not a brilliant idea and how to fix it. Some of these enterprise platforms (even the new ones) cannot be fixed except with a complete re-code.

Their managers have 5-10 years’ experience working in that sheltered environment. It is safe to say that none of them have ever had to solve an SEO challenge and the few who have heard of SEO probably think it is all about “meta tags”.

Blame the US corporations who have major development centres in India. Granted that labour is cheap, but the real issue is a lack of awareness at senior levels in those companies, or else there would be killer platforms a-plenty. I don’t hold out hope for such awareness to strike them anytime soon, because it is all about costs.

Unless an enlightened customer knows how to specify their requirements, the vendors will not change. Requirements are often written by BAs (contractors), not in-house people, so their work should be double-checked.

The cynical explanation of the above is that it is better to sell a vanilla platform, then charge more to any customer who wants “customisation”. Keep repeating it at every new customer — makes the vendor more money, so why not?

Jaimie Sirovich

I find that, with few exceptions, outsourced labor in India requires exact specifications. You get exactly what you ask for—and if it’s vague, you get something that meets the specification, but won’t exceed it. Nobody reads between the lines. If there’s nothing about SEM, you’ll have to call someone like me to tell you that it’s going to cost another 10K to fix it.

It’s very difficult to write SEM into a specification, because it involves writing ridiculous-looking minutiae (to anyone who isn’t an SEO) regarding how URLs are constructed, whether they’re constructed consistently, etc. It involves some math, too—and naive programmers won’t see an n-factorial in a URL, either.

So let’s just say our platform keeps URLs clean, canonicalizes duplicate content when it’s possible, excludes it when that’s impossible (it does). Not surprisingly (@Ash), nobody understands or appreciates the difference, so I wonder if we should just wait for SEO teams to complain, and then bill to ‘add SEO.’ Then again, that’s rarely really possible anyway.

Here’s an interesting data point, though:
http://www.target.com/c/electronics-home-phoXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXnes/-/N-5xtdc

They had to redirect that on purpose. Very few web sites ‘assert’ URLs like that based on the ID (which I presume is somewhere in N-5xtdc). Someone thought—a little?

The paradox is this:

Outsourcing works poorly for small programming projects (it works well for rote work, but not code in my observations).

… but large projects are for large companies that should be risk-averse and more concerned about quality than costs, and need to be maintained over many, many years.

Outsourcing definitely adds some risk.

Brian LaFrance

Seems like it’s actually giving inconsistent headers. Here’s what I get from a couple different tools that I usually use –

#1 Server Response: http://www.target.com/c/electronics-home-phoXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXnes/-/N-5xtdc
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Server: Apache
ETag: “11a4f2e90e3ee2dc3772158d8be2b63a:1314054086″
Last-Modified: Mon, 22 Aug 2011 23:01:26 GMT
Content-Type: text/html
Expires: Sat, 03 Sep 2011 18:05:32 GMT
Cache-Control: max-age=0, no-cache, no-store
Pragma: no-cache
Date: Sat, 03 Sep 2011 18:05:32 GMT
Connection: keep-alive
Set-Cookie: tgtakalb=failover; path=/; domain=target.com

Response

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
CACHED_RESPONSE: true
Content-Type: text/html;charset=UTF-8
Content-Language: en-US
Expires: Sat, 03 Sep 2011 18:12:04 GMT
Cache-Control: max-age=0, no-cache
Pragma: no-cache
Date: Sat, 03 Sep 2011 18:12:04 GMT
Transfer-Encoding: chunked
Connection: keep-alive
Connection: Transfer-Encoding
Set-Cookie: testGroupNameCookie=D; Expires=Sun, 21-Aug-61 18:12:04 GMT; Path=/; Domain=.target.com
Set-Cookie: JSESSIONID=0000hEnwKGckjm3jVCmyaM6Tm9t:02m3136; Path=/; Domain=.target.com
Set-Cookie: WC_PERSISTENT=9fDOndklIxXhHvP3K6blSHentRw%3d%0a%3b2011%2d09%2d03+18%3a12%3a04%2e815%5f1315073524815%2d10595%5f0; Expires=Sun, 02-Sep-12 18:12:04 GMT; Path=/; Domain=.target.com
Set-Cookie: tgtakalb=pky;path=/;domain=target.com;
Set-Cookie: akaau=1315073824~id=ed0129977d0603cb0ccd47814aa5a23b; path=/

Here’s what I get with another tool –

HTTP/1.0 302 Moved Temporarily
Location: http://www.target.com/c/electronics-home
-phones/-/N-5xtdc
Content-Length: 0
Content-Type: text/plain
Content-Language: en-US
Expires: Sat, 03 Sep 2011 18:09:06 GMT
Cache-Control: max-age=0, no-cache, no-store
Pragma: no-cache
Date: Sat, 03 Sep 2011 18:09:06 GMT
Connection: close
Set-Cookie: testGroupNameCookie=C; Expires=Sun, 21
-Aug-61 18:09:05 GMT; Path=/; Domain=.target.com
Set-Cookie: JSESSIONID=0000b23iKh_3uco8U7DYu8pUklx
:02h3010; Path=/; Domain=.target.com
Set-Cookie: tgtakalb=scs;path=/;domain=target.com;
Set-Cookie: akaau=1315073646~id=4da74ff01a1b565dfe
df677228f5948b; path=/

…and if I check it as though I’m coming from a mobile device –

HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently
Server: AkamaiGHost
Content-Length: 0
Location: http://sites.target.com/site/en/spot/mobile.jsp
Expires: Sat, 03 Sep 2011 18:10:36 GMT
Cache-Control: max-age=0, no-cache
Pragma: no-cache
Date: Sat, 03 Sep 2011 18:10:36 GMT
Connection: keep-alive
Set-Cookie: akaau=1315073736~id=20b6c68476da34a1b09a998f8b055772; path=/

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Sat, 03 Sep 2011 18:10:36 GMT
Server: IBM_HTTP_Server
Pragma: no-cache
Cache-Control: no-cache
Expires: Tue, 04 Dec 1993 21:29:02 GMT
Set-Cookie: JSESSIONID=0000-QUPF94Cbheirp2jYiz8xm1:13s007g1h; Path=/
X-ATG-Version: UNKNOWN [ DPSLicense/0 ]
Keep-Alive: timeout=15, max=100
Connection: Keep-Alive
Transfer-Encoding: chunked
Content-Type: text/html;charset=ISO-8859-1
Content-Language: en-US

Richard Wills

I agree with you Ash. What will happen out of this mess is that a whole lot of low level flunkies and employees will be terminated with predjudice. The senior management, who are totally incompetent at advanced technology and how to make it work, will at the worse, be laterally sideline to salve their egos. The top management will either be rewarded with promotions or at worse a golden parachute.

Sitting behind a big desk, playing golf with the CEO or Directors, belonging to the “correct: fraternity, does not render a single, inbred, inheritor of the wealth of pirates, competent to make decisions about technology.

craig sullivan

Yes – but the problem with ads is this. If you’re business model is to make profit off someone elses business model, which is to make a profit off someone else through advertising then why are you selling stuff on your site? Go make a trafficking site or buy a domain marketplace.

A well crafted site will always make more money if carefully tuned than a bunch of adsense adverts. Once you let this dominate, it sucks at the very heart of your product because you can’t monetise your core business, and if unchecked, can dominate and destroy it,

Streamline

I agree with you 100%, especially when it comes to SEO. Obviously since Target.com is a huge and authoritative website, they tend to rank very well in the SERPs for various products and product categories. However, over the past week, I’ve noticed the new pages popping up in the Google index and replacing the old pages. Today I came across one such example and couldn’t believe what I was seeing:

A Google search for “ping pong table” returns this Target search results page in the 10th position – http://www.target.com/s/ping-pong-table. As of today, that page displays exactly zero ping pong tables and the gigantic error message “Sorry, we couldn’t find a match for “ping-pong-table.” On top of that, the page has the meta robots tag “index, follow” and returns a 200 OK Response Header. Unless they have SEOs actively working on the site, I would not be surprised if Target’s organic traffic takes a beating as the search engines drop these kinds of poor quality pages from their results. Unfreakingbelievable!

