What the Dell? Site design so bad, a little bit of my soul died writing this.

I was whipping through my NetNewsWire feeds and saw that Dell is selling some kind of all-in-one, entertainment oriented, luggable. Curiosity piqued, I clicked through.

OK — wow — that’s ugly. And I’m trying to figure out where they would stuff 8 speakers into that box, much more how they would do so and get anything resembling decent sound.

So. I wonder how it compares to a similarly configured 20″ iMac Core 2 Duo?

No problem. I’ll just click the “buy” but… Uh, no. There is no “Buy” button. There is a “Customize it” button. That must be it. No, wait, that pops up some kind of “home / business / government” selector. OK. “Home”.

Huh? Now the original window has been sent to some generic store entry. No indication of where I should go to find what I was just looking for. Even if I remembered the model name / number (the x2920asd A or whatever), there is no clue as to what I might click. Desktop? Laptop? No idea.

I’m now a confused potential customer. I’m outta here. Maybe I’ll go to the Dell Retail Store (that has no inventory??!?!!) and have a Dell Professional show me how to use the Dell Web site. Clearly, professional training is required.

Actually, I’m back at the iMac page. Want to buy one? No problem — 4 separate purchase channels are presented at the top-right of the content area.

How obvious can this be? How can Dell, a company that built its fortune on direct sales, justify focusing so much energy on impeding the online purchase process?

Update: Actually, it is even worse than I could have imagined. This 20″ monstrosity from Dell is sold as a notebook. It has no battery. And it appears to have a separate keyboard/mouse (I can’t entirely tell).

That’s right. Dell has reinvented the luggable! They call it a “desknote”.


In any case, if you want to find it in their store, click “notebook” on this page and then either “view all notebooks” or click on “more than $1,000” or click on ‘20.1″‘ screen or “over 7 lbs”.

Yup… that’s how you get to Dell’s “desknote” entertainment machine.

Update #2: Yeah. The title was stupid and obvious. Changed. Changed back. Already used, but not that much. Sort of. Now it is really long. Whatever. I need coffee. And longer sentences. What is wrong with ‘weblog-o-mat’? And, no, I don’t have one-click anything configured.

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49 Responses to “What the Dell? Site design so bad, a little bit of my soul died writing this.”

  1. James Duncan Davidson says:

    I just tried it myself and… WOW. That’s pretty amazingly bad. You couldn’t make that kind of stuff up.

  2. Coty Rosenblath says:

    Then, if you persevere and actually do attempt to price this monstrosity, you’ll find that it will cost you $3,500 for a 2GHz/1GB/80GB DVD+RW box. You’re not really going to carry that thing around, so I think it is reasonable to compare it to the iMac. You can get a new 24″ iMac with a 2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM, 500GB HD, and Bluetooth keyboard and mouse for $2,809. So you get more of everything and save about $700 to boot. And let’s say you did want something to carry around. In that case, that $3,500 you’d spend on that Dell could get you a 17″ MacBook Pro (with 120GB HD) AND a 20″ cinema display.

    I will give them points, though, for shipping a consumer box with preconfigured RAID. That is kind of interesting. Something Apple might consider–particularly when Leopard and Time Machine arrive.

  3. Jussi says:

    That is so true, I tried to do some price comparisons between Apple and Dell some time ago, but I gave up because of the bad excuse of an UI in their web store.

  4. John C. Randolph says:

    Well, it may be butt-ugly, but since it’s such a pain in the ass to buy it, you’re not likely to ever have to look at it in person.  😉


  5. Anson says:

    I found it hard to figure out how to get to the “buy” page as well. I think it’s mostly because I did not expect them to list it under “notebooks” or whatever category it is. But even after knowing that, you need to click through several pages to find your way back to a page to buy the machine you were just looking at. Pretty lame…

  6. Jason says:

    Do you have Cookies turned off? How were you able to get a direct link to the product page without Dell sticking a cookie onto your machine? This is pretty bad behavior for sending links directly to people in an email.

  7. bbum says:

    I pretty much ignore cookies these days….

