Usability at

The following is from Putting It Together on Just One Page at Gap by Bob Tedeschi, The New York Times Monday September 12, 2005:

...Ms. Johnson said, Gap's sites, which were shut down in late August and reopened to limited numbers of customers over the following two weeks, went far in solving what she called the 'too many clicks' problem.

For instance, when women browse's T-shirt section, they do not have to click to a new page to see details about the 16 shirts shown on each page. Rather, when they put the cursor over an item (called 'mousing over' in industry parlance), they are invited to click on a 'quick look' link for the shirt. That link yields a pop-up window that shows a model wearing the shirt alongside swatches of the colors it is available in. Mouse over any swatch, and the shirt takes on its hue -- and the window tells you what sizes are in stock.

When a shopper clicks 'add to bag' from within that window, the site does not shuttle her to a checkout page, as many electronic retailers do. Instead, another small window replaces the previous one, showing the shopping bag and asking her to consider multi-item discounts. If she ignores that window or clicks the 'close' button, it disappears and she continues browsing shirts from the original page.

Toby Lenk, president of Gap Inc. Direct, the company's corporate catalog and online division, said the mouse-overs and pop-up windows eliminated the need to bounce the shopper off her browsing path each time she needed information.

'A lot of this was borrowing metaphors from the store experience,' Mr. Lenk said. 'When a woman walks into one of our stores, she can process things really quickly. Like when she's browsing the racks, she takes a quick look at what the sizes and colors are, picks up something and keeps going. We're trying to let her stay with the fashion.

'In the old world, it'd take dozens of clicks to hack through pull-down menus for size, color, style,' Mr. Lenk added. 'Nobody had figured out how to let someone put together an outfit and buy off one page. It's just very hard to do.'

There are two thoughts that come to mind when I read this. The first is, "Wow. That's sounds really cool. I want the website to be up so I can look at it. How innovative." The second is, "Ooo.. too bad by browser has three different applications running that block popups. I know how to turn them off, but I'm fairly sure my wife doesn't. That doesn't bode well for Gap if people can't use the website because popups are disabled."

Sounds cool, but I guess I'll have to wait and see...