Home » Blog » The Godaddy User Experience (fail)

The Godaddy User Experience (fail)

Posted by Jacob Creech on February 25th, 2011

Like a lot of people, I use Godaddy as my domain name registrar (for .com domains at least), and most of the time I really don’t have to think about them. The domains are cheap, they do a ton of marketing, and so when I come to think of purchasing domains, they are generally the registrar that comes to mind.

However, every year or two that time rolls around again where I have to renew my domains, and the experience I go through really can be very frustrating. Today was another one of those days, and I’ve decided to suffer in silence no longer. Today let’s look at a brief run through of the Godaddy user experience, and what it’s done wrong.

Of course, before I get into my rant, it would be great if you could take this quick test to help see if it’s just me that’s having this issues, or if it is more widespread. I’ll update this post in a few days with the test results. You can find the test at http://video.intuitionhq.com/godaddy-ux.

Update: Check out our new post with all the results from out testing.

The landing page:

When you first go to the Godaddy page, you’ll find lots of information thrown in your face; let’s just say they don’t specialise in the soft sell. The header was the first thing I noticed, and I was quite confused by the fact it showed that I had 1 domain expiring, but I didn’t seem to be logged in. Looking at the whole page, you can see a whole lot of different information. They have a bunch of different pricing information there, and from my perspective they don’t seem very clear about what they are trying to sell me on. The pricing doesn’t seem terribly consistent either – it tells me new .coms are $11.99* a year and lower – what is the asterisks for? Why and lower? What does this all mean? It then goes on to tell me that I get can domains for just $1.99*, again using their old friend the asterisks. Of course, I still don’t know what they are trying to tell me.

I really this whole page could be arranged in a much better fashion – if they should just decide what exactly they are trying to sell me here, they could make there message a lot clearer. The amount of information here could be overwhelming, especially for anyone non-technical looking to buy a domain or host a site. Supposing this is their target market (and part of the reason they advertise to a mass audience like the super bowl) they could really do a much better job of this. For a start, making pricing information much more apparent, and explaining just what you get for the price (especially considering how many add ons they have) would really help.

The header:

Focusing on the header, and looking at the 1st field, you can see it was asking my for my log in information, but supposing I wasn’t logged in, how did it know I had a domain expiring (as shown in the 2nd field)?

I was also a little confused by the 3rd field. This shows the New Zealand flag (which is where I’m based) next to the text USD, which I assume stands for US dollars. I find these two pieces of information to be a little conflicting. Surely they should have an American flag next to the American currency, and a New Zealand flag next to the New Zealand currency? Since they don’t even have an option to select the New Zealand currency, I’d say it’s a little silly to include our flag there. Other than showing off their geolocation prowess what are they actually achieving here?

The competition

For comparisons sake, see the following screenshots from a several other hosting/domain name registrars:



I must admit, I find it rather disingenuous that they Godaddy, Register.com and Hover.com all offer to provide me with email for another rather large fee, considering the quality of service you can get using Google Apps. Anyone who has laid eyes on Godaddys email service will know it’s not worth the hard drive space it’s stored on. I’d imagine it would be fairly safe to assume the same of the other services too.

Design and usability:

As to the design and usability though, the information they display is generally much more concise.

Squarespace.com has a well laid out message explaining what they do, why you should use it, who it’s for and more. The pricing is clearly laid out in the header (well, starting from $12, but at least you have an idea), and the pricing tab at the top of the site shows exactly what you will pay for using the site.

Register.com has a reasonably uncluttered website, although finding the pricing for an actual domain is rather difficult, and in fact without creating an account I’m not sure that you can find the pricing – a big no-no. The price with hosting is much clearer, although they could still got in to more depth with what they are offering here, and who the service is for.

Hover.com also has a much clearer interface. Evidently they’ve decided that email and domain forwarding are important services for them to sell. I’d imagine including pricing for domain names on the home page wouldn’t be a bad idea either, although once you search for a domain the pricing is readily apparent. I still don’t appreciate the fact they are trying to hoist their email service on to me though.

