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High street retailer Matalan unveiled its first e-commerce website just before Christmas, though the company is just selling its women's clothing range online at the moment.

I've been having a look at the new website, designed by Code Computerlove and using BT Fresca's e-commerce platform, to see how it shapes up from a user experience perspective.


Search for Matalan on Google and the first page you will come to is not the e-commerce site, but Matalan.co.uk, which advises you to 'browse online and shop in store'. There is a link to buy online at the e-commerce site, which is hosted at matalanonline.co.uk, but this is not the most prominent link on the page. Why not just have the e-commerce site on the main page to make it easier for customers to buy?

The actual e-commerce site, Matalan online, has a well laid out and appealing homepage, but many people may miss this after searching for the brand name on Google. It could do a better job of promoting the fact that the company is now selling online.

Search / Navigation

The navigation options are clear enough; users can shop by brand and department or view offers and exclusives by using the links on the left of the page, while the top navigation menu provides drop-downs with the same options. Crucially, these navigation options remain the same throughout the site, making it easier for users to find their way around.

The site search function needs some work though; the terms entered have to be specific or it will not return any results. For instance, entering 'jeans' will provide no matching products, but 'jean' will, as this is how the item has been labelled. Even then, it still shows just one item. More flexibility is required here, while an auto-suggest feature can also be useful.

Though most customers will choose to browse a site through links, an effective site search function is still worth having for users that arrive with a specific product in mind, or that have failed to find what they are looking for by browsing the site.

Product pages

The product pages are decent, and provide most of the information that customers will be looking for, though there are some omissions.

Information about delivery, returns policies, a size guide, and care instructions are provided via links on the right hand side of the page, and a pop out window:

The delivery information provided is far too vague, stating that it 'will take no more than 5 days from the day you order', and doesn't provide details of charges. Delivery is a key factor in customers' purchase decisions so etailers need to be upfront about charges and delivery options. Prices should be included on product pages, instead of making customers wait until they have added items to their basket.

Shopping basket / checkout process

The basket provides a good summary of items and total cost, and customers will find out the cost of delivery here. It is easy to remove items or choose to continue shopping, while the call to action is prominent.

The checkout process was easy to use and quick to load and no registration was required beforehand,  though it did require some scrolling down the page to complete address and payment details. This means that some important links, 'proceed to payment' etc are below the fold. I'm sure most people will still manage to complete their purchases, but it makes it slightly more difficult than it needs to be.

On the final step in the checkout, for instance, the 'make payment' button is right at the bottom of the page:

Other than this, the checkout process has not been enclosed, so the drop down menu and other navigation links that might take customers out of the process are still available.


The site is well designed and usable, though it could be made better with a few, relatively small alterations. These include a better site search function,  more information about delivery times and charges, and changes to the checkout process.

The design team has done a good job here though and, when Matalan gets more of its product range online and promotes its e-commerce site more effectively, it should start to pick up more customers.

Graham Charlton

Published 5 January, 2009 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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