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Fashion brand Uniqlo launched a redesigned version of its website this week.
We had a fair few criticisms of the previous incarnation when it launched in 2008, so I've revisited the site to see what has changed...
The Uniqlo homepage is as cluttered as it gets on an e-commerce site. There are so many elements to the page that it makes it hard to focus on one particular feature.
It's also a very long page, likened to an 'explosion in a catalogue factory' by @lostferret on Twitter, and I can see why. There are too many sections and items advertised on the homepage, and way too many elements to the page.
It's also a very long page. I can't really do it justice in a single screenshot, so you'll just have to see for yourselves. This shot is from about two-thirds of the way down the page, and, like the rest, it looks messy:
One thing that is missing is a prominent store locator. Most e-commerce sites now place this at the top of the screen as they know some people will arrive at the site looking for contact numbers, opening hours or the location of their nearest store.
By placing the link at the bottom of a very long page, Uniqlo is making these visitors work too hard to find this information.
Then there's the Uniqlo Lucky Machine. It sticks out as much as anything else on the page so I thought I'd give it a go:
It's some kind of Flash pinball game perched on top of a cube; the idea of winning prizes and discounts is a good one, but it's not easy to figure out the controls. It also plays music without warning, and without any way of turning it off, which is a serious usability crime in my book.
It does allow users to share scores via Twitter or Facebook though, and seems to have been generating some buzz on Twitter, and follows some previously successful viral campaigns, which have seen the retailer top the trending topics chart on The site in May.
Search and navigation
Of all the elements on the homepage, the navigation menu is probably the thing that stands out least of all. It's simple enough though, a choice of men or women, with no drop downs or sub categories.
The lack of a site search box is a puzzle. Unlike the recent Gap UK launch, it does have a site search function, but you need to click the link first, which is odd, since it's supposed to act as a shortcut for users who know what they want.
Once you open the option up in a new page, it doesn't work very well. For example, if I search for a 'blue shirt' I get nothing. Not even a related suggestion.
The site search was one of the ten issues we highlighted in our last review two years ago, and things don't seem to have improved. Simple searches, especially combinations of products and colours like this one, should be easy enough to deal with. Returning no results like this just leaves users at a dead end.
Once you click one or the other, you get a page full of the various product categories and a much more manageable selection of featured products than shown on the homepage:
If I select 'smart shirts', I can see all the blue shirts that the site search couldn't find:
From this point though, there are no further filtering options to narrow product search by size, colour, price etc. All useful features common to most e-commerce sites.
The first thing I notices about the product pages was that all the left hand navigation options listing the various product categories remain visible once you have selected the product page.
This is not only a distraction for customers, but it also takes up space which could have been better used trying to sell the product.
This space could have been used to inform customers of the delivery charges, times and the returns policy, all a factor in customers' purchase decisions.
Once you have added an item to your basket you can review the contents by mousing over, but Uniqlo has omitted a clear checkout link. You have to click on the shopping bag for that:
Even once you reach the shopping basket page, Uniqlo hasn't yet revealed how much you are expected to pay for delivery. It offers free delivery if you spend a bit more to reach £60, but won't tell you how much you will save.
Many online retailers seem to have picked up on the fact that required registration can be a conversion killer and have either made it optional, or have at least made it as simple as possible.
Not this site though; the registration page requires users to enter name and address details, without offering the shortcut of a postcode lookup tool, and even asks users for their date of birth.
In addition, the form validation is too strict. if you leave a space in the middle of your postcode or phone number, this produces an error message which does nothing to explain the problem and help users to fix it.
When designing forms for checkout, common user habits and input errors should be anticipated to avoid user frustration and checkout abandonment.
The checkout process has not been enclosed, leaving plenty of links which would take users out of the checkout.
While there are links to the help sections, returns policy and contact details, no contact number has been provided for customers.
This means that customers don't have a quick method of contacting the company if they have a problem during checkout, but providing a contact number can help to build trust with customers and reassures them that they can get in touch easily if they have a problem with their order.
The Uniqlo redesign is certainly interesting, and you definitely couldn't accuse it of being boring. There is also some interesting and prominent use of social media on the homepage, more than I have seen from other retailers.
Whether this provides too many distractions that take users away from the site when visitors should be looking at clothes is another question though.
For a visitor coming to the site looking to browse and buy some clothes though, the user experience is poor and there are too many elements that could confuse or frustrate shoppers; the cluttered homepage, faulty site search, lack of filtered navigation and more.
In addition, key information like delivery charges, returns policy, and contact details are all too hard to find, while the strict validation on checkout and registration forms is likely to cause quite a few abandonments.
Put simply, there is a lot Uniqlo could do here to improve the user experience and therefore its conversion rates.