By September 28, 2011’s Nifty Product Stock Level Prognosis Feature

The IKEA Web site is considered one of the worst ecommerce sites put out by a major company. It’s so bad that it was used as the focus point for a usability certification seminar from Human Factors International. Think about it: HFI trains people all over the world to be better usability advocates and information architects. The top site on their list of crappy ecommerce experiences was

There’s all sorts of stuff wrong with the site, from the creepy Ask Anna feature that has yet to return a usable result to the absolutely overwhelming number of navigation options. However, there is something really cool on that I wish other ecommerce sites would incorporate into their partnership with their brick and mortar stores: a stock level indicator coupled with estimates on restocking items that are sold out.

I bought some white plastic storage bins from IKEA in mid-August of this year. I didn’t know how well they’d work out with the rest of my standing desk idea, so I only bought two. They were great, but by the time I went back in earlier this month they were sold out.

I went to (I know, I know, the site can’t even set cookies to remember what country I’m from). I found the bins in stock, but shipping four to my house would cost more than the bins! offers the ability to check general stock levels at stores. I selected the one closest to me (again, why no cookie to remember what store is closest to me?) and clicked “OK.” The Web site reported no bins in stock, with a link to a restock estimate:

ikea out of stock notification

I’ve been checking back every few days or so over the last two weeks. Usually stated that the bins would be restocked, with no firm estimate on when. Until this morning, when I was greeted with this little happy screen:

ikea stock levels

Hey, that’s pretty nifty: an estimate on when the product will arrive, as well as the number of units. While I don’t expect all of the bins to sell out during the week, this lets me know to hustle out before the weekend so I don’t have to fight all of the crowds. also has an “email me when this is back in stock” function, which failed to notify me of any impending restock. I don’t know if that’s expected behavior or not; maybe I’d get an email AFTER the item has arrived instead of a few days ahead of time.

Interestingly, since I started typing this article Monday morning the stock level projection changed from the above, to “unknown” and now “in stock on Friday.” Now it looks like I might be hustling out to fight all the crowds after all.

wednesday prognosis

So, this is an absolutely awesome idea that I think any big box store should be able to implement. They already do a lot of shipment tracking (Wal-Mart is famous for this), so why not expose that data to their ecommerce sites?

It’s a shame that IKEA’s implementation is inconsistent, but hey they are HFI’s poster child of a bad ecommerce Web site.

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