Having watched the online shopping process evolve from the very beginning, it would seem that the "basics" elements were settled some time ago: search or browse, select, refine, purchase, and ship. The last two are sometimes combined in some variant of the "buy it now" button, but regardless of what precedes it, the ultimate goal of a shopping site (for both vendor and shopper) is to complete purchases.

With so much research perofmed and so many existing examples of successful shopping sites, how did istockphoto.com manage to miss the mark so badly There I was, ready to hand them my money (a crucial and delicate moment in the shopping process) and it took me a good 15 seconds to find the “buy" button on this page.

Go ahead, take a moment (or 53) and locate the “buy” button.

iStock checkout page

It should never take more than a SINGLE second to find the buy button. Like a fire extinguisher, the buy/check out button should be available and visible at all times (without being obtrusive), ready for that crucial moment when you "commit."

How could something so vital be so buried? In a brick-and-mortar store, this is the equivalent of putting the cash registers underground somewhere in the parking lot and requiring a secret knock to get to them.

Were the designers all locked away somewhere for the last 20 years? Have they been unable to see any known example of the "online shopping cart" mechanism? It's not like the company or the notion of online shopping is brand new and Getty Images is not a small company without resources. [ED—The payment method on iStock involves purchasing credits that you can exchange for images, which makes for a slightly different checkout process.]

Whatever the cause, it was surprising to see such an integral piece of an established process go wrong.

Keep these coming. Send them to us via Twitter or Facebook using the hastag #wtfUX or email them to: wtfux@uxmag.com with "#wtfUX" in the subject line. Include as much context as you can, so we get a full understanding of what the f%*k went wrong. Image of man holding money courtesy shutterstock.

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There is a typo in the article: "With so much research perofmed".

The 'Buy' button was buried because the so-called 'web designer' was beholden to the Great God of GREY. Everything grey. Grey text on grey backgrounds. It's 'modern' and 'clean looking', apparently. This company must be losing a fortune because of two idiots - the idiot 'designer', and the bigger idiot who paid him, and said this design was okay. Unbelievable.

Fun article! Funny and witty, as expected =)

However, I went to play around with iStock to validate this, and on most pages, if not all, the CTA could hardly be more obvious: huge red button in the middle of a monochrome theme.

Also, I don't know when this screenshot was taken, but this is not the UI I got. Maybe we're in different A/B groups?

Sorry, Daniel - I love your articles, but perhaps this one could have benefited from a bit of nuance.

I'm not sure you'd want a buy button on the search results page. If you had thousands of results, would you want a buy button under every product? Most people search to find what they're looking for, then select an item to go to a details page, THEN buy (where the buy button is quite obvious on iStock). I've never bought anything from a search results page without looking at the product further. The screenshot you show is your Lightbox, so presumably you've saved these images previously. So do you want to buy them all now? I don't know how common this is (buying everything in your Lightbox at once). Yes, the buy link is hidden, but I don't think people buy from this view. I don't think this qualifies as a #wtfUX...I've purchased from iStock for years and never had any problems finding out how to buy.

Its not a search results page Joe, it is a lightbox page the user has set up (like a wishlist on a clothing ecommerce website).

You have used iStock for years so you are probably used to the ux flow of the iStock checkout process, anyone new to the site might struggle with the concept of not being able to purchase items that are essentially in their "Wishlist".

Daniel makes an excellent point - why can't you just buy from here?

Great article, keep them coming!