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Whistles has launched a mobile optimised site as it ramps up efforts to offer its customers a multichannel shopping experience.

The women’s fashion retailer launched a revamped version of its desktop site a few years ago which suffered from a plethora of usability issues.

This is its first attempt at building a mobile site and the landing page initially looks very similar to the desktop site.

I tried out the site using an Android smartphone to see how easy it is navigate and make a purchase...

Homepage

The first thing to say is that Whistles doesn’t adhere to the usual layout you would expect from a mobile site.

Generally we are used to seeing product categories laid out as icons on the homepage, but Whistles instead goes for dropdown menus.

When you enter a product category the different items are displayed using large, clickable icons which makes navigation easy.

However there is a major problem with the product filters. On the skirts page the ‘Price Range’ filter appeared three times at the top of the screen and they didn’t actually work properly.

                         

For example, if you click the ‘401-Null600’ option the only skirt that appears is worth £250.

Product pages

The product pages on this mobile site are really quite poor. When you first land on one a text box gives instructions on how to access additional product images, only they don’t actually work.

If you double tap the image it zooms in on the product but then has no obvious way of navigating away from the enlarged image. If you press the back button it simply exits the product page entirely.

And swiping the image or clicking the arrows does nothing, even though it should reveal additional images.

Selecting a size is also an issue, as rather than using a dropdown menu you have to click tiny arrows and scroll down through every product size starting at 16 until you reach the right one.

                         

Product information is available underneath the share buttons, but it would benefit from being laid out in bullet points to make it easier to read. The description of the product I viewed also contained a spelling error.

On the plus side, product pages do have one-click options for either calling or emailing customer services. This is useful for mobile users who may find it easier to talk to someone if navigating the site is proving difficult.

Checkout

Once you have added an item to your basket you can begin the checkout process. Item details, cost and delivery options are displayed upfront so the customer knows the total cost before entering the checkout.

Hitting customers with shipping costs late in the checkout process is a lead cause of basket abandonment, so Whistles has taken the right approach by being upfront with this information.

However Whistles loses points by forcing new customers to register an account – creating this additional barrier to purchase is likely to cause some customers to abandon the site.

The amount of information it requires is actually quite limited but at the bottom of the page it has a tick box which says: “This is the system generated Default Marketing List.”

                         

This is presumably where customers are able to opt out of receiving marketing emails, but it should be altered to make it more obvious.

Those issues aside, the checkout process is quick and includes user shortcuts such as a postcode lookup tool and assumes the billing and shipping addresses are the same. It also has a progress bar so customers know how many stages are left in the payment process.

Conclusion

Creating a mobile site is definitely a step in the right direction, but there are several aspects of the site that need to be redesigned to make it more user-friendly.

At the moment navigating product categories is tricky due to the problems with filters and the product pages are very poor.

Shoppers need to be able to access a range of product images to help them make a decision, but design flaws with Whistles’ mobile site makes it impossible to view more than one image.

On the plus side, the checkout process is quick and easy despite the fact that customers are forced to register and it displays all delivery charges upfront.

However the purchase journey leading up to the checkout is quite frustrating and I think Whistles needs to make some changes to improve the user experience.

David Moth

Published 28 August, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1690 more posts from this author

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