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Flash-heavy websites continue to massively annoy and disappoint. The UNIQLO site is a fantastic example of a website that appears to be well designed, but which is actually a tour de force in frustration.

I was reading Contagious magazine’s ‘most contagious’ review of the year, which is a useful digest of trends for the past year. UNIQLO was cited as a trendsetter in digital, having won various prestigious awards for its efforts, so I thought I’d check it out.

While the UNIQLO website is doing some things well, there are areas of concern, and I think it would benefit from toning down some of the more whizzy Flash elements in favour of best practice basics.

  • Too much movement. Visit the website and the eye is drawn towards the middle of the page with the attention-deficit animations that change every three seconds. Already, it’s too in your face.
  • Ridiculous use of colour. The first thing that greets the shopper is a wash of animated red as a background with ‘SALE’ splashed all over the page in white text. On top of this, and barely visible, are two white on red navigation elements for ‘Women’ and ‘Men’. What is this, a lesson in camouflage? Talk about breaking the rules.

  • Rollovers are painful. Aim for one of those two navigation units. In my case I went for ‘Men’, but in doing so accidentally hovered over ‘Women’. Cue some stupid rollover rules. Menus expand without warning, making it incredibly difficult to navigate. In addition, the designers thought it would be a great idea to jumble up the labelling, with the user forced to wait before the menu labels are properly displayed. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

  • Mystery navigation. Since this central navigation painfully fails it seems sensible to find some other way to get to where I want to go. Thankfully a top navigation bar seems to want to help. But why, when I click on ‘Men’, does it direct me to a sub-channel – ‘knitwear’ – rather than a ‘men’ homepage. Maybe this works, or maybe it’s just a reminder of how cold it is outside?

  • Where are the delivery charges? You will find them part of the way through the checkout process, but they should be on product pages, or on the shopping basket page at the very least, while the link in the help section for this information doesn't work. People need to know these things before making a purchase decision...

  • Lame product search. There is a ‘product search’ function that allows me to search by keyword. However if I type in ‘knitwear’ it refuses to show me any knitwear, despite the website’s knitwear fetish. Ah, but it’s a category! Ok, so how about ‘jumper’? Nope, nothing. ‘Sweater’ works, but clearly synonyms are out of fashion at UNIQLO.

  • Poor product pages. Product display and zoom functions are good, but the page is let down by some basics, such as failing to display shipping details (timings and costs). As mentioned previously, I have to enter the checkout to see this information. No biggie, you might think, but consider the checkout ‘abandonment’ rate. These ‘dropouts’ send the wrong message to UNIQLO’s e-commerce team.

  • Pointless links. For whatever reason a Christmas Delivery message displayed on the homepage links to the homepage. Better to link to the Sale page?

  • Bad product photos. Displaying clothes can be tricky online, as these are products that people like to try on first, so quality photos from a range of angles that fully display garments are essential. Sadly, Uniglo only lets you see two thirds of the items, making it unnecessarily difficult to see how they look.

  • Confusing checkout. The different stages of the process refresh in a jarring way that hurts the eyes, if the homepage hasn't already given you a migraine. Forms in general aren't bad, though it asks for 'CVV' instead of card security code, which may be enough to confuse some shoppers. It also seems to delete the contents of my shopping basket after about ten minutes...

I’m all for swishy rich media experiences and innovative interfaces, and think we’ll see more of this in online retail in the next few years, but frankly the UNIQLO website is a good example of style over substance, and what not to do in terms of user experience.
Graham Charlton

Published 23 December, 2008 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (1)

Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler, Director at VelocitySmall Business Multi-user

I've been frustrated by the Uniqlo site and plenty of others that put style over usability. 

There's a natural tension between usability, which follows conventions, and branding, which breaks from them.

There are lots of sites that err on the other side, too: super-usable but boring.

Here's to balance.

almost 8 years ago

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