MadDog

Wow, how insightful you are Brian. You have obviously NEVER developed an eCommerce site, nor worked at a large company – as I’m assuming Target is. As I read through some of your other commentaries, I understand better your basic outlook on most things – you seem to be an expert on everything. I tend to stay away from those types of people; mainly because it’s only in thier minds.

Wow.

Brian LaFrance

Let’s see…I’ve built dozens of ecommerce sites. I’ve worked for Allied Signal/Honeywell (not sure if that’s big enough for you). Basic outlook? No. As Rob says below, there’s no excuse for Target to suck as bad as they do. If management can’t control the situation, they should all be fired. I’m sure you’re probably employed by one of the 20 or so technology providers that botched this or possibly an employee of Target. Either way, you’re clearly incompetent because you say you’re staying away from people that are smarter than you are. Good move. You’d probably just make yourself look more of a fool.

Alan Bleiweiss

MadDog

You’re high. I’ve managed multi-million dollar builds on ecommerce web sites for some of the biggest brands on earth prior to shifting focus on world class SEO. Brian’s article is SPOT ON. YOU clearly have no clue how to comprehend User Experience, and, rather than offering anything of value to this discussion, purely chose an attack mode on the writer.

Rob Woods

@maddog. Work at Target do we??? I’ve done both – developed very successful ecommerce sites and worked at large companies. Working at a large company is no excuse for putting out an inferior product. The new site is a mess and I’d lay odds it changes, and soon, when the numbers start rolling in on usage and conversion.

Mike Halvorsen

@MadDog (I mean Michael Kelly from Minneapolis, MN 612-304-1179) —

You should probably listen to what we have to say and take the criticism as free advice. Brian LaFrance, Rob Woods, and myself actually are what you would call experts, but not at all in the sense that you are an “expert”. The new Target website wreaks of a poorly managed project that was rushed out the door. While that may not be a fair judgement because it may have actually been something that you spent a lot of time on, we experts would have never signed off on what appears to be a pile of crap your dog mascot Bullseye left behind.

When you defend yourself by trying to call attention to us, you fail to see what we’ve really done here. This is an opportunity for you to fix these issues. Brian basically QA’d the new Target site for free. If anything, he should send the Target management a bill for the time he spent and ask that you all be fired.

Listen to us. We actually know what we’re talking about. We’re not your average Joes. We’re some of the most powerful people on the Internet. Considering how important web searches have become, you guys have the opportunity to dominate the search engines or to fail miserably. It’s up to you Michael Kelly (I mean MadDog). Take our advice and make something happen.

leah lloyd

Brian and Mike…Mad Dog thinks he is right as he must be involved in the delivery of other poor projects. I am Indian and have been working in the software industry from 12 years and been with Infosys , Fannie Mae and a couple of others. The Indian developers here are mostly straight from college and do not even have the right attitude towards putting in a decent amount of effort to get their requirements correct. It’s not like they tried and got it wrong… they just do not even try. I find their work ethics quite interesting… and also their huge pay packets… for sitting around and chatting with their colleagues, spending most of their work hours in the coffee room and out at lunch. Also, they write sloppy emails with grammatical errors. Also these same folks write one line emails with grammatical errors. They never get a projector to talk about their plan or even use the white board to draw a diagram to represent flow or interaction of systems… and of course there is no documentation (end result is products like Targets’ website)… if there was, then how do the other full time Indian SMEs keep their jobs forever and ever… that is if they documented the business processes for all to learn.

netmeg

I (another ecommerce “expert”) could take some time to rip even more of this site to shreds, but what’s the point? Its clientele will take care of that nicely.

I do, however, really like the dog.

Jose

this post and thread are hilarious… Here’s more wood for this fire:

* Error pages return HTTP Status 200 OK
* Seems error pages are not being tracked (most of the site seems to be tracked with SiteCatalyst)

Brian LaFrance

Haha…yup. Soooo much wrong with with it. I gave up on looking at it before checking the error pages. Good find :)

Alan Bleiweiss

OH HOLY CRAP. So Michael Kelly ( MadDog) is actually a Senior Architecture Consultant with Target Corporation in Minneapolis. Or is the name, city, and the fact that this is a post about Target all a coincidence?

Jeffrey Eisenberg

From the conversion rate optimization perspective it’s just as poorly designed. In just a few minutes I found over a dozen major issues; don’t get me started. You guys were nice enough to work for free and MadDog doesn’t seem to appreciate it. I tweeted this post, with a #cro hashtag,explaining that top sites convert at 15%+, average sites ~3%. There’s that wide a difference despite the information about how to create and optimize e-commerce correctly easily available.

Alan Bleiweiss

Excellent point Jeffrey. It’s not like information isn’t widely available that could have allowed Target to actually get at least half their problems right without hiring professional consultants specific to SEO or CRO. Except their engineering team is clearly inept, myopic and arrogant.

DWcourse

MadDog, it was a bit stupid to make a Target of yourself like that.

I, by the way, am not an e-commerce expert and don’t work for or with giant corporations but I know enough to know that the folks in this thread (with one exception – that being you) know what they’re talking about.

Jaimie Sirovich

Whoever says Target.com’s relaunch is a *total* failure is missing a few things. And, no, I don’t work for Target, either. Here’s what you’re missing about this whole fiasco:

1. I see lots of usability problems too, but it’s either launch now or wait until next Christmas.

2. There are lots of things they’ve done right, including product grouping. Amazon’s platform doesn’t do it right, incidentally, and I can show you plenty of bugs on Endless.com. Apparel is a big piece of Target, so doing that right is key. The only enterprise platform that can do product grouping correctly for both unstructured and structured queries is Endeca to my knowledge. Amazon’s can’t (I can show you very annoying bugs). FredHopper can’t (ditto). EasyAsk doesn’t appear to (see Landsend for a major fail when you filter by color).

3. The stuff about validation is boring. And almost every successful web site I’ve seen *still* ‘abuses’ tables. I saw lots of unescaped stuff as well. I know, stupid, but it’s not the end of the world. Of course things like that make me wonder if the site has security issues.

4. Of course Google’s SERPs for site:target.com are going to be screwy. Forget this one. It will shake out. Amazon’s platform is not terribly SE-friendly in any incarnation I’ve seen. I’m pretty sure there was a big fat 302 on the homepage for years, and that could cause some interesting SERPs.

5 . RE: “I don’t see how a company that lets this kind of mess happen can survive for more than a few more years.” It’s pretty clear Target has a history of partnering instead of developing in-house. They needed to jump ship from Amazon, and, knowing that, I think you should understand why they’d show some growing pains. For a company that never had a real development team, I could see worse.

6. RE: “It’s no wonder they’re getting their butt kicked by Walmart.” Target uses the same underlying technology as Walmart does now — Endeca. They can do anything they can do, within reason. Can’t beat them? Join them.

I just don’t see the need to flame them. Check back in 30 days. I’m sure the stupid stuff like OOS items at the top will be fixed. It’s clear Endeca can do this. It’s just a matter of getting the data to the right places from the right places. That can be tough.

My 2c. Getting stuff done sometimes requires throwing it out there. I saw stupid escaping issues too. All I can say is *shrug*, it renders. The OOS stuff is a real embarrassment. I agree. Your criticisms are valid, but I think Target will shake these bugs off in 30 days. The AdSense stuff always puzzles me, but they’re not the only ones doing this.

Want to see a terrible UX fiasco? Look at Buy.com. They make Target.com look great.

Brian LaFrance

You’re actually the first person on the page to use the word “total” in regards to the failure. Not that some of us don’t think it :P

In regards to your points,

1. They’ve had over 2 years to get it this far. That’s plenty of time to get it right. Most of these issues are so basic that they should have been right from the start.

2. So the lesson is, someone needs to build a better platform. Most ecommerce platforms are built by people that have no business making decisions on how they should be built. I’ll admit that I was guilty of that on the first couple ecommerce sites I built almost 10 years ago. Things really haven’t changed all that much since then and it’s sad.

3. Validation may be boring but just because other sites don’t pay attention to it doesn’t mean that not writing valid code is acceptable. Most of the validation issues on their page are lazy. There’s no acceptable reason to be that lazy about writing code and running the risk of crawl issues, display issues, or accessibility issues.

