Archive for Internet Retailing
March 2014 – Fashion ecommerce sites
Understanding, measuring and improving the customer experience is a pretty fundamental part of everything we do at SimpleUsability.
Whether we’re working on competitor/comparator testing at the start of a project, multi-platform testing across a number of devices, or an expert review, our research and the resulting recommendations help our clients to improve their customer experience and benefit from the associated commercial gains around improved conversion or internal cost savings.
Whilst usability or accessibility scales are common place, our intention with the Online Experience Index is to apply 30+ years of combined user experience knowledge to benchmark the overall user experience within specific ecommerce verticals and identify who is leading the way in delivering a powerful customer experience.
We report here a review of clothing retail websites Marks & Spencer, Hobbs, Karen Millen, French Connection, Boden, Oasis and Fat Face. Reviews were performed in the week of 10 March 2014.
- Most sites communicated their brand and purpose of website well
- The main navigation was clear and descriptive on most sites
- Few provided support for search or clearly indicated the order of search results
- Product pages were comprehensive and pricing clearly indicated
- Most sites supported customers through the checkout process well, however, few allowed users to make a purchase without setting up an account
In order to score each site’s overall experience rating, a panel of expert UX professionals assessed the site in the context of a core user journey of browsing and purchasing an item.
The examiners rated the site on over 120 key touchpoints, which were tailored to provide a thorough, representative picture of the user experience. These were systematically weighted to denote the relative importance of each individual aspect of the site, and were designed to span multiple facets of the user journey, including homepage, navigation, search and product pages, as well as the flow and usability of the checkout process. From this, an individual rating was able to be drawn up for each facet, based on the overall usability.
In order to emulate a naturalistic user experience, examiners conducted the review whilst undertaking the task of browsing for and selecting items for an outfit, and proceeded to purchase these items as a new customer to that online brand.
The Index, by facet
Considering each facet of the user journey in turn, we found a variation of design usability across the websites that is highlighted through their individual ratings. The following diagrams illustrate the best and worst individual ratings by facet of the user journey.
The homepage announces the brand identity and the purpose of the website. Most of the sites in this review did this well, with the identity in the header and purpose of the website clearly shown above the fold. One site, French Connection, did something different. Their identity is dropped to the footer where it might be missed by users familiar with finding the logo and identity in the header.
In general navigation was done well in these sites, using a top level menu in the header with drop downs for the sub categories. The labelling was clear and descriptive with few examples of jargon. All sites honoured the back-button and most made good use of breadcrumbs to help locate users and provide additional navigational routes.
Sites should, however, take care that navigation is clear and distinctive from other elements of the site. For example, the header on Hobbs crowds the main navigation menu with the search, basket and sign in elements that may overwhelm and confuse users. One site, Fat Face, used an innovative form of navigation that may confuse users new to the site.
All site provided a search function for users and on most sites this was easy to find in or close to the header. Few sites, however, offered search prompts to help users type in search terms and few offered suggestions for spelling mistakes or zero results sets.
In general search results were displayed in a similar layout to product listings, enabling users to interact with them in a familiar way. However, it was not always clear what order results were displayed in or how many results were available. French Connection, for example, displays a count of results much higher than the number of items displayed and obscures the function to sort the results under the Filter link so the casual user may be very confused.
Most sites provided well organised filters that enabled users to narrow their results within several categories. For some sites, for example Karen Millen and French Connection, features within the filters were displayed with very low contrast that may cause problems for users with visual impairments.
In general the sites broke down the process into several stages and clearly indicated the stages up front. Most also allowed users to move backwards and forwards in the stages to enable them to make changes. Few sites allowed users to make a purchase as a guest, so unlike buying from a high street store, the user was forced to set up an account with the site to make a purchase.
The Index visualisations
The following diagrams draw together the individual ratings to visualise, by retailer, the user experience across all facets of the user journey.
Total index score: 80%
Total index score: 78%
Total index score: 74%
Total index score: 81%
Total index score: 72%
Total index score: 83%
Marks & Spencer
Total index score: 86%
Watch out for our next online experience index which will have some new features including; persuasion centred design and scores based on the mobile experience.
We’ll be adapting our index to add sector specific questions and omit areas of the index that are not as relevant depending on the subject that we are reviewing.
Our plan is to target particular categories and topics moving forward. We’ll be looking at how well department stores are bringing multiple department shopping experience to end customers, and looking at specific categories such as shoes and younger fashion.
We invited users to participate in booking a holiday on the Thomson website. They were asked to have a destination and booking party in mind and add on any specific requirements they would need. Eye tracking technology was used to observe how the users would navigate through the site during the holiday booking process.
Once on the Thomson homepage one user was immediately attracted by the ‘Late deals’ option. This took them to a landing page showing over 33,000 holiday deals which the user found overwhelming. The results were already arranged in lowest price order but this was not obvious to the user. Clicking on the column heading rearranged the date order of the results, but again we saw the user looking around the page because she had failed to realise that anything hand changed due to the listings looking so similar.
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Our team conducted an eye tracking review of the Mr Porter website for the July edition of Internet Retailing Magazine. The full article can be read here: Mr Porter Website Eye Tracking Article.
We invited users to participate in sessions to explore the Mr Porter website. Users were either asked to purchase a replacement item of clothing or to buy a gift for someone. By using eye tracking, we were able to observe users’ natural behaviour as they interacted with the website.
Upon entering the website, users were drawn to the large promotion image that took up three quarters of the screen. However, due to the home page offering editorials over products, the users immediately resorted to using the main navigation to either select the department they were after, or the ‘What’s new’ if they were just browsing.
