A Few Usability Mistakes RecipeZaar Made

One of my hobbies is cooking, so I often search for good recipes on the Internet. Recently, I found an excellent recipe for berry scones on RecipeZaar–soooo good, in fact, that I wanted to write a review on it. 

I saw the one review someone wrote about the recipe the first time I made it, so I expected to find the link to write a review somewhere near the reviews. Nope, not there. But it wasn’t too hard to find the “Rate this Recipe” link at the top of the recipe. The problem was what happened next.

Rather than letting me rate the recipe, RecipeZaar wanted me to register. Okay, fine, I thought, I will give them my e-mail address, then they’ll let me write the review. But they didn’t. Now that they have my e-mail, they want to send me an e-mail and make me confirm my registration before I can write the review. Argh! I’m trying to finish up my scones and get back to work. I thought I would do them (and other visitors) a favor by telling them how good this recipe is, and now I’m having to go through all these unnecessary steps just to write a stinking review! Hey people, I’m in a hurry here!

But I do really like the recipe and hate leaving things unfinished, so I go to my e-mail, and there is (thankfully) an e-mail there from RecipeZaar. They did do SOMETHING right!

So I click on the link in the e-mail where they tell me to and I get to a screen with my password on it and instructions that tell me to copy the password in order to change it. Okaaaaaaay. So I do, and I click on the Continue button, thinking I’ll FINALLY get to write my review, but no. Now I’m taken to a personal information page where I get the joy of deciding whether or not to get e-mail for different situations and changing my password. (Geez, can I write that REVIEW yet?!???) Okay, so I change my password, change a few e-mail settings, click Save. Now where is my recipe? I need to know what temperature to cook these scones at … it’s nowhere in sight. I’m still on the settings page. Oh boy. How do I get back to my recipe?

Oh here’s a recipe search feature. I type in “Dannon berry scones”, thinking I’ll get right back to my Dannon berry scones recipe, but RecipeZaar shows my a whole list of all kinds of other scones and Dannon things that have nothing to do with berries. I end up going back to Google, which was how I found the recipe in the first place, just to find the recipe I was using in the first place on RecipeZaar.

Thanks, Google, for rescuing RecipeZaar from a disastrous experience. Now that I’m finally “registered” I can finish my task.

What happened here was RecipeZaar violated a coupld very simple rules of usability:

Let the user complete their task.

Do everything you can to help the user complete the task they’re working on–then you can ask for favors (like registering at your site or filling out a survey). In this case, my primary task was to make the scones, and then I decided on a secondary task: to write a review. RecipeZaar got in the way of both of those tasks by requiring me to register and losing my place (the recipe) in the process. I’m so angry that I am willing to take time out of my day to tell everyone else about my horrible experience.

Remember what I told you.

RecipeZaar should have known I was trying to write a review of the Dannon Berry Scones recipe (hey, I clicked on the “Rate this recipe” link!), but after taking me on a rather circuitous path, they left me in the middle of nowhere, with no way to return to my task. They completely forgot that I had told them I wanted to write a review of the Dannon Berry Scones recipe.

If you’re going to require people to register in order to do something on your site, do it quietly, without interrupting, and ask for all the information after the user has completed their task. If you must ask for it before task completion for some reason, at least have the courtesy to return them to where they were so they can finish what they were doing.

There, I’m finished ranting. Were you listening, RecipeZaar?

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17 Responses to “A Few Usability Mistakes RecipeZaar Made”


  1. 1 Carla July 30, 2008 at 11:02 am

    great post, but where’s the recipe for these awesome scones?

  2. 2 krauseann July 30, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Oh, yeah the scones! Here you go: http://www.recipezaar.com/236742
    I used mulberries, changed from white to brown sugar and increased the amount just a tad (to 1/3 c.), then added some Mexican vanilla and white chocolate chips.

    My boy who doesn’t like the berries noticed the dough tasted really good, so he just made the same recipe without the berries and says they turned out great.

  3. 3 Liza@Recipezaar July 30, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Yes, we are listening! I’m sorry you didn’t have what you felt was the best experience with our site your first visit there. The steps you had to go thru to register are supposed to happen until you got to the change your password part. You could have stopped there and gone and reviewed the recipe. Altho perhaps our wording isn’t clear and needs to be tweaked if you thought you had to change your password and any account settings before you could continue. Not being brought back to the recipe you were trying to review once signing up is annoying and something we’ll be looking into, so thanks for the heads up. Our community is very vocal and shapes most of our site, so we are very receptive to all feedback, good, bad and ugly…if we can use it to better us, then we make a better site. I can tell you that once you are a member and you try to review a recipe and you aren’t signed in, once you sign in, it brings you directly back to the recipe you were trying to review. So it seems to work if you are already registered and just need to sign in, but there is a disconnect if you are registering for the first time.

