Dear Lab supply companies.
Over my decade in science and research I have had call to order things from many of you. Your supplies are the almost literal life blood of my experiments… if the word ‘literal’ didn’t mean something else. I have over the years funnelled tens of thousands of monies into you to a varying degree and I’m a fairly frugal researcher. And I’m not alone, every lab in the country pours huge chunks of their research money in to your online stores in exchange for weirdly shaped glassware.
So given your status as a vital requirement in the research process and the veritable wagons of cash flowing in every day, WHY ARE YOUR WEBSITES SO TERRIBLE?!
Have you seen Amazon, e-bay or Alibaba? They are all excellent online sites – world renowned, in fact. I ask because many of you seem to have ignored all the vitally useful user features that have made those brands such world class stores, and gone with your own slightly misguided versions.
First off, where are the prices?! Are they secret? Do I need special clearance to know them? Why are they not displayed next to the thing I want to buy? Literally every other type of online store in the world prominently displays their prices next to the item you are looking at. Making me contact you to find out the price of a 10p spatula does not make me like you or make me want to order more things from you. What it does do is waste a chunk of my day waiting for you to reply and then finding out how to un-list myself from whatever mailing lists you’ve just signed me up for.
Secondly, why do you have a search bar even though it is clearly programmed with the intelligence of a particularly stupid hamster. One site (that I won’t name) would only show me items if I perfectly matched the name of the item, which as I was ordering “5,10,15,20-Tetrakis-(4-sulfonatophenyl)-21,23H-porphyrin” was more than a little frustrating. Given that many of your catalogues have a vast number of products, I can’t help but think that being able to find them should be a priority. It’s all the more baffling as putting a Google powered search bar in your site is free and pretty simple to set up.
Speaking of finding things… that brings me neatly on to categories. Given that the search bar has failed, our last hope of finding items is going through the categories. A good analogy is that instead of driving a car that won’t start, I get on a bike that goes in random directions. For example, I needed a retort stand a while back – like some kind of fool I thought it would be under “Lab Equipment” with the other stands. Sadly I was mistaken, it was under “Experimental Equipment” – something I only realised after browsing slowly though all 50 sub-categories. My theory at the time was that the site was sentient and was trying to break me.
I could go on but my blood pressure medication is only so effective and if I have to look at any more sites while I research this, I may possibly explode in frustrated rage. Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by the simple work of Amazon et al but to me it seems mad to not do everything you can to make it as easy as possible to order from your business. Do you not want money? I have money (sometimes) and want to give it to you in exchange for things to do my job. Please let me!