This article was published in May 2010 Internet Retailing
The UK leads the world in online grocery shopping, with a reported 16% of UK web-users purchasing grocery items online in 2010.
With consumers’ choice of supermarket no longer governed by proximity to their homes and with all of the major supermarket chains now offering an online shopping service, the ease-of-use of the sites has become a key factor in who consumers choose to shop with.
With a reputation for high quality products, does the Waitrose online shopping experience match those same high standards? I set to find out by shopping for tonight’s dinner using their service.
The Waitrose home page looks clean and up to date. The home page is dominated by a carousel showcasing current promotions, which somewhat diminishes the call to action for the online shopping.
However, as the online shopping is not the sole purpose of the site, the visibility of the call to action is acceptable and not difficult to find. The call to action is branded as “Waitrose your way” and the customer is given the flexibility of three different combinations of shopping and delivery.
Selecting the “Shop Online – We Deliver” option you are taken to the login screen where there is an option to enter a postcode as a guest, rather than having to register at that point.
This ‘passive registration’ approach is welcomed as it allows the user to get on with the task at hand and provide more details later on.
The optional registration process is quick and painless however, with only basic personal information required.
The groceries are arranged into four main categories: Fruit & Veg, Fridge, Cupboard and Freezer. This is an effective way of distilling a bewildering array of items into easy-to-understand categories.
However, whereas most of the categories seem intuitive, the “cupboard” category is very diverse, incorporating food, drink, toiletries, home & garden, pets, etc. It may have been more effective to add an additional “home” category to separate out non-food stuffs.
There is also a faceted search facility below these categories that enables the user to further distil the list by dietary requirements and/or promotions. Although this is effective in giving the user control over the content, the list itself is visually busy and requires a few glances to navigate.
I want to buy some steak and navigation through the fridge, fresh meat and beef categories is straightforward.
However, now faced with 80 items, the only further option is to filter by price. It would be useful to have the option to filter by further criteria, such as cut of meat.
It is also unclear how the items are sorted and it would be helpful to relay the current sort order back to the user.
Choosing some fillet steak, I am forced to buy by weight, rather than as a pack of two steaks as would often be found in the supermarket. This could prove confusing for many users.
The item information page is clearly laid out and usefully includes information about how the packaging breaks down for recycling purposes.
Unfortunately, the image zoom did not work on my Safari browser (though seemed fine in Firefox).
The order summary and trolley are clear, though some of the lime-green text on white background exhibits low-contrast (2.73:1) failing the W3C’s guidelines for accessibility as well as making it tricky to read for users with normal vision (some of the grey text also fails the W3C guidelines).
The individual item lines in the trolley are also quite crowded, particularly when you have a lengthy item name.
The checkout button is currently disabled and the reason for this is not immediately clear. I eventually discover that the order needs to be a minimum of £50.
Although there is a small message to say this, it could be more visible and would benefit from being reinforced with a message when clicking on the disabled ‘checkout’ button.
Choosing a delivery slot is very straightforward and intuitive, though the small, low-contrast text may cause reading difficulties for some.
The checkout process begins by requesting a delivery address, despite already entering one during registration, which is likely to prove frustrating if this occurs every time you shop.
The rest of the checkout process is painless however. The basket contents are summarised on a single screen, organised by the same four categories used when shopping, which again helps the user to visualise the shopping in their kitchen and more easily identify missing items.
The only problem with checkout was in trying to view the terms & conditions, which opened in a tiny popup window. This again appeared to be a Safari-specific problem.
Generally speaking, the Waitrose site provides a solid offering with a good user experience that is, in the main, intuitive and helpful.
This experience is slightly diminished however by lack of granularity in the navigation, some confusion over the minimum basket value, and purchasing some items by weight rather than packs is likely to deviate from users’ in store experience.
In addition, the contrast of some of the text is likely to cause problems for many users, particularly with visual impairments and users of the popular Safari browser are likely to be left feeling frustrated by what appears to be a lack of basic cross-browser testing.