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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Planner shopping online

For most of the past 8 years I've bought all my planners online, because I've been living in places where I can't buy planners locally (except for when I briefly lived in Scotland). So, I have a lot of experience with planner websites, and I have certain expectations of what my online shopping experience should be.

For example, if I can't find what I'm looking for in about 20 seconds or less, I'm outta there. Similarly, if there are no photos of the interior layout of the planner, there's no way I'm going to buy it. (This happens shockingly often!)

I've purchased from many different websites over the years. Just some that come to mind are Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, Dodopad.com, Moleskineus.com, Letts.co.uk, Filofax.co.uk and Filofaxusa.com, CollinsDebden.co.uk, TheSuccessChoice.com, Uncalendar.com, Quovadis-diaries.co.uk, Organised-mum.co.uk, WeekDate.com, PlannerPads.com UndercoverUK.com, TheDailyPlanner.com, LoveNotebooks.com and Alkos.com, just to name a few.

I've also shopped via brand websites that don't sell directly themselves but direct you to retail sites, such as QuoVadisPlanners.com and Paperblanks.com.

It's been interesting to see how these websites have changed and evolved over the years. Designs change, features change, and some things come and go. For example, it seems like most planner websites have planner ratings or reviews at some point, then most eventually get rid of them because they become a confusing jumble of positive and negative reviews. I've noticed most often the negative reviews have nothing to do with the planner itself and are usually about a delivery problem. I prefer customer testimonials (such as here on Uncalendar), I find those much more useful because they give me ideas on how to use the planner.

Another thing I like in a planner website is an associated blog. I've been reading the Quo Vadis blog for many years, and I love the mix of posts about the products as well as topics of general interest to planner users.  The Quo Vadis blog creates a dialogue directly with customers, asks for feedback, and announces product launches and changes. It is my gold standard for what a planner brand's blog should be.

The number one feature a planner retail site must have is an effective search engine. Like I said above, I give it about 20 seconds and if I haven't found what I'm looking for I move on. When I visit a site, I usually have a good idea of what I'm looking for (a day per page planner, for example, or a weekly desk planner).  Letts UK's diary page has an excellent Search feature that allows you to narrow down your search by format, size, price and even color so you can easily find what you are looking for.

In addition to a search feature, I want to know as much about the inside of the planner as possible. Ironically, I want to find the format and style I'm looking for quickly, but once I find what I'm looking for I'll spend hours comparing features before deciding on which planner I'll buy.

I want close-up photos of the daily or weekly layout. I want to know if holidays are printed on the days. Are there also month calendars, and if so what is the format? I want to know if the paper is white or cream, and the weight (gsm). Are there any international information pages? Sunrise and sunset times? Maps? Notes pages? It's all important. Usually I'm comparing one planner to another of a different brand, and I almost always go with the one that has more features. Again, Letts UK's website is excellent because it lists all the interior features of the diaires and shows photos of the layout (here is an example (when you choose a color it shows you the interior layout)). Another excellent example is Organised Mum, with lots of photos of the interior features. I pore over photos like this when deciding whether to purchase a planner. The more photos and more information, the better.

There are some planner website features that are nice, but aren't as important to me. Many sites hold your information so later you can reorder with just one click. Because I move so frequently, I have to enter my new address anyway so one-click ordering doesn't make any difference to me, but many people find it very convenient.

Also I've noticed a trend lately that some sites have too much going on in the home page. Moving images and cluttery layouts just make it harder for me to find what I'm looking for.

And, more and more planner brands are on social media with Twitter and Facebook where they can communicate directly with customers and even run contests.

What do you like in a planner website? What features make you come back again to the same website? And, what features turn you off and make you move on to a different website?


  1. I also find it shocking how many websites don't show the inside view of planners. The format of the planner is the absolute main thing, so why don't they display it??? Just crazy. They obviously thinK that their customers aren't fussy. WRONG!

  2. I wanted to say what a fantastic article this was. I totally agree that you should be able to find things quickly and most of all about showing the inside of the planner. It is only about 20% of the time I buy something I have seen in real life so I think that websites should actually try and replicate the visual and tactile experience as much as possible. Having said that though I hate a hard to navigate shopping website that has sound and fancy graphics and bouncy things you have to click on. I also hate popups and sites that do not have it stated clearly where they ship to. And payment options should be simple. I like sites that update you on shipping information and when I buy on ebay I like communication from the seller. I like sites with blogs (like Jenni Bick) and when I subscribe to emails I don't like being spammed.

  3. Wholeheartedly agree with your view here, Laurie. You say 20 seconds or you move on, I say if I cannot find/navigate within 3 clicks, then I'm out. Seems we're on the same page. I seldom buy from a site that does not include user reviews. Blogs are okay. I think Janet's view that sites should be a bit more evolved by this time is valid. While they've gotten better, the focus seems to be on selling real estate than the user/customer experience. I absolutely deplore site pop-ups, noisy things, etc, etc, and especially spam or phishing. The first time I experience any of the aforementioned, that is my last time to the site. I also change my identification regularly in order to track which site may be causing me agita. I also dislike how so many sites are trying to be the one-stop everything to all. GEEEEEZ ... enough already, stick to your knitting and maybe give me a bit of some tangential stuff. Yes, I'm not a Facebook fan. But, I am an old New England curmudgeon.


    Loved finding the "FLYlady" from this site. Brilliant! See ... there's a bit of tangential stuff, some blog, but in the end still a scarf and mittens with no need to know my precise movements every minute, all of my friends, their birthdays, families, bbq preferences, etc, etc, etc.

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  6. I admire that you can "go on trust" so to speak, buying your planners online. I cannot agree more regarding your statement that if a site doesn't have a decent search engine, you go elsewhere to browse. Being able to customize a planner to suit my needs is one of my biggest concerns, so touching the pages, browsing through a sample is my biggest need. When the Franklin Covey store in our area closed, I cried. Seriously, I wept. Luckily, there is still an FC store open several hours away. My best friend and I make an annual trek each October so I can browse for hours. She visits the rest of the mall and shops, or whatever people without planner fetishes do. LOVE your blog!

    1. It's out of necessity that I have to order online, and if I were able to buy in the store I would definitely prefer to do that. I've had plenty of planner disappointments from ordering online when the planner I received what not what I expected, either from inadequate photos or descriptions on the website.

      And thanks, I'm glad you like my blog! :)


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