Dreamhost.com also offers domain registration as well as hosting services. The home page is rather bare, but the tabs at the top provide quick access to all the information you could need, and they are far more up front about their pricing. They don’t try and sell you additional services like email, and make it very easy to set up other services like Google Apps and WordPress. The site makes it relatively easy to find pertinent information for your buying decision.

Google Apps also enables you to register domains, and at $10 a year it’s really very reasonably priced. Signing up with them also ensures that you can easily set up Google Apps for your domain, giving you access to email, calendar, docs and a bunch of other Google services.

All things being equal, and depending on what you are looking for, Dreamhost, Google Apps and Squarespace stand out strongly in this example.

On to the next step:

Expiring Domain:

I clicked the ’1 domain expiring’ link at the top of the page and came through to the next page which looked relatively straight forward:

Ok, this looks straight forward enough. That’s the domain I want to renew, and so I click the continue button at the borrow which leads me on to this:

Yeah, they are trying to sell me a range of other things; there is so much information here, it would be hard to know what I wanted even if I was interested. I didn’t want to purchase any extras, and luckily I find when I get to the bottom of the page I find a ‘no thanks’ button. I’m glad at least the give me an easy option to avoid their upsell – just as well considering the millions of terms and conditions they have down there. After I click ‘no thanks’ I find the following:

OK, now I’m a little confused. What’s all that clicking around I was doing if I didn’t have anything in my cart? Didn’t I choose to renew my domain name for 2 years? A quick look back at the screenshot I took there confirms I’m not crazy, but perhaps I needed to tick the checkbox on that page to select the domain. Of course, it seems rather silly that they let me come this far when I had nothing selected; so they are prepared to sell me the extra services even without extending my domain? Hmm.

So I go back again, and ensure I just have the domain name check box ticked. I don’t want it to auto-renew, and while I’d like private registration, I don’t care enough to pay much for it, so I leave both those empty and continue on, past the upsell, and on to the ‘review you shopping cart’ page:

At first I was congratulating myself on my ability to get through the Godaddy registration process, but upon closer examination I noticed something strange:

Recurring? Really? Again, looking back at my screenshots, I could see I hadn’t checked auto-renew, and I don’t want this to be recurring. Thinking maybe, just maybe I’d done something wrong I start the process over again, but again find that no matter what I do it wants to make this a recurring transaction. I resign myself to my fate, and click confirm anyway and find this:

I’m 95% sure I’ve made my purchase having gone through the payment process, but I’m still a little confused by the fact that after my purchase they are still trying to upsell me to a bunch of different things. Can’t I just pay them to go away? None the less, I ignore all of the extras they are offering up and click the ‘set up new products’ button on that assumption that when they are thanking my for my order that means I’ve actually made my purchase. Makes sense right? Then this:

Please log in to see your domains? Huh, wait? When you were congratulating me just now I wasn’t logged in? Even though you knew my name and let me pay for my domains I wasn’t logged in? If I wasn’t logged in, how did you even know I had domains expiring? After all this, I’m still not sure if I’ve actually renewed my domain or not. Clear as mud. All I can do is try and log in now and see if, despite all this conflicting information I’ve renewed my domain or not:

Hey, what do you know, this is what actually being logged in looks like, and after a quick hunt around it turns out I have actually renewed my domain without being logged in, but with Godaddy having enough information to know my name, domains and accept my payments. I’m still confused.

What does this all mean?

Godaddy is aimed at the consumer, and making such a terrible experience surely can’t be good for their business. While upselling people isn’t exactly a crime, and can even be helpful in some cases, the aggressive manner in which they try and sell me something new at every step really does frustrate me. I’m already trying to give them some money, and they just keep asking for me. Pursuing such aggressive tactics may work in the short term, but you’ve got to imagine in the long term it will turn a lot of customers (or potential customers) off their service.

Information overload:

The same goes for the general information overload – if they want people to understand and use their services, they should have a more defined focus on what they are trying to provide. Even if it means creating sub categories, at least they can filter out some of the noise. They probably have more than enough data to figure out who is buying what, and could easily tailor their offers based on their knowledge based on the information.

