River Island : Online form adds insult to injury

A condescending message has proved unpopular with customers

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The feature

UK-based women’s clothing retailer River Island recently came under fire on Twitter for its online registration form (Note: the Twitter post and thread contain strong language). Visitors must fill out the form before buying an item, but it does not recognise special characters and accents, which means it does not accept all names. Visitors with special characters or accents in their names are presented with an error message: ‘We think you’ve mis-typed your first name – please try again’.

The takeaway

Acknowledging and respecting diversity in website forms is important: names are fundamental to identity and users are likely to become frustrated if they have to adapt their name to suit online systems.

People with names that are longer or shorter than the ‘norm’, or which include hyphens or accents, are likely to be frustrated by forms that do not accommodate them, but they are probably be used to having to adapt to rigid forms, which are widespread on the web. 

The River Island site compounds this frustration with a condescending error message, suggesting that visitors cannot spell their own name. One user’s irritation turned to outright ire, prompting a tweet that has been liked by 12,500 people, retweeted more than 900 times and received more than 150 comments. A hard reminder that when it comes to customer interaction design, details – and copywriting – matter; and that a misjudged online form can quickly become a reputation issue.

First published 04 February, 2020
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