Fitness Footwear was launched by Luke Barlow in June 2005 as a way of selling Chung Shi sports shoes, which couldn't be found anywhere else in the UK.
Four years on, the site is doing well, and Luke now has a team of ten, and the business is currently outgrowing its warehouse in Hertfordshire, and has even launched a sister site, onshoes.com.
Having started as a family business, the website has been created on a limited budget: Luke has spent around £100k on the site since launch. So how does it shape up?
It's a pretty cluttered homepage, but still laid out in a way that should be understandable to visitors.Navigation links and the search box are where you would expect to find them, though the text could stand out more.
For instance, the top navigation links are dark green on a green background, and don't stand out as well as they could. In addition, the drop down menus are not the most user friendly way to select sub categories.
The same could be said for the brand / footwear type links on the left of the page, though they do allow brand conscious visitors to scan and take in the whole range quickly.
Elsewhere, security credentials are stressed, with Verisign and McAfee logos, while a box on the right gives further reasons for shopping on this site; 365 day returns, free delivery, and alternative payment methods PayPal and Google Checkout.
Searching / browsing
Several browsing options are provided, by brand, type of shoes, as well as by men's /womens.
If you choose to search for shoes by brand, a well laid out and useful page allows shoppers to by product range, by shoe size and gender, as well as providing the option to search by keyword within that brand.
As is essential for a website which displays thousands of shoes, feature filtering options are provided to help narrow the search. This means that customers can filter out products they are not interested in, and avoids the need to scroll through long lists of products.
Sounds obvious, but some websites still lack such functionality, such as Sky Shopping, which was launched last week.
I can filter by brand, activity, shoe size, price, colour and more, enough to narrow the search down to a manageable level. To make it easier, filters can be added and removed easily if you filter out too many products.
The product pages contain all the information customers should need is available there. Product photos are good, and can be enlarged, though some alternative views is one possible improvement.
Delivery and returns policies are clearly displayed, while an alternative phone number is provided if people prefer to order this way, while a live chat option is there for any customer queries.
The call to action could stand put more though; it should be unmissable but doesn't stand out as well as other links on the page. It would be interesting to see what difference a bolder add to basket link would make, and could be something worth trying.
Basket / checkout
Good, basic shopping basket page, combining thumbnail images of products for quick reference, as well as the summary of total price.
Links to information about returns and delivery, as well as security logos, are useful at this stage, and customer service options are provided for shopper with any queries.
As with the product page though, the call to action doesn't stand out enough and, if customers add more than two items to their basket, it is below the fold. This is the most important link on the page, so shoppers should be in no doubt about where to find it.
On entering the checkout, customers are asked for account and contact details to login to the site, though these can at least be transferred to the billing and delivery details section to save typing them in twice:
The checkout process is simple enough, and has been limited to six steps, which are detailed above. It works well enough, and you can even go back and forth with the browser buttons without losing the details you have already entered.
My main criticism here is that the process has not been enclosed, and all the main links and navigation options have been left on the page, providing potential distractions for customers.
Fitness Footwear is a good website from an independent retailer though; it works well, loads quickly, and does most of the basics right, which is important when working to a limited budget.
With a few tweaks here and there, such as making calls to action bolder and navigation links stand out more, it would be interesting to see what effect the site could have on its conversion rates.
Graham Charlton is a researcher at E-consultancy. Find him on Twitter here .
Site review: Webtogs