  8. Asher says:

    Amusing… linked to your blog from Daring Fireball. Clicked through to Dell’s site to check out the product. Then I received an invitation to a survey dealing with the layout and design of the Dell website. I snapped a few screencaps. You may find them interesting for a followup… let me know if you’re interested.

  9. Tyson says:

    Dell, apparently, doesn’t want me to buy anything from them.

    We’re unable to process your request.

    Please check back with us soon to customize this product, or click below to continue shopping.

    I’m continually amazed at how completely awful their website is. Good lord.

  10. Paul D says:

    I think of it as Dell doing the world a service by making their website hard to use and their computers hard to buy. 🙂

  11. RET says:

    Quote: The XPS M2010 is a completely new concept in mobile entertainment and Dell’s most innovative PC.

    Selling a notebook without a battery is one way to keep them from spontaneously combusting, but jeez it takes chutzpah. It’s certainly a novel definition of the word “innovative”.


  12. Alden says:

    Do they realize that being a showstopper is not necessarily a :good: thing? In theater, it’s great, but in hardware…

    A hardware or (especially) software bug that makes an
    implementation effectively unusable; one that absolutely has
    to be fixed before development can go on. Opposite in
    connotation from its original theatrical use, which refers to
    something stunningly *good*.

    Just sayin’

  13. matt says:

    hey alden, you just beat me to that remark “showstopper” 😉

    on their “buy” page they even describe the lowend model as
    “Ultimate entertainment in a show stopping design”

    Yeah, right.

  14. Bill Eccles says:

    I hate websites that categorize their product by some arbitrary delineator. What, for example, makes one Dell product a “home” product vs. a “business” product? Or, worse yet, what’s a “small business” product vs. a “medium to large business” product? Heck, I buy servers (small business or large business?) for my house (home!). Laptops? Don’t all three categories use them? And, God help us, there’s a “Government, Education and Healthcare” category, which is what my wife’s small business is, compute power for which is located in our home!

    And the implication that one category gets a different deal than the others (which is absolutely true) makes me hate Dell’s website because it makes it impossible to shop by price, too. I have to check each category to see if one fits my needs better for a lower price.

    Good thing I use Macs all around. That simplifies things tremendously.


  15. phobic says:

    The HP website is similar, if not worse. Go to their site to have a look around and it’s great. Go there with a specific purpose in mind or looking for a specific piece of information and you get caught in a web of what I can only imagine is HP’s vision of how the IT world should work. Bleurgh.

  16. Alt Tab Mac » Blog Archive » Dell (the master of direct sales) has new profit impairment device says:

    […] Bill Bumgarner over on “bbum’s weblog-o-mat” (yeh ok, I know) has found Dell’s website makes it really hard to buy a computer, or notebook, or is that a luggable, yeh latest new Dell technology a luggable…. […]

  17. pointing out the obvious » Blog Archive » dell’s unusable website says:

    […] It never really occurred to me until I read bbum’s what the dell? post about dell’s totally ridiculous website.  It’s true.  I can never really find anything, though I feel like I’m finding things. […]

  18. Daniel Jalkut says:

    Eh – I liked the original title. What’s wrong with a punny title every now and then? Or a punny rhyme-alike in this case, I guess.

    I’m all for it!

  19. cjwl says:

    Quite true, their site is terrible and getting worse with every update. Their site gets even worse if you get into the realm of price watching, the same system can be had for a variety of different prices depending on which store you go through, how you initially configure it, which e-value code you enter from what source, referrer, etc. Then if you call up you will get a whole different set of prices depending on what sales rep you get. It is worse than pricing an airline ticket.

  20. GadgetGav says:

    What drives me mad about Dell’s site is that some products don’t even exist unless you start from the right place. I was trying to price match the M65 laptop against a MacBook Pro, and if you start with ‘Home’ the M65 cannot be found..! Why..? What difference does it make (except in price maybe) where I am planning to use the thing..? And since it’s a laptop, I’ll be using it at home and at work, so where should I start from?
    Awful, awful user experience with their site. Even when you get a price, you’re never sure you really got the best price. I was there a few months ago and got two prices for the same system and when our CFO called to order it, the person at Dell asked *him* what price he’d come up with… Not a confidence inspring business practice, and probably not quite legal either…

  21. Floh says:

    Did you notice that they updated the website you are linking to in the meantime? I´ve seen the original site before, but now you can get to the prices directly. Seems like they are reading your blog 😉

  22. bbum says:

    Huh — I’m not seeing the site with prices when I click through.   I wonder if Dell has a cookie or something that identifies some customer’s configurations?