Signed in or out:

The signed in/signed out issue is still confusing to me. After going through the whole process, I’m still not sure if I was signed in or signed out while I renewed my domain. Trying to make some consistent behaviour would really help. It’s really confusing, and it feels like there are several layers of being signed in or out. From their perspective I suppose it’s just as well I could still purchase my domain while being semi-signed in, but from my perspective it’s very confusing to know whether in fact my purchase had gone through, and what exactly was working/I could access in my semi-signed in state.

Cart behaviour:

The behaviour when adding things to your cart is also rather confusing. I initially thought I had placed the renewal in my cart, only to find two steps later I had to go back again to try to add the same domain. I repeated the process several times to try and stop the renewal from being recurring, but no matter what I didn’t it just wouldn’t work. It was a very frustrating experience, and I can safely say I wouldn’t recommend Godaddy to anyone (well, unless I didn’t like them).

The whole UX:

There are many aspects of this user experience which could cause users to trip up and abandon their cart. There are many issues which would mean it is hard for the users to get even this close to making a purchase. And there are many ways people could mistakenly add extra items to their carts and purchase things unintentionally. As I say, this might work for Godaddy in the short term, but it is difficult to imagine how they could maintain these sort of practices long term, especially in the face of half way decent competition. That said, Godaddy has been around for a long time, and I suppose they will fight hard to keep their dominance. Hopefully that means good things for their user experience in the future. For now, I think it’s time for me to change registrars – recommendations anyone?

Do you have thoughts or experience with the Godaddy user experience? What do you think they are doing right or wrong? Any other feedback? Be sure to let us know in the comments, and sign up to our RSS feed to keep up to date with future updates. Thanks!

Related Posts:

  • http://iwantmyname.com Timo Reitnauer

    These are all things we are trying to avoid at iWantMyName. Clean landing page(s), no upselling during checkout, 1-year autorenew (can be cancelled at any time of course) and easy setup for the most popular web services such as Google Apps, Tumblr, bit.ly etc.

    We’re still rather new and certainly not perfect (e.g. search needs improvement) but we believe in staying out of people’s way and help them to manage domains as easy as possible.

  • http://intuitionhq.com Jacob Creech

    Thanks for that Timo, I really like the look of the site – definitely worth paying a dollar or two extra in order to have a much better experience. I’ll definitely keep your site in mind next time I’m purchasing/renewing a domain. Cheers.

  • http://hover.com Ross Rader (Hover)

    Hi Jacob –

    Thanks for your great feedback. We’re deeply interested in user experience, customer service and doing the right thing. I’d love to know more about your views about our email and forwarding services. We’re constantly looking for the right balance between making sure that our services are presented clearly and cogently and giving customers what they want. Forwarding isn’t something we sell per se, it is included with all services for no additional fees, and email is a primary purchase for most of our customers – so we want to make sure that the defaults are geared to that, without creating a bad experience for other customers. I’d be interested in learning more about your views and feedback on this. Perhaps we could schedule some time to talk more?

    Thanks again for the great feedback – we thrive on it and really appreciate it.



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  • http://www.robertswebdesign.com Robert Vining

    Godaddy UX is a joke for sure. So is there hosting service. I never understood why people pay more for domains, and still go through all that hassle. I know there was a time it used to be cheaper to go through godaddy, but I just can’t stand their products/hosting mainly.

    Checkout domainsite.com or name.com is who owns them. Been there 3 or 4 years now and have 45 domains. None autorenew unless I check an additional box upon checkout, and they just work. Customer service has always responded to emails within minutes. Price is right too, and you get google apps with every domain. Free parking pages as well if you choose. Nice, clean interface, who is and search.

    Thanks for saying what we have all been thinking… even after the new facelift over there.