    We do make people register before submitting reviews, recipes, photos-any content b/c we have a Terms of Service that we need all to sign to be able to participate in our site. I’m sure you can imagine what kinds of reviews we could get if no one was held accountable. Anyway I hope any future participation on your part at Recipezaar leaves you with a better taste in your mouth…here’s to hoping your next venture at RZ will taste as good as those berry muffins.

    Liza@Recipezaar

  4. 4 Liza@Recipezaar July 30, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    Oh! Also realized they are scones, not muffins. And just did a search for them at Recipezaar to test your results and when you search: Dannon Berry Scones, they come up as the 2nd recipe in your search return…the only reason they don’t come up as #1 is b/c the title is actually Dannon’s Summer Berry Scones..so our system is returning any recipe to you with Dannon’s, Summer, Berry and Scone in it. If you typed in the EXACT name, it would have come up #1 not 2…fyi. tx!

  5. 5 funnygirl August 7, 2008 at 6:37 am

    your blog is getting better )

  6. 6 Beebster September 28, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    So…this is VERY interesting! “RecipeZaar Listens to their Users”. LOL!! They listen. They shut you down for expressing any opinion. The site is rife with “insiders” and dominates its users in a way that his “blasphemous” to internet protocol……to the point of being “facist” since the Scripps takeover. Your experience there will fall way short of anything resembling “user friendly”. There is no other site on the entire WWW that so totally “closes you down” for expressing any opinion contrary to the “website police”. It may be “where recipes are”, but it sure as hell IS NOT where YOU want to be. Above all, do not waste your time on their “Customer Support” site. The Lisa and Kathy “grunts” have been robotically installed here by Scripps to strip you down to your naked least. Fact is, even if you “try” to go over their heads, Scripps will ignore you like yesterday’s news. This is NOT a friendly website. As a matter of fact, it’s STAFF makes it downright unbearable. Good luck on your venture to the world of recipes. Go to ANY site but ‘Zaar….where the grunts “AAR”.

  7. 7 Kat's Mom September 30, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Zaar is a great place to post your recipes and find new ones. Welcome! Should you need to look at a recipe again, the most recent recipes you have viewed are listed on your About Me page. If you want to make a recipe again, it is easy to add it to your cookbook or just find it on the list of your reviews.

    Now that you are registered, you can be part of the Zaar community. Zaar has forums dedicated to cooking contests, swaps, cooking lessons, ethnic cuisines, special diets and some social forums. As you might imagine, in the social forums there sometimes is a need to remind members of the Terms Of Service(TOS). There is no spamming permitted and members are asked to: “Please refrain from posting political or religious topics. Be polite and respectful.” These policies help keep the forums a pleasant place to visit.

    Beebster, I am sorry you feel the way you do. If you were censored, it may be because you did not abide by the TOS. Lisa and Kathy are not grunts, but hardworking employees with the patience of saints. They enforce the regulations set out by Scripps who now owns Zaar. To make any site a good experience, folks have to agree to disagree and treat each other with respect.

    Recently, a few members banded together and targeted another member with sarcastic posts. They were warned several times but continued in a type of “mob mentality”. Those members had their forum privileges removed.

    Sometimes members want a policy or the way a tool works changed. Sometimes it *is* changed, but when they are told “We can’t do that”, they refuse to accept the answer. Like children who have been told they cannot have a cookie, they throw a temper tantrum and try to start a “revolt” in the forums. There are only so many times a member can be told to stop before there are consequences.

    Personally, I believe Zaar is one of the friendliest and easiest to use recipe sites on the web (now that most of the Scripps takeover bugs have been corrected). Where else can you search for a recipe that will use your can of baked beans and pound of hamburger, scale the recipe down to 2 servings and take less than a half hour to prepare?