  23. Floh says:

    Yes, seems to be cookie related. Removed them and now I have the “old” style back again. These web-terchniques are great…

  24. RichardatDELL says:

    Was reading your comments on both our website and one of our new products. We have been working on a overhaul of the Dell.com website and comments like yours arare most helpful. For additional detail and discussion, feel free to visit our blog at: http://www.direct2dell.com/one2one/archive/2006/07/30/1224.aspx.
    As for the product you mention, different people have different technology needs and preferences. While this product mayy not fit your technology dreams, it does for others. A major benefit of Dell’s direct model is giving customers the opportunity to configure products with technology they want. That means some extra steps in the buying process, but the customized technology is what many appreciate and value.

  25. Emmanuel says:

    I noticed that too, links are changing :
    – first time I tried, there was the “customize” link, which redirected me to the “home / business / government” selector. After some research, I was able to access the “buy” page.
    – second time : no more “customize” link, but a “continue” link which redirected me directly to the “buy” page.
    – third time (hours after) : still the “continue” link, but which redirected me to the Education buy page. Now, that’s funny. Did I get someone else’s session ?
    – fourth time (hours after) : ok, the “customize” link is back

    My understanding is that, if you are able to get to the “buy” page, you win a shortcut from the product page. Time saver if you close the window by accident while trying to decide if you will go for first default configuration (more RAM) or the second (almost same price, extended Warranty, different anti-virus/security suite). The anti-virus requires less memory, but if you choose it, you might need some more support.

    Actually, it seems that the antivirus suite is the same, its just the description that is different. Having obvious differences between the 3 advertised default configurations is not a requirement.

    Anyway, that “shortcut” will expire. But that’s good : if Dell releases a new product within the hour, you will have the oportunity to view it by mistake while searching (again) for the “buy” page.

    I do not have a decent theory for the “Education” page yet.

  26. bbum says:

    The link worked for me and was actually fairly interesting in that Dell is aware of the suckitude, is doing something about it and — as a rarity in this industry — is openly commenting on the process.   I’m certainly not implying that this is anything more than a marketing decision.

    Maybe your browser cut off the URL or something?

    I have a firm “no spam tolerated” policy and I do not remotely consider RichardAtDell’s post to be spam.  This is an open forum and corporate participation is invited.  The dude is doing his job and, frankly, this particular comment trail is more interesting because of his contributions.  That a Dell person is willing to jump into an obviously hostile fray is bonus points in the company’s favor.

  27. Glenn says:

    The link from RichardatDELL fails because he included the trailing period. (D-oh!)

    The Dell site is even worse than bbum described. When bbum says “click ‘notebook’ on this page,” he’s not kidding. Even though Safari indicates that the image of the notebook is a link, it doesn’t do anything; I have to click on the (much smaller) “notebook” text instead. Loony.

  28. bbum says:

    Oh!  Hah!  When I received the email containing the post, the post content is delivered as it was entered.    Mail’s URL parser is smart enough to strip the trailing period.

    So, really, this is a WordPress bug.

    Sort of.  One could argue that a trailing . is a legal URL, but I would counter that a trailing dot most often appears at the end of an URL that is at the end of a sentence. 

    In any case, the working URL:


  29. Chris Pepper says:

    Feh. I tried to walk through the experiment, having learned in the past that you must pigeonhole yourself before Dell willl sell you anything. So I clicked on “Home or Home Office”, and was dropped at the H/HO home page, with no hint to find the model I’d just been looking at. And they didn’t open it in a new window or frame, so I had to go back (twice) to get to the model page you listed. If I wasn’t a tabbing freak (no thanks to IE!), this type of translocation would be very confusing.