  • http://flexewebs.com/semantix Jason Grant

    For years I have been ranting on about terrible UX of GoDaddy.com web site. It starts at the home page and ends at wherever user gives up on trying to navigate the minefield of links, boxes and mostly useless information that doesn’t relate to what I am trying to achieve as a user.

    It’s good to see someone has had time to post up a more in-depth dissection of why GoDaddy.com needs to change their site ASAP.

    I certainly avoid registering domains through GoDaddy as the amount of time it wastes me in the process is not worth the couple of pounds I may save per year on the domains I buy from them.

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  • http://intuitionhq.com Jacob Creech

    @Ross: Thanks for leaving your comment – really cool to see you are active and looking for peoples feedback. I’d be more than happy to arrange some time to talk – I’ll send you an email to arrange something. I can’t say as I’m familiar with your email service, it’s just that I’ve found Google Apps/Gmail superior to most everything I’ve tried, and fairly simple to set up. I suppose that isn’t for everyone though, so I shouldn’t complain that there are some alternatives. I’ll look forward to talking with you more about this.

    @Robert: Couldn’t agree more about Godaddy. I’ll check domainsite.com and name.com – nice to have some alternatives to turn towards. Thanks for the comment.

    @Jason: Well said. People go for the price, but end up suffering. Hopefully they will learn from this or more viable alternatives will rise to the surface. Cheers.

  • http://www.uxbooth.com David Leggett

    I think there are a lot of valid points here, there’s always room for improvement in any experience. More testing should always help sites (and their users) yield better results.

    It’s worth noting though: GoDaddy is one of the most successful domain registrars in the world right now. I wonder what we can learn from them, and what makes their system work so well. It’s always easier to pick out the things we don’t like about something over the things we do like.

    I’ve always disliked the constant upsell that defines the GoDaddy experience, but I’m still doing business with them after 5+ years. Their goal of selling the customer extra stuff doesn’t really help me (it sort of bothers me truthfully), but I’ve never had trouble talking with a real person, buying a domain, or managing my 100+ domains on their system.

    Is GoDaddy’s primary target a tech-loving audience that know a lot about web development? Or is GoDaddy targetting a customer that needs a customer service rep to help them along the way (At a conference I attended a few years ago, I remember Bob Parsons telling us that putting their phone number at the top of their site was one of their most important choices). Is it possible for the GoDaddy experience to work really well for one group, but not well for another? What can be done to help both groups more?

    Again, I think the GoDaddy experience has tons of room for improvement. Only here to suggest we try to learn even more about what makes a successful online experience.

  • Vicky

    Hi Jacob,
    My first experience with GoDaddy two years ago was a disaster. I got so confused with the hosting configurations that I paid for space and then accidentally uploaded my files to the free ads version! Given I was on slow – and metered – NZ broadband, I was pretty peeved.

    But like it’s the cheapest out there. I’m prepared to deal with their sexist advertising (how about getting a girl geek spokesperson as well as the sports stars and randoms?), 2 emails a week, pleas months beforehand to renew my domains – until I find something better. If I were still in NZ I might consider Free Parking and Sitehost, in the UK (where I am now) I’m not sure.

    Also, I’m reminded of the Dustin Curtis AA redesign story. Is the consumer the most important stakeholder here?

  • http://intuitionhq.com Jacob Creech

    @David: In my view, Godaddy may the biggest, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best in much the same way that IE being the most popular browser (at least on mainstream sites) doesn’t mean it’s the best either. I think part of it is just overcoming the momentum and presence that Godaddy has built up, and which means a lot of people are still coming to their site.

    I suppose if you are managing 100+ domains there, the cost of switching would be quite high, but there are a number of registrars that would take care of the transfer process for you for a nominal fee. Supposing you were starting all over again, would you pick Godaddy still, or would you try and search out a site with a better UX?

    You are right that perhaps we aren’t Godaddys’ target market, but would imagine technical, geeky people will often be the driving force behind the purchase decision in this area. Many people come to me and ask my feedback before buying domains and a range of other technical things, and Godaddy would never make the recommended list, and I imagine this would be the case for many others too.