  8. 8 Beebster October 31, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Sorry, Kats Mom, but “grunts” are “grunts”…..if it walks like a “grunt”, talks like a “grunt”, and looks like a “grunt”…..well, what more can I say? A “grunt” will look a subscriber in the face and call them a liar, even when their own Corporate people are calling the “grunts” liars, and the “grunts” still defy the Corporation, and continue to lie. For $25 bucks a year, one can buy ink, purchase paper, and print one hell of a lot of recipes…. and publish a cookbook! As a matter of fact, one doesn’t have to go THAT far. Just pluck the little jewels off ‘Zaar, add them to your own online publishing site, and print away. You can even “sell” the cookbooks for $25 each and make a mint. That way, ‘Zaar is paying YOU to use the very site they are ripping your butt for $25/year. Are YOU insane? The very “lie” that ‘Zaar perpetuates that “they” become the owners of the recipes you submit is another, well, outright lie, and they’d be brought to their knees trying to prove such rubbish propaganda.

    Scripps/’Zaar are the evils of the corporate world. Looks like they’ve already “plucked” YOUR turkey!

  9. 9 krauseann November 3, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Hmmmm. I never knew a recipe-sharing site could generate such strong negative emotions. I like RecipeZaar because I can save my recipes there and I’ll never lose them. I can log on from anywhere and access them, and easily send them to my friends as links. I am happy when someone reviews one of my recipes–it’s exciting to me that I brought good food to someone else’s table, someone I don’t even know.

    If you are intent on killing trees by printing your recipes and you want to sell books, then by all rights, have at it. (I would recommend blurb.com–they will print your cookbooks on demand and send you a check.)

    There’s no need to go around slamming people offering a great service to cooks who want to share their edible creations. $25/year is a small price to pay for all the engineering that went into making that site–and if you don’t want to pay the $25, you can use the free service. I don’t understand why you’re so uptight.

  10. 10 queenkungfu November 7, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    Kat’s Mom, I have to disagree with you about people being warned multiple times before they are banned. I was banned after I made one post. I was a guest host (the monthly topic forum) and a member for a while before this happened.
    One wrong post and they banned me. sigh…

    The website is great! Very fun to take part in. Rating/photographing recipes. Contributing family recipes. They do swaps, special events, and have a game forum. The site is fun. I just wish I would not have been banned for one “uncalled for” comment. I don’t think it was just but I do not run things over there. On the whole I would highly recommend recipezaar. It’s a great place to go and play for a foodie. Just make sure you keep your opinions to yourself.

  11. 11 poopsiepoop November 7, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Recipezaar is run by dictators who ban you for absolutely no reason. Forum hosts bully other members and get away with it. Rules are not applied equally. If you are friends with certain forum hosts, you get away with anything and everything. Kathy is a powertripper. The customer service for paying members is horrible.

  12. 12 3isles September 29, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Hi
    Your description of the task of reviewing before registering is totally accurate…and I was exaspirated when the same thing was happening to me…but then it happens lots of other places. Lots of sites don’t do things intuitively…
    that said, once I was all registered and no longer had to jump through hoops to review stuff or save recipes or whatever I LOVE the ZAAR!!! I don’t care if there are “dictators” and “powertrippers”…I just read and use the recipes, that’s all Im there for… I don’t need drama, just addicted to recipes…..

    • 13 krauseann September 30, 2009 at 9:20 am

      I couldn’t agree more, 3isles! I don’t get what gets people so stirred up about on a recipe-sharing web site–I just want to find some good recipes to cook up. There is so much joy in cooking and eating–who needs drama? I am a total foodie, and I LOVE RecipeZaar for all the wonderful food options and ideas it gives.

      I find the Ratings on RecipeZaar are helpful not just to give feedback to the recipe-owner and help others decide whether they want to use the recipe, they are also a good place for me to make notes on what I changed about the recipe, so next time I go back to it, I have my own notes right there beside the recipe. It’s awesome!

      BTW, if you want to look me up on RecipeZaar, my zaar name is “Annz Recipez”.

  13. 14 CJ January 10, 2010 at 1:00 am

    I was looking for a recipe to email to a friend and went through the same hoops, ie, registration and then not being able to go back to the recipe I found. I had to search all over again and then i couldn’t email the recipe itself, but it went to the home page of Recipezaar. I had to copy and past after going back and finding the recipe AGAIN! FYI I have used Recipe Circus for years and have no problems. I may still try again looking on Recipezaar now that I have registered.

  14. 15 Brenda Bandura June 23, 2010 at 9:45 am

    I have been having trouble with recipezar site for the last two weeks. Everytime I log on, home page comes up but goes to blank page after a few seconds. I have to have my recipezaar.com fix evet
    ry day…….can you send me helpful hints as to what I can do to correct this problem? (via e-mail) Do I need to download another program of some sort?

  15. 17 Yemek Tarifleri September 10, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    Very nice post. Thank you for sharing


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