4. “Forget this one. It will shake out.” – Seriously? Live in denial much? Their essentially spamming Google. Google flat out says that they don’t want to see search result pages listed in their search results. Well…guess what Target is filling Google with…search results. Complete architecture fail.

5. They have a history of bad business decisions and the market is becoming less and less tolerant of that. This was just another bad decision and a large scale one at that.

6. Walmart’s site isn’t perfect either, but Walmart has a much better history of making reasonable decisions. Target had the opportunity to kick ass with this. Unfortunately, they spent the past 2+ years taking a huge, steaming crap on themselves. At least error pages on Walmart.com throw a 404.

You may consider this flaming, but when something warrants it, there needs to be a little ass chewing. The tips in this post & comments are priceless if people just pay attention and think about the basics.

As far as Endeca goes, it does seem to be a poor platform itself. They advertise it as having features for SEO but apparently it sucks horribly out of the box at it. They’re not innocent in this whole mess either.

RE: *shrug* it renders. I’ve seen numerous pages that didn’t render correctly on initial load since writing this. It’s just sad to see that a group of people care so little about quality of their product that something like this could be taken live. It’s just obscene.

Thank you for the feedback though…definitely some stuff to consider in some situations. I just think that Target has been working on this long enough that it shouldn’t be this bad at this point.

Oh…and their site has been down for the past hour for me now…how amazing is that? :D

Ash Nallawalla

At Pubcon this November I hope to mention this post as another example of difficulties large sites face. The challenges are usually:

* Underlying issues — we see just the website, but we don’t know the infrastructure behind it that might be the real problem they are fixing, leaving too little budget for the website.

* Shrinking budget — infrastructure projects invariably run well over budget, at least in Australia, so the program managers look for corners to cut. I suspect that the website is regarded as a corner that can withstand such cuts. There is probably a long list of defects with higher severity scores than this “SEO stuff”. As others have noted, target.com has sufficient TrustRank to recover in the SERPs.

* Separation of church and state, er SEO versus Infrastructure Project. I would expect that Target has at least one in-house SEO, but I doubt if they have any meaningful voice in this. If they do, they were probably presented with the ecommerce platform as a fait accompli and told there is no budget to fix the SEO stuff. Some of those “new” platforms still do not speak RSS or rel=”canonical”, for instance, and there is no scope to influence what is effectively a third-party product.

* Lack of corporate memory. Stuff like: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/targetcom-sued-over-lack-of-alt-tags/2922/ — I still see a lot of missing Alt text in the new site. Google shows me the resume of at least one person who worked on their accessibility since then. Looks like his good work was wiped.

Rob Woods

Hi Jaimie,

A couple of points. The search results being indexed is basic bush-league SEO stuff. They either didn’t listen to their SEO or just didn’t care. The site is a mess SEO -wise, and usability-wise. If it meant waiting until after Christmas they should have done it rather than rush a poor product out the door to hit a deadline. If hitting the deadline means making your site suck, then someone should have had the stones to step up and say “this site isn’t better for our customers, so we aren’t launching it”.

We aren’t flaming them. This is basic stuff that anyone launching the site just should have known better.

I’m sorry but… “Of course Google’s SERPs for site:target.com are going to be screwy”. Why of course? Is it a given that the SEO, architecture, and crawlability of a site will be a mess?

Second, you can’t lay this mess at Endeca’s door. They are a great platform for pulling data out of a database or multiple databases and, yes, they are a mess for SEO but any SEO worth their salt would never let a site like this, Endeca or not, out the door, or at least if they did try to fix it their superior should have listened. I’ve project managed Endeca implementations before, modified them so they are actually SEO friendly, and even spoken at Endeca’s conferences so I know the platform. Great for navigation, search, and merchandizing, but not for SEO, but if you have a basic grasp of IA and SEO, you would never let Endeca lead to the hot mess that is the new Target site.

Jaimie Sirovich

@Rob,

Realistically speaking, how many big firms get the SEO right? I can’t list too many. I know, unfortunate, but true. Esp. with faceted navigation, SEO gets tricky. I’ve been working on that for years. See http://www.seomoz.org/blog/building-faceted-navigation-that-doesnt-suck — one of our projects was cited.

My point about the SERPs was that any time I’ve seen a huge site change platforms, stuff goes awry. I haven’t examined their site architecture regarding SEO, but I was saying that the home page not being #1 could be a pretty normal thing. Any site with millions of pages that 404, 301, 302 all over the place is going to do that. That said, I doubt they did their 301-homework.

I’m not blaming Endeca at all. Endeca’s great. I find their technology drives many of the most successful sites, despite the grand claims of other search technology providers, Endeca-based sites tend to be the best, and they’re pretty much the only ones that get “browsable facet” navigation (http://uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2011/08/categories-facetsand-browsable-facets.php) right.

I think they’ll be a lot better in 30 days. I’m not as cynical as you are. Target had a hard job because they depended on Amazon for so long. That, in and of itself, was stupid. But like I said, they had to take the plunge at some point.

Brian LaFrance

This isn’t about getting it right or getting it perfect from an SEO standpoint. It’s about not completely screwing up and getting it very, very wrong. There are so many basic things that most SEO firms would never do that are wrong with this site. It really does seem like there is nobody over there that had any kind of SEO input during development.

Jaimie Sirovich

I’m not sure they really get it much more wrong than any other major retailer. Macys has a google-ajax (#!) spider trap, B&H excludes long-tail completely, J&R attempts to canonicalize a spider trap.

TBH, almost nobody actually implements Endeca’s SEO recommendations or uses their landing page module. We have our own platform, and I can tell you from experience that most faceted navigation-enabled web sites do it entirely wrong—we do it right, but it’s tough. We’re not an enterprise platform, however; we do SMBs.

There’s a lot to do: canonicalize manageable duplicate content, exclude the spider traps, send the right headers, etc. At least they avoided a spider trap with regard to faceted navigation.

I can’t say I agree with those who say excluding search pages entirely is a good idea. Yes, Matt Cutts said it, but he’s not the God of SEOs. I see plenty of search pages that are obviously search pages indexed. By obvious, I mean stuff like /Search.php?search=foo+bar. You can’t get much more obvious than that. Realistically speaking, a common query with relevant results is not something Google should despise. SLI and Nextopia brag about their “SEO” modules that do just that.

If they really wanted them gone, they wouldn’t index them. Our landing page module supports creating landing pages out of any combination of category, facet(s), and search query. I prefer structured search, but people wanted us to support unstructured search. And they rank. My 2c.

Laurie

From someone who has no techincal background at all, and just wanted to shop Target’s website…It sucks. I’ve been trying to get on for 2 hours and just keep getting error messages. I stumbled upon this board trying to figure out why I’m having the problem. I believe I’m an average Target consumer, and no matter what the technical issues are behind the website problems, ultimately, they’re losing sales because the site is simply unavailable.

Brian LaFrance

Hey Laurie,

Thanks for the feedback. Always nice to hear from a typical user that’s not embedded in the industry. Hopefully you’ll get your shopping done soon :)

Ash Nallawalla

Is http://www.target.com down, or is this error trying to tell me I am not in the US?

Internal Server Error – Read
The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request.

Reference #3.35ea8acf.1315019608.b0234c9

Anyway, I agree with the points made here. I have worked on a few enterprise web projects and can say that the in-house SEO (or closest equivalent) was not invited to help design the solution. The big software vendors and integrators are expert at cultivating the leadership team and getting deals signed before low-level folks hear about it. The website belongs to Marketing, yet I’d love to hear about any EVP Marketing who questioned a technical website solution presented by an IT EVP. IT merely needs to breathe the word “security” to silence any questions, then point to a vendor who apparently ticks all the boxes (“search engine friendly” is never in those checklists).

On the plus side, corporate technical ineptitude keeps us SEO consultants employed and allows the little webmasters to compete with the big sites. Please don’t educate them too much. ;)

Brian LaFrance

Hey Ash,

Good to see you here :)

The site has been up and down all night from the US as well. I’ve been seeing random errors as well as different pages with different messages about the site being unavailable. It’s almost at the point where I could create a whole gallery of the errors.

