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You can’t buy much for £60m these days.
That’s the amount Real Madrid paid for James Rodriguez, the sum that Michael Gove wanted to spend on a new yacht for the Queen, and the exact figure that B&Q has apparently invested in its new website.
Clearly the home and garden retailer didn’t wish to be outdone by Selfridges, which recently invested a mere £40m to revamp its website.
When I interviewed Michael Durbridge, B&Q's director of omnichannel, last September he said that the new site would be launched alongside an upgrade to the company's backend systems.
This would allow the website and in-store ordering systems to run off the same database, with the user interface customised for each channel. B&Q would then have taken a huge step towards forming a single customer view.
So, just how good is this new £60m responsive site?
Thanks to the wonderful Wayback Machine we can see what the B&Q homepage looked like prior to the redesign.
The new version isn’t a dramatic departure, but B&Q has made a few alterations to the colour scheme which has made the search tool more prominent.
Both iterations of the site make use of a carousel, which may solve internal arguments about whose products deserve price of place, but research shows that it doesn’t add much to the UX.
The biggest change has probably been in the design of B&Q’s mega menus.
I recently investigated the way in which mega menu design has changed since 2011, so thankfully I have screenshots of B&Q’s old dropdown navigation.
Old mega menu
As you can see here, the new navigation focuses on types of rooms and products rather than departments.
This probably makes more sense in terms of the user journey, and hopefully some of that £60m went into testing this element of the shopping experience.
The list of rooms is present within each of the four dropdown menus, but the rest of the navigation options differ in each one.
New mega menu
On mobile the site is less appealing. It retains the carousel and the range of product images beneath, which means you get a big, unexplained image of two Crown Paint containers.
The huge range of products means navigation was never going to be a simple task on mobile, but commendably the menus are still relatively easy to navigate within the hamburger menu.
A decent site search tool is very important for the user experience (yes, we know the Econsultancy one is awful).
B&Q’s site search is prominently positioned, but there are a few bugs that need to be ironed out.
Firstly, the predictive search feature is a bit slow. During my site test the suggested search terms and products only appeared a second or two after I stopped typing.
Another issue is with its accuracy. My colleague @lakey noticed a smoke alarm on the homepage so decided to search for one of those.
These are the less-than-useful results:
That example aside, the search tool generally works quite well and I like the fact that the suggested results include specific products as well as search terms.
Search results page
The search results pages are clearly laid out so it’s very easy to browse through the different options.
Each product listing includes a star rating and availability details, while users can also compare up to four items side-by-side.
Looking at the product filters, I like that ‘availability’ (home delivery or in-store) is included in the broad range of options.
B&Q also returns articles in its search results, so in this example shoppers can learn more about which type of kitchen tap they need, and how to fit a new sink.
It’s worth giving a nod to B&Q’s hub pages, which used a tiled layout to present links to different products and departments.
For example, if you choose to shop ‘Bedrooms’ you are directed to this page which features yet another carousel as well as a range of subcategories for different bedroom products.
Though I would presume that few people would navigate to these hub pages, they are useful from an SEO perspective.
When the Econsultancy content team was discussing where B&Q might have invested its £60m, one of the areas we assumed would be extremely high quality is the product imagery.
However that doesn’t seem to be the case. For this kitchen tap there is only one single photo, albeit a very nice photo.
This really doesn't give shoppers a decent view of the product they're about to buy. It would be useful to see an image of the tap in a kitchen so you can get a better idea of the scale.
B&Q has also gone big on content within its product pages. The ‘Help & Advice’ tab includes a video series on installing a new kitchen sink, how-to guides, a buying guide and inspiration for new design ideas.
Click & Collect has been given centre stage on the new site with its own CTA alongside one for ‘home delivery’.
Weirdly I had to search quite hard to find an item that was available for click & collect (which has been rebranded from ‘Reserve & Collect’ as part of the relaunch). I eventually had to settle on Griptite Tape.
If you choose to use click & collect the first stage is to select your local store before heading to the checkout. It’s worth noting the attempt to upsell related items before users get to the shopping basket.
When using a mobile the product pages look okay, but personally I’d prefer larger CTAs.
Also, I had real problems trying to get the videos to work properly.
Shopping basket and checkout
The shopping basket ticks all the best practice boxes with a detailed product summary, security reassurances, and upfront delivery costs (it’s free).
Unfortunately it then hits the skids by failing to offer a guest checkout.
Forcing people to register an account is a common cause of basket abandonment, yet B&Q has decided to hit customers with it on the first page of the checkout.
The reason for this is likely to be that B&Q wants to have a unique identifier for customers across online and offline channels.
Durbridge previously told us that the company was trialling Wi-Fi in-store that used the same login as the website.
Once the login is out of the way the checkout is quick and simple, and again ticks many boxes for best practice.
It uses a progress bar, persistent order summary, postcode lookup tool, and the checkout is enclosed. Also, text fields are kept to a minimum and surrounded by plenty of white space.
Again, the checkout looks good on a mobile screen and the checkout makes use of a numerical keypad where relevant.
B&Q’s new site is a central part of its wider omnichannel strategy. It’s for this reason that in-store functionality (e.g. click & collect, stock checker) is given such prominence, and it also explains why customers are forced to register an account.
Overall it’s a decent first stab at building a new responsive site and presumably B&Q will roll out upgrades over time.
Whether or not it justifies the £60m is not up to me to decide. I think that sum is partly PR spin, and partly down to the cost of integrating the site in-store and adding B&Q’s massive product range to a new database.
Hopefully we’ll be able to find out more from B&Q in due course.
B&Q's Bonnie Jackson will be speaking at our Festival of Marketing event in November, looking at Digital Display, Partnerships & Retargeting campaigns.