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Usually, when I post a review of a website, it’s really more of a complaint. Or a rant. Today I’m going to describe something a bit different: a surprisingly positive website experience.
It’s been some time since I last visited CanadaPost.ca, and my previous experience was not good. I remember splash screens and other hurdles. I remember getting frustrated by the poor labelling and confusing IA. I remember slamming my fist on my desk, screaming “I just want to…”
The revised website is a huge improvement. It’s obvious that the designers worked closely with real users to determine exactly what it is they want to do, and how functions should be labeled.
Focused, Limited Navigation
 
Note the tabs and the main content area, and how it focuses squarely on the most common and important functions: Finding a Postal Code, Finding a Rate, Tracking, etc.
 
Note that the first tab is Find a Postal Code, but that by default, the Tracking tab is open. I thought this was a great idea, as it renders both of these top functions unmissable.
Another interesting feature is that the top navigation actually does not even appear upon first landing on the site. The user’s attention is thereby focused squarely on the tabs, which (I’m guessing) will handle the tasks needed by 95% of site visitors. As soon as you click on a tab, the top navigation appears:
 
So if you can’t find what you’re looking for in the tabs, you now have access to full navigation.
I think this was a gutsy call, and a good example of designing for probabilities rather than possibilities.
Great Use of Cookies
The first time you visit the site, you get a splash screen to choose your language preference. I actually preferred their former system, which noted your location (presumably via IP lookup) and guessed your language. But at least the new “manual” system only forces itself upon you once. The site remembers your language preference, and doesn’t present the splash screen on subsequent visits.
Better yet, the site remembers the tracking numbers for your recently-tracked shipments. This is a great convenience, as it’s very frustrating having to locate and re-enter tracking numbers. I wish the USPS site would incorporate this function.
Thoughtful Extras
There are all kinds of thoughtful little functions. For example:
  • The site doesn’t force you to use the metric system. You can use imperial if you prefer.
  • A printable, PDF ruler appears right where you need it: when you’re asked to enter a box’s dimensions.
Minor quibbles aside, it’s great to see that Canada Post is obviously working with users to create an online service that really works. Big improvement over the old site.

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