You’re exactly right on the software vendors and the influence they have on the decisions. It’s really too bad that there aren’t enough savvy people in leadership to make proper decisions.

Very true on the competition aspect of things. I promise I won’t educate them too much :D

Jaimie Sirovich

You hit the nail on the head with ‘ticking all the boxes.’ That’s exactly how it happens. I try to explain to people how IA+SEO are interconnected, and it always falls on deaf ears. It’s not *just* marketing vs. IT or any department vs. any other department.

Many departments think they can just add ‘that SEO stuff’ later; they don’t understand what’s involved. So they trust any product, platform, or team that says ‘we-haz-SEO-mmkay.’ Everyone claims they do. It may be true, or they may slap some keywords in the URL and said done!

It’s depressing. SEO has to be considered with any IA decision. It can’t be an afterthought, but it usually is.

Lauren

I totally agree with Brian, Rob and Jeffery.

This website has some serious issues. Doing something as simple as a scorecard by comparing platforms and content management systems for example is imperative as each have their own weaknesses and strengths. Some are great for data pulling, others good for SEO etc. From that you can choose a solution which addresses all your requirements. I have seen so many e commerce sites fail and it comes down to poor management, experience and skills to implement the best solution for the business. But I also have a little sympathy, it’s a massive task creating an ecommerce strategy and implementing it, and that’s why I also believe brands need to think very clearly before choosing the cheaper outsourced option.

I wish target all the best but I have a funny feeling they will have a few sleepless nights ahead of them.

Kush A.

It seems that their mobile site is broken too. Select “shop your weekly ad online now”, enter zip and one of the categories and it defaults back to zip code.

Adsense on an eCommerce is a terrible idea… Just ask your affiliates about it Target.

@Brian LaFrance If you ever feel like writing one of these articles about our site please feel free – I would be grateful :)

MrsBeanz

Ok Target since your new site truely SUX, I’m gonna havvta go shop @ Walmart – their site is just fine.

NoWay

How do you expect SapientNitro and Infosys to work together? They are historical competitors. IBM is just as good as their partners, i.e., if you are going to implement an IBM solution get a partner that has experience instead of IBM themselves.

From what I have seen of their work in the past few years and the amount of award winning South-American creatives they have been acquiring, SapientNitro would have dealt with the whole thing including the design much more efficiently.

As to the design, what a HUGE failure that is.

megan

Yea i’m pissed. I had a baby registry and it suddenly disappeared once they changed their site! And now their website won’t even load for me.

Katie

Same for me – I can’t get into my registry when the site is working, and that’s not often either.

SB

I do have a criticism of the launch but first let’s get a couple things straight.

1) 2 years is certainly NOT “a long time”. I’m not going to get into specifics, but moving off the Amazon platform and eCommerce business model is not a trivial task, and it’s an effort that goes far beyond technology. I get the impression reading the reaction to the launch here and elsewhere that people have the myopic impression that they had all the time in the world to do this. That is just not so.

2) Based on Amazon’s history (and I won’t get into specifics) with such endeavours I doubt that moving the launch date was an option. I’ll leave it at that. Let’s just say the consequences for missing this deadline would have been devastating.

3) I have no idea why Adsense ads are still there (they were on the Amazon powered version of this site), but I’m sure Target has a good reason for it. I don’t see any point second guessing them for this business decision.

Is the site perfect right now? Of course not. The downtime is a big problem among other things. But I expect things to improve over the coming weeks, as has already been stated.

Now with all of that said…
IMO, the real problem I have with the launch is that I think customers and their data should have been supported a lot better. When people are in the dark about what happened to their order information or registry data (the latter being a big problem if you’re close to your event)… and all they’re told on the site and on social media channels is to call and then put on hold for an hour or two- and in many instances forced to recreate their registry – then there are issues. Lesson learned for any e-retailer looking to upgrade their platform.

Elan

The lack of support for customers is a huge issue. My wife recently tried to return some items ordered off of target.com by going to the local Target store and had to make several trips, waiting for hours each time in order to make the return. The key issue was that she couldn’t print out an actual receipt for the items because (a) the receipt was not sent out at the time of the purchase, (b) she couldn’t log on to her account at Target.com because her password was no longer accepted, and (c) the website returned an error when she tried to reset and change her password. When we finally got a manager to get our refund for us, he explained that the new website couldn’t process the old order number format (we made these purchases in mid-July), so he had to look up each of the items that we purchased to get the right price and then use some override code in order to refund the money directly onto our credit card. The manager told us that they’ve been swamped with similar customer service problems arising from the new website, and he said that he recommends that people just go to Amazon.com instead of dealing with Target.com.

Ben Cline

I agree with many points listed in this article. Too many hands in the pot is probably the biggest failure when it comes to a site like this. But I can honestly sympathize with this kind of failure. It happens all too often. When every individual remotely involved in a project wants to leave their mark, it ends up being a colossal mess.

While there are a few issues with the visual design, I do like the design direction as a whole. Many visual improvements probably got lost in translation due to what I mentioned above.

The development execution is poor. The budget for the entire site was probably eaten away in the first year due to hundreds of hours of meetings where decisions weren’t being made in a timely manner. When the budget gets swallowed up due to these kinds of ineffeciences, the execution time gets rushed for the agencies & vendors.

The mark-up complaint is overrated. Every developer I know wants proper mark-up. When you’re out of time & money….. The project still has to ship. It is what it is. The developers rarely if ever get the time they want to clean things up.

There are always multiple sides to a story and we’ll never know exactly went on during this project. While there could’ve been some bad apples in the mix, more than likely there were just too many people with different agendas.

The good news: with some work, they can improve the existing site.

46Zone

Good initial review Brian. I’ve not taken a look myself — just assuming the site is down.

As for “Mad Dog”. If he DOES work for this company — his attitude of not seeing obvious help, best practice guidance and general lack of knowledge may be telling at how the client’s middle management are NOT driving their dev team correctly.

Other insights and feedback regarding fully developed specifications are dead on. You really can’t save money on development costs by offshoring anywhere. A remote team – who lack the access to the decision makers will suffer if the specifications aren’t 100%. And they never are. Designs from 2 years ago are stale

And that these specifications must also serve to fully educate the decision makers on what is being decided. That’s where having middle managers who have degrees from Mining schools (see link above) who THEN stroke their own ego due to their working for a well known branded company, can bite you. A poor decision baked into a specification needs to have adequate disclosure of the consequences.

Too often — clients drag out requirements sessions and chew up budget and time. These go long – never seem to require all-night or weekend time. These folks usually punch out for the day @ 5 PM and tend to eat lunch (not at their desk or at 3 PM).

The deadlines on shipping the product, however, tend to remain fixed. Leaving a development team scrambling to catch up. Generally resulting with “cannon fodder” developers being pulled and thrown at bodies of work. These dudes are usually the less experienced sort who overwhelm the few (maybe) knowledge developers might know what their doing. These guys work hundred hour weeks …don’t see their families… guzzle Red Bull. All to hit the date. Thanks for the slippage on the req side.

They likely shipped this turd in time for X-mas 2011 (just missing back-to-school). Everything is based on these calendars for retail. That they kicked it out of the nest far too soon is a lack of respect for their customers. A penalty the consumer will impose ( and already seems to have begun doing so).

Marketing will feel the pinch an try to send sales and offers once the site is stable I’d wager…

The Middle managers at the client need to have the knowledge to do their job responsibility. They need the support from upper mgmt that a vote of no confidence is sometimes NOT the wrong call.

If MadDog is one of these dudes and his attacking of Brian’s kind feedback is any indication of the middle managers @ Target’s attitude…. This site will just limp along. 30 days might be a bit better…but they will be hitting a Code Freeze for x-mas soon.

A lot of the coders are going to remain in overdrive for several weeks to come. And internally — the middle managers will throw the developers under the bus.

SapientNitro — who are also a massive organization — need their own heads examined on their model. This approach never works well.

It is sad Target got it so wrong. They likely cut budget and they insult their clients with a crap offering. Sad. And only too common. more sad. (or funny).

