This article was published in July 2014 Internet Retailing
Re- launched in Feb 2014, House of Fraser now offers a scaled down navigation, attractive advertising panels and clear product groupings, making it easy to quickly understand what is on offer.
Scrolling down the page I do get confronted by one or two rather busy images and an irritating rotating image but on the whole, the feeling is one of simplicity.
Though not responsive (they do have a m.site too), with its long and narrow content, hamburger style buttons and fewer navigational choices it has clearly been redesigned with mobile and touch screen in mind (over 50% of HOF’s online traffic now comes from mobile devices).
Too much choice can be a bad thing
Reducing the navigation choices down to just two; Shop by Department or Shop by Brand, certainly helped me start my search quickly.
As I dive into a search for the perfect pair of shoes, an interactive mega menu, with its simple and clear categories, quickly points me in the right direction.
Clear navigational breadcrumbs help me see where I am and how I get home.
A thing of beauty
HOF now offers a reduced number of products per page, razor sharp product imagery and different angle product display on mouse-over, successfully making me want to investigate more. There is a clear indication of the alternative colours available and of product reviews, an important element for social proofing and building trust.
The actual product page offers enlarged images of products from every angle and a new superzoom feature allowing me to examine every detail of the product.
HOF does everything to help the user visualise the item through videos showing how items (like a dress) move on a real person and their True Fit technology to more accurately predict my size.
It does however take me a moment to notice the ‘Add to Bag’ button and then to figure out what is going on with Size Guide and Shopping cart.
This is probably to do with fact that I don’t immediately see the message telling me the shoes are ‘not available’ in that size and/or colour as it is rather hidden on top of the image of the shoe.
I noticed this was catered for better on the mobile app as I was able to input my size at the start.
HOF’s check-out process has not been updated as part of this redesign but the updated e- mini basket on the homepage is useful and displays on mouseover. With fewer steps it is easier to add or delete an item. What could also have been useful here would be the ability to change size or colour of shoes.
When I clear my basket, the website recommends other shoes I might like, another smart persuasive tactic. Not so in the mobile app, once I delete an item, I am dumped back on the homepage.
In terms of accessibility, the site performed well and a number of best practices were observed. The structure of the content is in a meaningful sequence with headings and labels describing the topic and purpose clearly.
The pages have clear descriptive page titles, alternative tags provided with the images, and the tab order of interactive elements on the page follows a logical progression with keyboard focus visible.
However, they could further the functionality by enabling that all form inputs have labels associated with them. One area of concern might be the interactive mega menu as content does not appear operable through a keyboard interface.
Slimmed down navigation, crystal clear product positioning and clever social proofing go a long way towards making it very easy to purchase online at the House of Fraser. In terms of accessibility, alternative tabs, labelling and content have all been displayed in way that is meaningful for those using assistive technology.
One area that may be of concern is the interactive mega menu and how this operates through a keyboard interface.
However what was already a terrific website has just got better and moved closer to creating an online experience that caters well for both the website and mobile user.
In recognition of an increasing evolving retail journey HOF has successfully launched Click & Collect Stores in Aberdeen & Liverpool and on the fifth floor of its store in Edinburgh. It will be interesting now to observe how they will further develop their strategy in order to stay ahead of the curve.