    Last time I bought a computer from Dell was for my brother-in-law. I spent a couple hours comparing laptops, only to end up getting him a 7-pound monster. This was arguably my fault, but with that many models, it’s amazing Dell doesn’t tell you how heavy they are. All Apple’s laptop pages link to http://store.apple.com/Catalog/US/Images/comparison_chart.html which is clear & easy to read, and shows weight.

  30. RichardatDELL says:

    sorry about the trailing . The comments about the tech needs referenced general comments about product and its use. People use laptops, desktops and “Luggables” for different purposes. Just because it does not meet your needs does not mean it is not appropriate for other people. It was also a comment about being taken to the config page, since all our systems are configured to the customer’s individual requirements…that way people pay for the tech they need and want, not what is already on the shelf and pre-determined by mass market surveys. Hope that helps.

  31. Anne@Dell says:

    >>Update: Actually, it is even worse than I could have imagined. This 20″ monstrosity from Dell is sold as a notebook. It has no battery. And it appears to have a separate keyboard/mouse (I can’t entirely tell).

  32. queerspace.com :: how to [not] buy a dell says:

    […] how hard could it be to give dell your money? […]

  33. Manish - with dell.com says:

    Great comments everyone – really appreciate the feedback (even if negative). My team is responsible for http://www.dell.com worldwide, so this blog post is very relevant to me. We have folks here looking into the scenario you described with the M2010 – if it’s a bad experience, we will work to fix it. Can’t promise that everything on the site will change … but I do welcome your suggestions on what we can do better. As Richard mentioned, we do have a company blog at direct2dell that you can participate on as well. Thanks again for taking the time to help us improve

  34. Bob says:

    Any of you jokers notice that little “search” box up top. If you know the freakin’ product name, type it in for cryin’ out loud… Of course, when you don’t have a lot of content, it’s easier to organize it. There are only seven different Apple Products — MB, MBP, iM, iP, XServe & RAID. But then again, being not a fanboy to the extreme, I shoud be confuse: should I choose Store, How to buy, Where to buy, Why to buy, Hardware, Pro, or Watch our Commercials. Wow, how extremely terrible! (doofi!)

  35. bbum says:

    So, Bob, you are claiming that a search box at the top of the page and the customer having to remember a non-obvious product number across two page transitions is good or even passable UI?   That it is somehow acceptable in comparison to, I don’t know, whipping out some 1993 technology and actually providing a direct hyperlink?

    If anything, the vast variety of product configurations, names and models that Dell offers should make it even more critical and valuable to actually link from the product description materials to the particular purchase page for said product.

  36. Joe Smith says:

    I wonder how pathetic the life of this journalist or columnist is to nitpick everything Dell does. Must be one of those crazy Mac users who act like cultists and hate any company that sells more computers than Apple. My question is who cares about Dell’s web site? I got prices with one or two clicks. The same with Apple and HP. I wonder who would give this journalist a job who can’t find anything more interesting that a web site layout.


  37. bbum’s weblog-o-mat » Blog Archive » Dell Followup: Dell Responds! says:

    […] The whole “What the Dell?” design rant received quite a bit more attention than I expected (thanks to an initial link from Daring Fireball and snowballing from there). […]

  38. Michael Martz says:

    Ok, so apparently the keyboard attaches to the computer and you fold the display down on top of those two to make it a breif case. Doesn’t seem too bad of a design, but I wouldn’t pay that much money for it. It seems to me that Dell’s product pages and store are nothing more than a cheap imitation of Apple’s but then again I don’t know which design was first.

  39. cyber_rigger says:

    Don’t buy from Dell.

    They don’t have what I want anyway.



  40. ideapark » Blog Archive » Dell hell says:

    […] Bill Bumgarner highlights a shining example of the difference between ‘information architecture’ and ‘user experience: How can Dell, a company that built its fortune on direct sales, justify focusing so much energy on impeding the online purchase process? […]

  41. Geek Speak Radio » GSR #67 - Enchanted Arms, BB TiVo Woes, What the Dell, RFID your DVD, Prey Content, 360 Laptop, IBM ships Broadways, Wii for the Holidays, Wii $250, Virtual Sega, Guide Feedback, iPod, TiVo Series 3 for $800, Triple Layer, iTunes says:

    […] What the Dell? […]

  42. RichardatDELL says:

    Hi Bill,

    wanted you to know we did some further checking into the issues you raised in terms of the XPS M 2010 and links to pages that made the purchase process more complicated, even difficult.