Jason Day

I work as a web developer for a major U.S. retailer, and this isn’t uncommon. If you put our code through a validator, you will end up with hundreds of errors. This is largely due to the process and timeline. For example, I am given a project that specifies what is in/out of scope. So I can’t redo the entire page, even if there are issues – I can only touch the specified areas. After developing the code, it then gets consumed by offshore IBM for jsp development and they kill the code – demolish it. It then goes to QA, and I have to fix all of their breaks, and put in hacks to make it all work. During QA, the issues are labeled showstoppers, very important, important, and so on. Showstoppers are the only things that have to be fixed before a deploy, the rest can be addressed in a cleanup launch. This is fairly typical in a large environment. In the target example, they had a timeline, budget, etc. that they will adhere to even if it has errors. It’s not the correct way of doing things, but with project managers and business owners running the show, the timeline is king.

Felix

I got asked if I wanted to help with a site satisfaction survey, I was really looking forward to giving some feedback…

Please leave this window open.

This is part of the customer satisfaction survey you agreed to take on this site. Thank you for helping us improve your website experience.

Continue to browse the site as you normally would. Once you are finished with your site visit, the survey will appear.

This survey is conducted by an independent company, ForeSee Results.

Copyright 2011 – all rights reserved
ForeSee Results Privacy Survey Support

At the end of my browsing, nothing happened, great survey idiots

Scott Bauer

Target sure has missed the mark. It is really all over the place. You can clearly see they have zero domain experts, even with that list of vendor partners. From category ontology, to IA, to the simple management of page titles and content it is very poor. It looks like the content was put up as an after thought. The faceted navigation is one of the worst I have seen, pumping out so many duplicate pages. Pick any area in which you benchmark a set of good practices when building an ecommerce website and Target.com comes up short. Talk about hurting your own on-site reputation, they’ve done it.

Leslie

I have always loved Target- I even worked there one Christmas when I was in college. I’ve been shopping there since the late 1970s when I was a kid…but it seems like they’re trying to run me off. While WalMart shopping is a hideous experience in every way- at least they are customer friendly for the most part. Everything to do with customer service at Target is a frigging nightmare. Seven months pregnant, I was made to wait for 30 minutes, no chair offered, as they tried to straighten out a return from my registry for which I HAD THE F&^%ING RECEIPT. Now that I’m getting married, nothing on my registry works. Just trying to pick items at the store with the scanner gun sucked- it took about 20 seconds for each scan to load…I thought it was going to be a fun experience- adding items to the registry…but instead Target turned it into an irritating, tiring ordeal. Now I can’t use their website. They sent me a coupon for 20% off to make up for the fact that their website doesn’t work- but GUESS WHAT? You got it, their f&^%$ing website doesn’t work…and the hyperlinks from the email with the coupon don’t work either…NOTHING &^%$ING WORKS- TARGET: YOU SUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i AM GOING TO TELL EVERYONE I KNOW NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, *&^%ING EVER START A TARGET REGISTRY FOR ANY REASON. Walmart is disgusting, so just go to a decent department store and set things up…Target- I used to love you, but you made me hate you.

angie

Leslie, I am in the same boat as you…I just had my baby last week and need to return an item. I went to the store with the email confirmation (with order #) and a copy of my registry, but they could not pull up the order in their system using any of these things – they said they needed a receipt with a barcode on it printed from Target.com

Well guess what…Target.com is FUBAR and I cannot pull up my orders. It says “you do not have authority to view this order” – really, Target?!!!

How did you contact them about your issues? I can’t submit an issue through their “contact us” page – guess what, it is not working either (gives an error saying “enter valid comments” — almost insulting at this point).

I am about to be beyond the return period, too, so I do not know what to do. The people at the store were helpless, can’t get through to Target.com.

I am beyond pissed.

Any ideas?!!

Elan

Angie, see my other comment for our experience. We were lucky enough to find a manager at our local Target who could actually get things done. They also told us that they were told that Target.com would work through the problems with the website in a few weeks, but that doesn’t really help you if they’re going to be sticklers about the return period.

Heather

I am counting the dollar signs flashing before my eyes as they swirl down the toilet… Target is losing a ton of money and the loyalty of long-time customers. I was in the same boat as y’all… have a baby registry that mysteriously disappeared, asked to update/reset the password, and eventually lost everything in my registry. Now, people who purchase items off my registry are complaining to me that the item they ordered and purchased does not match the item on my registry. I cannot imagine the headache in store for me when I attempt to rectify this next week. *sigh*

Sarah Urban

Bingo. Target has made me hate it because it’s turned into Walmart. And I can’t even f-ing tell them because the “contact us” about “store experience” doesn’t even work. Anything you type in the box is flagged as not being a “valid question or comment.”

Leslie

Angie, I wish I could help you…but I think the problem is that- because their web site doesn’t work properly, you don’t have a hope of getting through to customer service on the phone. I know- I tried and was hold so long that I finally gave up. The only possible thing I can think of to do is to find out how to contact their CEO and try that. Often, you get a better response when you go straight to the top- as long as you are willing to wait a bit…Good luck!!!

Leslie

I just want to add that their coupon that is impossible to redeem has spelling errors in it. Way to exhibit your professionalism Target…you have hit rock bottom as far as credibility goes.

Dennis

I can’t even access target.com now. It says my browser is not supported and to install IE8 (among others). I know I have IE8. I guess it’s just as well that I can’t.

Rick

Do you really think as a shopper I care about SEO or HTML validation failure or the pages showing me Google Ad’s or error pages returning a 200 response or some character encoding errors or the site not being available at midnight because they are down for maintenance or the site being developed in India or at Home? Or even if there are 20000 vendors were involved in putting it together? Hell no….

All I care about is beautifully structured easy to find and navigate pages and I pretty much like the eye candy I see there.

IMO It’s the most beautiful clutter free experience which is remarkable and sets it apart from the rest.

Brian LaFrance

I take it you were on Target’s design team…

If you think this post was all about the shoppers, you’re pretty dense. While many of the issues do have bearing on the shopper’s experience (dumb javascript alerts, out of stock items listed first), the post never claimed it was all about that. You’re one of the first people I’ve heard from that actually thinks the design looks okay. Most people think it looks ridiculous. Heck, the thing has issues rendering half the time for people.

And as far as “not being available at midnight” …the site has been down at 3 o’clock in the afternoon at least twice in the past week.

Get your facts straight before coming here and defending something that you obviously aren’t intelligent enough to defend or argue.

Did your buddy MadDog put you up to this? Is Rick even your real name? I love anonymous cowards :)

Brian LaFrance

Oh jeez…So, Rick…we did some digging into your IP.

12.130.39.140 – Geo Information
IP Address 12.130.39.140
Host static-12-130-39-140.sapient.com
Location US, United States
City Peabody, MA -
Organization SAPIENT CORPORATION
ISP AT&T Services

…I guess I was right that you had everything do to with the piece of junk that Target is now stuck with.

Not sure which Rick you are…maybe one of these?

http://www.spoke.com/info/p7eXZ2b/RickVenet
http://www.spoke.com/info/p1TivZ8/RickMurtha

If anyone that was involved in this project wants to discuss it like a big boy and not come here and try to be anonymous, feel free. Otherwise, save the defending of a horrible project for someone else because as much as you think you’re amazing, the work speaks for itself. It’s pathetic.

Heather

Rick, really, never post off a traceable IP address that can easily be pinged by a programmer with half a brain. I have minor training in network/IP addresses and I could find you without difficulty. This is precisely why Target’s website is so horrible… they have no experts actually working on the site… only those who blow hot when we criticize what is obviously an inferior website. Know the chip off your shoulder, listen to Brian and the other experts on this website and next time you need to blow some steam… try posting from an untraceable source. *Genius!*

As for ‘eye candy’… if I was ancient and blind, I might enjoy the large displays, but any decent programmer will tell you how obnoxious those large images are to load for the average household computer. Sheesh, even to load the page on my super high-speed internet takes forever! Bad call on the term eye candy, but ‘headache’ is a term more correctly suited to this situation.