    A great point that we should try and learn from what they are doing well – did Bob Parsons provide any information on how much difference having the telephone number there made to their sales? What other things do you think they are doing right in terms of UX? This is a good way to try and look at things, and something I should learn as well – I was just so frustrated after dealing with them, I didn’t think about what they are doing right. Cheers.

    @Vicky: Interesting that you’ve stuck with Godaddy after the initial disaster; are things working better for you since then? I have to say, I find the backend really confusing, and it feels like segments of it have been designed and deployed by different teams without communication, and thus are lacking coherency. There have been a few different suggestions for registrars in the comments if you are looking for an alternative.

    Not related, but I know the pain of NZ broadband very well – fingers cross Sam Morgan and his bunch get a new cable or two across the Pacific and we can finally have unmetered broadband here, or at least half decent caps for a half decent price.

    IIRC, someone got fired after that AA redesign story – hopefully that doesn’t happen to anyone at Godaddy. I can imagine there is a lot of bureaucracy there to deal with, but I do think to be a successful player in this industry you have to be flexible and keep up with developments; at least they don’t have a “This site should be viewed in IE6 a 640*480″ notice at the bottom of the page though.

  • http://www.uxbooth.com/ David Leggett

    @Jacob: I’d say the most important thing to me in a domain registrar is the price. Different people have different reasons for choosing registrars of course. Most of my domains were bought with coupons (many for as low as $0.99). Of course, like most people, I have a threshold for how poor of a user experience I can take. While dealing with the GoDaddy upsell is frustrating, they meet my threshold.

    If Bob did mention specific tests they conducted, it’s slipped my mind. From what I’ve heard, they actually do usability testing, so maybe they’re doing more right that it appears.

    It’s hard to say what GoDaddy is doing right and wrong for sure without internal data. We can only make guesses (I think most of the points in this article are very valid). One thing that seems apparent to me is that GoDaddy puts a lot of effort into making their business seem authentic and secure to people who aren’t used shopping online. They advertise during the Superbowl. They make their phone number readily available. They have more certifications on their front page than I care to understand. All of these are things I don’t typically look for in a website, but might be very important to GoDaddy’s goals.

    On a different note, there was one other really interesting thing that stuck with me after the conference I attended. Personally, I dislike GoDaddy’s marketing. Apparently, I’m not alone in this regard… The first time they advertised during the Superbowl, they bought 2 ad slots, but only the first one aired. So many people complained, that the second ad had to be cancelled. Bob seems to attribute a lot of the initial GoDaddy buzz to news outlets and people talking about how offensive the ads were in the weeks following their first superbowl ad. Not much of a marketer myself, but I thought this was an interesting point all the same.

  • Poop

    it’s successful because once someone registers, the horrible usability makes it impossible to leave

  • Alemoa

    Why are you using godaddy anyway for a .com? There are endless other straight-forward providers who actually just want to sell you a domain (nfshost, hover – which you mentioned, iwantmyname…)

  • http://intuitionhq.com Jacob Creech

    Good question. Probably because at the time I was first registering domains they were advertising everywhere and it seemed like the most obvious option. Live and learn, eh? Hence the point of this post I suppose. Thanks for commenting.

  • sarah smith

    I completely agree with everything you’ve said here. The GoDaddy website is so confusing. It’s horrible! Everyone in that company should be forced to read Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think. Their website should be scrapped and done over. Properly.

  • http://intuitionhq.com Jacob Creech

    Thanks for the comment Sarah. I’m very interested to see what the new owners are going to do with it. Curious to see how it will all turn out.

  • Dfreshter

    Agreed.  I just went there to by a url.  It was so, so confusing that I have bought one elsewhere.

    One word for Godaddy: “Muppets” ;)

  • http://intuitionhq.com Jacob Creech

    Well said, and thanks for the comment. I’ve recently been using Namecheap, and so far they are working out pretty well.

    I’ve seen that Godaddy has recently begun to work on their User Experience which is obviously the first step in the right direction, but there is still some way to go. Hopefully they can improve their service over the coming months.