    As a result of the issues you brought to our atttention I want to ensure you have the correct link for that page. It is:

    If you do not get to the XPX M2010 page through the address above (which includes a market segment extension) and if you are not cookied, then you get a generic product details page. When you proceed to customize it, you then get referred backwards, thereby forcing you to navigate back to the page in question. However, if you go through and have chosen home/home office, small business, medium and large business or government you are cookied and you should go directly to the M2010.

    Think this sorts it out….and we appreciate you letting us know of the complications here so we could work them out.

  43. Floria says:

    Ugly it is not. Have you seen the show FX’s Dirt? It’s featured on that – the two main characters have one in their offices. You know why? It’s teh sex. If you ever get a chance to see it up close – then make a judgement. It’s beautiful.

    Yes, it’s pricey, yes it’s heavy. But it’s also amazing. I’ve never thought I would see the color purple in such vividness until I saw it on that monitor. It’s truly a Showstopper. (P.S. all the dimensions are excellent too, for the value and being a Dell, not a Mac).

  44. Dell says:

    I’m glad somebody has blogged about Dell’s poor website interface. Thanks for this.

  45. Richard says:

    Hey, this is WAY out of date, but…

    I have one of these “monstrosities” sitting on my desk right now.
    Next to my 24″ iMac.

    It’s running, and it ain’t plugged in. Unless the specifications changed since your 2006 post (and for something so fundamental it seems very unlikely), the repeated comments about it lacking a battery are BS. It’s got one. It does 2 hours of Lightroom processing for me; seems that most reviewers are getting an hour or so of DVD playback which is a downer, but interestingly the battery life claims do seem based on Core Duo chips, not the current Core 2 Duo (i.e. they don’t reflect a running specification change), hence I am getting better performance than claimed. And that’s me running the 320GB RAID 0 dual 7200rpm drive option.

    The engineering is stunning. That it comes from a very mainstream, high volume provider like Dell is to be applauded. Of course it still runs Windows, but the hardware – if you need it, if you need the ability to fold up your desktop and carry it, this is the best solution. The 20″ panel is now a relatively low res but kicks the arse of the iMac’s 20″ panel as I’ve seen in stores, let alone my 24″ iMac – great colour, sure, as long as you don’t look in the corners 😉

  46. bbum says:

    Yeah — I ought to followup on this one. I think I did correct that it does have a battery.

  47. Vioxx WebLog » Blog Archive » Review: Dell w1700 TV/Monitor - OSNews.com says:

    […] bbum’s weblog-o-mat » Blog Archive » What the Dell? Site … … would do so and get anything resembling decent sound. … Maybe I’ll go to the Dell Retail Store (that has no inventory??!?!!) and have … Last time I bought a computer from Dell was for my brother-in-law. http://www.friday.com/bbum/2006/09/06/what-the-dell/ […]

  48. Minok says:

    Well, its now late 2008, October to be precise. Went looking to build a desktop/tower to replace my aging 10 year old unit at home.
    Wow, I have a headache after 15 minutes of trying to figure out that nonsense.

    Depending on some invisible entry point filter, some of the product lines are not available (even if you click “All Desktops”). Trying to understand the dozen options for Microsoft Vista downgrade to XP (what a privilege!) … I finally gave up.

    What ever happened to a simple tree: pic box, pick cpu, etc. Where the choices are clear, explained and understandable.

    I worked as a professional sysadmin and did pc purchases for a living not 4 years ago, and the DELL website is confusing and has given me a huge headache… Literally… just took 2 advil. Sheesh. No wonder the company is tanking.

  49. pointing out the obvious » Blog Archive » dell’s unusable website says:

    […] never really occurred to me until I read bbum’s what the dell? post about dell’s totally ridiculous website.� It’s true.� I can never really find […]

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