Heather

Oh my goodness! I am a basic programmer and am sick when I viewed the source of target.com. I have a registry on their website that got ‘misplaced’ when they migrated to the new site. It showed up a week later after three different attempts to reset my password (a demand the system makes to upgrade your account with them). I mean really, being an amateur programmer, I can see the horrid job just by viewing the website. Did anyone else notice how insanely long it takes to load a page? Try to view a registry with just basic pictures… you might as well go make a sandwich while you wait. Oh, and if you hit the backbutton… go make another sandwich… it takes that long! So I tried to contact target.com to offer the following friendly email:

“I rarely email companies with a complaint, but ever since you had this new website migration, I have had difficulties with your website. I am running the internet off a high-speed cable modem and have no problems quickly loading pages that have a lot of picture/text content… except for your target.com website. It takes forever to load pictures and takes even longer if I hit the backbutton to go to a previous menu. I also have had trouble navigating the menus in search of items I am looking for. I have been a loyal Target customer both online and in-store for years, but I have to say that I am not impressed by this new website and am frustrated to even have to go online to search for anything on target.com. Perhaps your market research is in error if they said this was a good idea. I have no difficulties loading pages from other websites that are comparable to target.com so I cannot comprehend what is taking so long to download and view your website pages, but it is like pulling teeth! I also get error messages constantly with every new page on target.com. I am asked to stop running scripts from this website by internet explorer. Please rethink the functionality of target.com. My perusal of target.com will be minimal now because I simply cannot sit around waiting on webpages to load and reload at such a slow pace. I feel this new website was definitely the wrong move.”

You will never guess what happened when I tried to submit this comment to their email website… yeah, I got an error message asking to submit the question/comment… totally jacked up! How do we get the message to Target that they are going to lose serious money because people simply will not tolerate such a pathetic website. Okay, I have vented my frustration. I hope Target is listening and gets the message to kibosh this horrid attempt of a website.

Tara

I also attempted to provide feedback to Target.com and was greeted by an ‘invalid comments’ error. In frustration, I turned to Google and found this site. Obviously Brian and others are much more knowledgeable on the technical FAILS of this development project than I, so my piddly ‘I’m an Engineer’ gives me virtually no technical cred (as such, I’ll omit my unqualified rant), but as a customer I have to say the site is utterly unusable. I can’t find what I’m shopping for; I’m distracted by the AdSense results; I’m distracted by strange asthetics/fonts/layouts; and all that’s ON TOP of the easily-observable technical issues – page load times, error pages, etc.

By the way, the issue with their feedback form appears to be that the validation limits the number of characters — not that the obscure error in any way tells the user how to fix their input — but I was eventually able to submit a 2 sentence comment. I’m was toying with the idea of submitting a chain of 2 sentence comments until I was able to fully vent my frustration, but then I remembered I really do have better things to do with my time ;-)

Esteban James

You all sound very uninformed. This article was a waste of my time, you clearly don’t understand the nuances of a large web project of any kind. Your petty remarks about someone needing to be canned give the impression that you’re an asshole as well.

Brian LaFrance

Uninformed, huh? Seems a little hypocritical of you to say that as if you did even some minor research you would find that a good portion of us on here have or are currently running projects or sites that make the size of Target’s site look like a joke. For example, the project Mike Halvorsen is a part of right now is about 15 times the size of Target’s site.

How about educating yourself before coming here and making yourself look like an idiot? If the email address you used is correct, you’re not even using your real name. The location of your IP matches whois info that’s tied to at least one domain using the email address you are using, so I’m guessing you’re another defensive coward that was somehow involved in this project. I’d do more digging, but it appears that your site is down, so I’ll just laugh at your pathetic attempt at making an argument.

By the way…looking at the cache of your resume, I’m not impressed – http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=cache%3Awww.stevenbennett.us%2Ffiles%2FStevenBennettResume.htm

Christine

It seems to have my order all screwed up, the whole thing is so wrong. What matters is what the customer thinks and I believe their customers are dropping like flies on a cold day in the hell they created for theselves. It seemed wrong from the start and now, after placing an order, it seems all messed up telling me stuff shjipped and then it hasn’t, not letting me in and not leaving a place for e-mail contact. Can’t wait forever on the phone either, what are the thinking? So so wrong.

Christine

Thanks Brian! Looks like maybe people like Steve Bennet, thier own geeks, are trying to stop us from informing Target of just how bad it is. I think this is why its impossible to complain on their site and calling is fruitless. You can’t hide Steve and soon your bosses will know how bad it is and how you’re also trying to hide it!!!! Too bad, I used to like shopping at Target….THIS IS WHAT IS IMPORTANT!!! THE USED TO PART!!! Brian please print all these post and mail them to corporate to multiple people, it might work. Your efforts are appreciated by all who liked shopping there, thanks again.

Rita

I am just a customer… when I opened a new target.com site I thought they are hacked. I stared at the screen verifying the URL, then made a deep breath, and proceeded. They wanted me to reset my password. OK, I did – needless to say I entered the same pwd as before and it did work. Then I received a confirmation email with salutation “hello Migrated Guest User,” which made me feel like I am an alien. Then I clicked on “women” – what else should I click? :) – the leftmost link in the top nav menu – and guess what? it did not work. Now I am getting their WOOF page. Here is the copy:
“woof!
We are suddenly extremely popular. You may not be able to access our site momentarily due to unusually high traffic. ”
- with some portion of self-irony here at least.

Brian LaFrance

Clearly they have no clue what they’re doing. There’s no reason a site of that size should go down these days unless the people in charge of making decisions on architecture are living on 5+ year old technology. It’s not difficult to build scalability into apps, but apparently it is difficult to build intelligence into old dogs. :)

Jaimie Sirovich

@Brian

Not trying to argue, but what you said doesn’t ring true to me. I find old technology is awesome. My most stable machines are always:

1. Running 7.x FreeBSD or old Linux kernels. Nothing bleeding edge.
2. Last year’s Intel servers (high end stuff) with microcode patches.

I LOVE 5 year old technology. If you need horizontal scalability anyway, I’d rather have 2x the amount of trusty hardware running non-bleeding-edge kernels. I can’t tell you how many times Linux kernels are total crap.

Brian LaFrance

Sure, some hardware from a few years ago is fine, but when dealing with scaling based on demand, technology today is far more flexible compared to where we were 5 years ago. For example, we probably couldn’t run AuthorityLabs at the scale we do without technology that flat out didn’t exist 5 years ago. We’re running around a billion requests a month, which would have been insane and cost prohibitive to do a few years ago. Now, we can spin new resources up and down based on demand with pretty much no downtime involved in moving things around. That’s a lot better reliability vs. whatever Target is on.

Laurel

The sad news is, that I ordered a decent amount of stuff for a wedding registry, and not only can you get to the site (Missoni what?! who cares.) but you can’t visit ANY aspect of the site. meaning no account/order/tracking information. WTF? I’d like to know if the items were atleast processed.

get it together target. I’m glad there was this web entry in existence to explain what the heck was going on!

Christine

Thanks for the article Rita. I checked this morning and the site was down till at least 10:30 when I when I had to leave. Guess they know now!

Christine

Guess I should have checked as its 4:34 and its still down. Wonder how much the cheap help from India is really costing them and if they will ever fully recover? Wonder if I’ll ever get my stuff?

Christine

OMG is right, Rita, its one big lie. How stupid do they think we are? Thier new site is all messed up and now they are making excusses. They are not up and running/wait, they are broken and have to lie. Worse yet they are telling us how popular they are too. Bet they did 0 dollars on their web site today! Why does everyone believe the pr crap they themseves must have put out? A real news team needs to put an end to this and tell everyone not just about how they messed up but how they are lying to us all. Target, you have lost me forever, not because you messed up so bad but because you are lying to us about it! We are not all fools and I hope the media shows everyone just how bad you are.

Keith Privette (@keithprivette)

Brian LaFrance great assessment. I learned me something! Also learned a lot from your commenters, too. You offered up a great discussion about how to improve and hopefully not make a mistake for the set folks heading down this path.

Oh and to the Target folks your “LMG” or “KMG” don’t play in the real world!

And Brian your assessment of internal workings is dead on!

Leslie

When I heard them say on the Today show this morning that Target blames the problems with their site on the unveiling of a new Italian clothing line, I was shocked…I thought they had hit rock-bottom in terms of credibility but now they’re straight-out lying…pathetic.