Users responded favourably to the layout of the products when browsing. After accessing a department landing page, they were drawn to the large images and were content to scroll down a long list of results.
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When we talk about emotional engagement, we don’t mean ordering an ‘I heart ’ t-shirt and giving the CEO a bear hug, we’re referring to the scientific study of emotions and how they have the starring role in the purchase decisions made by your customers.
Have you ever asked yourself how your users feel while they are using your product or your website?
It makes intuitive sense that if your users have a positive emotional experience on your site they’re more likely to convert from browsers into buyers. Do you know exactly what on you site is converting using emotional equity, and what is failing?
We are irrational beings, and nowhere more so than when we are online and (believe it or not) when we are parting with cash. In fact neuroscientists argue that emotions drive between 90-99% of all decisions we ever make.We have evolved a highly sophisticated subconscious brain that effortlessly deals with the millions of inputs we perceive every second before delivering it to the attention of our conscious brains, via ‘gut’ emotions.Yet the most widely used methods in usability testing often involve asking a user’s conscious brain why it did something. The truth is it simply doesn’t know.
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Our team conducted an eye tracking review of Waitrose for the May edition of Internet Retailing Magazine. The full article can be read here: Waitrose Website Eye Tracking Article.
We invited users to participate in sessions to explore the new Waitrose.com website. These were people who shopped online and had different levels of experience regarding using grocery websites. By using eye tracking technology we were able to observe users shopping naturally for basic items that they would regularly need.
Users struggled to find the most basic of items. The simplified initial drop down menu for ‘Groceries’ was limited.In order to find bread, users had to learn to click on ‘Cupboard’>’Food’>’Bakery’ and then choose an additional category such as ‘Sliced bread’.
This was felt to be a long route to individual items. It was not obvious how these sections were ordered within the navigation area displayed at the top of the page,with some users commenting that they expected to see the most common sections first.
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Our team conducted an eye tracking review of DIY.com for the March edition of Internet Retailing Magazine. The full article can be read here: B&Q Website Eye Tracking Article.
Participants were taken to the B&Q home page and asked to find products that they could buy from B&Q that would reduce heating bills. Most users scanned over the various menus at the top of the page and then hovered over the black buttons and worked their way through the mega-dropdowns. Users were initially frustrated with the complexity of the menus and the way they changed if their mouse clipped a corner when going to click.Participants were unable to predict where a product would be within the menus as the structure seemed random to them.
Where would you expect to find ‘loft insulation’? Later on, some users were further annoyed with the huge mega-dropdown obscuring page content, if they moved their mouse to the top.
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Our team conducted an eye tracking review of M&S multi-channel activity over the 2010 Christmas season for the January edition of Internet Retailing Magazine. The abbreviated article can be read here: M&S Mobile Website Eye Tracking Article
We ran a range of tasks relevant to Christmas, either browsing for a last minute present or choosing an outfit for the festive season. The cross channel experience allows users to be more demanding about the vehicle that they use to shop, and the expectations that they bring with them to that experience. This is a huge challenge for companies when providing functionality across multiple routes, in this case website, mobile website, TV and in store.
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The participants who took part in the research for the new gap.eu website were asked to go shopping to replace their favourite pair of jeans.
From the new homepage we were able to observe that users were drawn to the strong colours on the right hand side of the page (graphic outlined by union jack). Users ignored the main photographic element with the ‘New and now’ messaging, and decided to go straight to the top navigation options. From here there were no drop-down menus available so users could not quickly get into the category that they were looking for.
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We invited a few current online Sainsbury’s shoppers to carry out their weekly shop in our eye tracking studio. Shoppers started at one end of the grocery primary navigation shopping first in the Fresh section, moving on to Bakery etc. Although they had logged into their accounts, “none of the participants used the ‘My usuals’ or ‘shopping list’ features as they were concerned about missing offers” – isn’t this interesting? Customers always amaze!
Once into a product category, images were incredibly important to the shoppers. Participants scanned down the list of photos looking for familiar products, scanning across to the name and price afterwards. Most shoppers had an idea in their head of what something should cost, and hence used price as a sense check to confirm they were buying the right size or correct product.
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With Father’s Day approaching users were asked to shop for a gift for a man on the Selfridges’ website.
From the homepage users hesitated to get started because the page was filled with one large graphic that advertised the sale. Users were forced to interact with the primary navigation drop down menus. Some users found this quite difficult, because when accessing the ‘Menswear’ drop down menu the ‘Categories’ section started with three unexpected titles ‘SALE’, ‘NEW IN’ and ‘ONLY AT SELFRIDGES’ which were displayed in upper case. This made the category list very hard to scan and choose an area to start browsing from.
When accessing a category, eg ‘Shirts’ from ‘Menswear’, users were shown a page that had a low number of products as its default. We observed that users were looking around the page to access more products. It was not always obvious that the user could change the number of items displayed from the ‘View by’ section in the top right hand corner of the screen. This display was quite different to other clothing retail websites that users were familiar with, and some users were looking for links to subsequent pages from the bottom right hand corner of the page. Users had choices on the right hand side of the page to narrow down the products displayed.
Users had already selected a category eg ‘Shirt’. The title ‘Category’ title was repeated on the right hand side, but expanded underneath it was types of shirt, eg ‘Check’, ‘Plain’, etc. This small inconsistency did not help with the browsing confidence of the user. The top filter was expanded but the others were not so users often missed these filters and did not understand how to interact with the titles.
SimpleUsability have been providing expert eye tracking advice for the readers of Internet Retailing Magazine since 2009.