Laurel

whats even worse about the blame of this new line, all orders are now delayed….lets see if I can get these gifts prior to the wedding. I don’t think I’ll ever personally shop at target again, especially online. And if someone registers there (and nowhere else like the current situation) They’ll be getting cash, no matter how tacky that seems.

JD

Even if it was to blame on their new “italian” clothing line, you can’t get any of those items online or in the store because they are sold out (I’m wondering if they ever had them), so why take down a whole website for it anyway??? Bullsh*t

Another Big Box funeral on the way!

TGTEMP

I work at Target HQ, and I pointed out a lot of these issues to the Everest (internal project name) team several times during beta testing. You wouldn’t believe the pile of shit they determined was ready for internal beta. Pages were completely broken.

There are a few big problems:
1. Scope was too big. There was a LOT involved in moving off the Amazon platform. By and large, Everest is a huge success. The actual design and usability of the site is such a small part of this 2 year project that it wasn’t given the time it needed. This should have started as a platform relaunch without changing the template.

2. Talent. Target has no web people on staff. Lots of application developers who are (sometimes) good at what they do, but no web application developers and certainly no usability experts. Our partners either failed miserably in providing direction or Target ignored them. Based on the responses I got when I pointed out errors I’m leaning towards the latter. The over-reliance on Target India contributes directly to this.

3. Usability testing. Did we do any? I don’t know. People with no business having ideas about how to make websites sold them up the chain into implementation and it turned into a disorganized cluster fuck of social and customizing features – which nobody can or will use – at the expense of usability and accessibility.

4. Scalability. They’re saying they got black friday numbers from this missoni launch. OK, but don’t we plan for the site to be, you know, up on black friday? It’s total bullshit. This is a weak application launched at too great a scale while it should still be in alpha.

There are a LOT of people at Target HQ who are seriously disappointed with this launch and whose voices have been drowned out by the high fives, dick sucking and back-slapping. Despite launch-day issues and total site outages within a week everyone is still calling it a huge success.

All that said – Target HQ is great at one thing: learning. They will fix these issues and make it better. I expect leadership is already sensitive to the criticisms that have come out and will move to correct them as much as possible without overtly declaring the shit-show that the site is today.

Brian LaFrance

Wow…thanks for the honest information. Seems like it’s pretty much in line with what a bunch of us suspect. Hopefully they do learn something and correct it. I love your point about black friday :)

Alan Bleiweiss

Finally. an HONEST person in the Target system. Who will probably be FIRED for their honesty. Because Target is obviously a stone-age corporation in the way they dealt with the new roll-out, and have IGNORED real users who have REAL complaints about usability failures on the site. What stupidity in marketing.

Keith Privette

TGTEMP I have to commend your willingness to be so honest and open! It is a big risk, so thank you. I will challenge you on the “we will learn from it and fix it” does TGT$100, GuestConnect, Red Rock, MAX ring a bell? Target had the last 8 years of LARGE projects to get it right and do thing in a way that is successful for business, technology, shareholder, guests, and vendors and yet Everest did the insane thing thinking they were going to do it differently, but in the end did the same way expecting different results.

You nailed it partially about the Web Developers, but realistically it is a bigger problem. Here is a short list:

1. Target low balls contractors and so you get slugs
2. Target is hierarchal and top down and don’t mess with it
3. Macrosilo and Microsilo’s inside of there no collaboration
4. Toxic culture of the “haves” and the “have nots”
5. Cutting edge talent and get told “This is Target and we dont do it that way”
6. That talent gets labeled after doing it one than once.

Don’t get me wrong I think Target has a great foundation of products, customer service, and shopping experience, but in the last 3 years they have lost their way. There needs to be a lot of mirrors put up around HQ so people really see what is going on. There was a listening tour that happened last summer that I saw had some promise but yet again when it got into the hard work of facing making really big culture changes it fell flat. “We are Target and we don’t do it that way”

TGTEMP stay strong and carry on! Thank you again for adding to the conversation in a very honest way. I know if I was still there we would have met and chatted!

Chuck Reynolds

Wow… good to see that real voice finally. Well said. And I hope they do fix it… failing is okay but it’s how you deal with it and move forward after learning from the mistakes.

Mike Halvorsen

Considering how much money Target makes per quarter and the convergence of online shopping, there is no excuse for Target not hiring talent internally. While I understand the need to get the new site built and out in the wild, they still failed miserably.

In all honesty, how much talent would it take to get a site of that size launched? I work with a team that pales in comparison with the number of people I would suspect were involved with the new Target.com, yet the site I work on is MUCH larger.

With a brand as large as Target, there is not any excuse. I can only imagine how much money it cost for Target to outsource the new site and how much money they are going to miss out on when the holiday season starts. In my opinion, they would have been better off staying with Amazon through the holiday season and launching the new site at the beginning of the year.

Either way, good job Target. You totally missed the Target.

OOPS

Was surprised to see Target leave the Amazon server – their new site is a joke! And this whole “Missoni” thingy is so high school!

Maribel Lopez

I just had the worst experience trying to shop online at Target.com, so I get a pop up that asks if I want to take a survey. I do the survey and when I sumbit it tells me the survey website is temporarily out of service, freakin ridiculous.

Nick

No wonder I have been unable to access Target’s website for the past month or so. Seems like they are not allowing people outside the US to access their website. All I get is a error message:

Access Denied
You don’t have permission to access “http://www.target.com/” on this server.

Reference #18.9be1fc7d.1318479441.dcc8ab3

Not Steve Eastman

Steve Eastman, president of Target.com just left the company. 47 years old.
Target says it was nothing to do with the massive target.com FAIL.

They still have hundreds and hundreds of css and html errors on
every page on the site, hinky url links, slow pages.

Keith Privette

That is code for “FIRED” everyone knows it and everyone giggles when the emails come out with it. Wish we could be honest in press releases! For everyone every level, maybe people would be a little accountable and responsible for their careers, when it is a resume and public press releases that go with you from job to job…

lonnie

I cannot get on the target website therefore cannot order from them There is not a target in my town. How can I get on the website. It says I should update my browser but have tried all it told me to and none work. Thanks

Not Michael Francis

I heard that you could log into the internal debug of Target.com from outside with no password until some outsider let Target.com know their fly was down. So no worries folks, your credit card and debit cards are perfectly safe.

Micheal Francis the Marketing exec VP just left too. So the Marketing and IT
fight took out BOTH big shots.

Oct 4, 2011 Bloomberg:
On the surface, Francis’ decision to leave Target and become president of J.C. Penney Co. Inc. deals a heavy blow to the Minneapolis-based retailer. Francis is a widely respected executive who helped establish Target’s reputation as a trendsetting designer for the masses, whether it was fashion, food, or home furnishings. As an executive vice president, Francis was also in charge of the company’s pending expansion into Canada.

scottinnj

Site is still very buggy. Couple of the latest:

– The ‘link’ on the home page to ‘manage my Target Visa’ has disappeared. They have really been pushing the 5% discount, I got the card, but kind of frustrating that I can’t check my account balance. If you a retailer with a credit card there kind of is no excuse to not to have the link to your card database on your home page (and Target has less of an excuse since unlike most retailers that sold their cards to Citibank etc they still run it)

– So I thought I would email and say ‘hey, your link to manage your Target Visa has disappeared from your home page’, selected the link for ‘contact us – send an email’ and got the following error message

“something went wrong when we tried to [load this page/process your request].
Please try again. If the problem persists, please feel free to contact Target help.”

I dunno, if you want feedback by email you would think your ‘submit comments by email’ link would work.

I will go to the stores, but can’t see why in the world I will spend any time on this when I can shop at Amazon/Best Buy or Zappos.

Brian LaFrance

Sheesh…I’ll be interested to see how badly the site fails come Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Targetfan

Hi – I hope you can help me. I have an iPad (original version) and have happily shopped Target’s website until the relaunch of the site. Now I can’t get a page of products to fully load. Ex: I’ll try to see the rugs, and maybe the first 10 will show with pictures and then the rest of the page will have the rest of the rugs but the pictures won’t load.

What gives? I’ve gone back every few weeks to see if Target upgraded their site to solve the problem but there’s been no change. I am a huge Target fan but this is a big turn off!

Sunflower

I can’t even log onto the website. It says my brower is not supported. I’m not super tech savy but I do have IE8 run by XP sp3. I think they must be loosing millions of dollars in business if they block out so many of us. And there is no way to contact them to let them know. STUPID!

LS

I know this discussion is a couple months old, but I need a place to vent. I am attempting to log-in to my target account, send a gift card to someone for their wedding, and move on. It should take 5 minutes. Instead, I’ve spent the last ten minutes being forced to reset my password, and it seems like everything I click on is taking forever to load and giving me stupid messages and pictures…like “locating your registry” with a huge picture of a giraffe. I’m on a fast connection at work and target.com is the only website taking forever to load pages as well. I’m not a tech person, so I don’t know what’s going on, but I do know IT IS ANNOYING and I will avoid it at all costs.

Now, whoever is responsible for bringing fresh groceries to my local target..kudos. :)

BigGuy

I have had the hardest time with ALL aspects of the new Target website… it was a lot better when they were hooked to Amazon. I’m just a customer and was floored by how difficult and junky the website was and was like, “What has happened here???” That’s when I went on a search and found this blog post. This new website snafu makes me not want to order from them again… and customer service? Yes, the CSR’s speak English and do it pretty well, but it’s not misunderstanding language/words, it’s misunderstanding the point/idea that prompted my call to them, whatever it may be. Do you KWIM?

I’m pretty astounded that a company as large and well known as Target has such a pitiful website… it’s like they don’t want you to order from them online.

Crafter

Wow. First Etsy.com and now Target. I don’t get it – why do successful retailers mess up basic things like the functioning of their website? It’s not like there’s any shortage of competent consultants out there to hire to design your site for you. Honestly, it don’t like online shopping is a huge mystery anymore – just make an easily navigable site, decent search engine, and allow people to get on there, give you money, and go home. It’s not rocket science.

Ed

My msg is “It’s because your browser isn’t supported” but of course i have the latest internet explorer. I am an IT consultant and would think that a corporation the size of Target would have the tech’s capable of fixing it. But from all the posting I guess not. Good news, WalMart and SAMs sites work fine. Happy Holidays.

Susan Leaman

Amazon has GOT to be loving this! I’d like to shop at Target but the site takes forever to load and reload every time I click on something. Well, back to Amazon I go – just like many, many other folks out there!

Austin

unable to get on target.com…same “browser isn’t supported” msg…has been ongoing & caused me to x them off my vendor list some time ago…only reason I tried again was to access my son’s wishlist for our granddaughter…

I have disliked target for years & hope this will finally kill them off…their ownership are some of the most unsavory people in the biz…

Ginny

After a hugely frustrating shopping experience on the ‘new and improved’ target.com site last night, I felt compelled to search to see if others were as dissatisfied as I was. And I landed on your comments as a result of my search – could not agree with you more! I could nitpick the heck out of this too…my high level feedback was that I am amazed that a company the size of Target Corporation – with so much potential revenue to lose to the competition because of this badly designed and delivered shopping site – would leave this design, development and quality control to amateurs. To top it off…I get an email today with my shipping tracking number and it is for an order delivered in 2010! I tried to use the email contact form on the site to communicate this glitch and it would not accept the data entered in the Questions and Comments field. I finally gave up after one too many ‘Oops…’ messages.

Shari@Rain into Rainbows

Yet another frustrated Target.com customer (read more about it here — http://rainintorainbows.com/2011/12/14/target-fail/ )

For those who are trying to get through to customer service and getting the error messages telling you to enter valid comments, remove any special characters from the text of the comment. Anything — even an Evil Parenthesis — will break it.

(And by the way, if you read through the blog entry, that’s only the beginning. I’ve gone back & forth with Target all day. They still claim that they can’t cancel an order that isn’t even reportedly shipping until after Christmas.)

Target execs: my contact info is on my blog. Please feel free to contact me and I’ll be happy to share my experience with you. At this point, though, I’m resigned to the fact that Target can’t make it right. I’d love for them to prove me wrong.

rain

How is this all even possible with a multi billion dollar company doing business. I hate their website, it NEVER allows you to move onto the next page, check by sort, narrow your results ANYTHING YOU CLICK ON DOESN’T WORK! They’re loosing so much business – who are these morons setting this up??? Obviously idiots, or TARGET is SUPER CHEAP on their own expenses too. So frustrating is their site.

Sarah Urban

I have been shopping at Target, and sometimes squealing or clapping my hands in delight, for nearly 40 years, first with my mom and then with my own daughter. I do not think as an adult that I have ever walked out of a Target store without having spent at least a hundred dollars, which means most of my disposable income as a teacher has been spent in your stores.

You know you have the rare type of customer loyalty that drives many of your customers, such as me, to drive right passed other stores, spending more gas and at times more money, because you have been worth it. You have earned that loyalty and made a groupie out of me with decades of civility, streamlined organization, hipness, quality, and fun. It has been literally FUN to spend my hard-earned money at Target. So, it makes me sad, actually sad, that I will be trying to shop anywhere BUT Target because I am actually taking the advice of one of your employees to heart. My last experience at the Eldridge store in Houston was the last of the too many unfun trips.

Why? Because I am tired of the low quality of employees hired. The last one snarked that I ought to “just find somewhere else to shop, and good luck with that.” I have never had interaction like that at Target. I teach high school kids, so I have got plenty of patience with young people. I had none with this uneducated rude girl by the time I had talked to the manager, James, to tell him I had had enough of unfun Target.

Why? Because I used to lose an hour in just the shoe department actually trying on, and buying, shoes. Cannot do that anymore because first I have to waste an hour just trying to find the shoes in the sea of mismatched or empty cardboard boxes. I still don’t understand the move to boxes, especially when you do not staff the store to oversee the management of all the boxes and given all the packaging waste. The shoe department boxes are among the worst merchandising decisions Target has ever made. The shoe department at a Goodwill store is more organized than the hellhole that used to be a carpeted island of Target shoe-shopping fun.

Why? Because I used to find everything I needed on the right shelves, clearly labeled, and in good and neat order. Not anymore. Bottles of dish soap and body wash are apt to have soapy gunk on them, shelves are often stocked wonky or are empty. Prices are at times misleading or nonexistent, especially in the makeup department.

And lastly, why? Because of Black Thursday. I am ethically opposed to where this country is going that we have to worship consumerism on even our most important of national holidays. I just do not get your greed in joining Walmart in this uniquely horrible American mindset, and I do not like what it says about who the Target Customer has become that they cannot stay in their homes and enjoy their families for a whole 12 hours in a row, so that Target employees can also enjoy a whole day off with their own families as well. Target is a subsidiary of a French corporation, and I know, first hand, that European shops close for lunch and close earlier than American stores do at the end of the day and largely close on Sundays, so that employees can go home for lunch with their kids and be home for dinner with their spouses and have a day off where the city is just at rest and socializing. Europe understands that family values and quality of life are more than the political bumper stickers we have reduced them to here in America. In Europe, these two ideas are authentic cultural values. Apparently the American mindset has ruined Target that I can no longer distinguish you from Walmart. So, there is no reason for me to keep passing up the Walmart anymore.

And what is sadder is that my letter will be a waste of time because I know you are only trained to give me a scripted response back. It will read something like . . .

Dear Ms. Urban,
Thank you for being a Target customer. We appreciate your business. Here at Target we strive to be the industry leader in providing the kind of quality and value to our customers that earns the very loyalty you wrote about. We look forward to your next visit to Target to see the great things we have in store for you this holiday season.
Regards, Target Customer Service

Pffft,
Sarah Urban
Enthusiastic and loyal customer for over nearly 40 years. Not so anymore. And it has really bummed me out.

Jack

It is Feb 24, 2013 and For the past few weeks Target site demands (no- DEMANDS) to activate cookies. It would be ok if they did ask it and then let visitors do a search for their cheap TV’s failing a year later, but no- one cannot do a search without activating THEIR cookies. A side suggestion: Target, make your employees smoke cigarettes somewhere else but NOT few feet in front of the main entrance. I do not care to breath your employees’ nasty and cheap cigarette breath on the way in. There are children too- that is unacceptable! Entrance to Target must be smoke free!!!!!!

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