Discount retailer Matalan has recently launched its online-only home brand, Matalan Direct.

I thought I’d play around with the site to see what works and what doesn’t, and if there’s anything I could learn from it. 

Home page

The initial user experience on the site is pretty decent. There’s a carousel but it doesn’t spin automatically. And there’s not a block of boring text in sight. So far, so good. 

I love the use of coloured blocks with simple, striking product images. It reminds me of the Firebox site in some ways and it’s just a much more visually pleasing way of presenting a home page than reams of text and stock photos.

Matalan Direct home page

There are a couple of cool things to note about the Matalan Direct site as a first time visitor:

Firstly, this info box pops up the first time you visit the site:

Matalan direct info pop-up

I like it because it introduces the new site in a concise and largely image-led way, and there’s no hard sell. 

It’s important to have something like this for a new brand because it puts things into context, particularly as some people might be wondering why there are now two Matalan sites. 

The second thing is the £10 discount offer displayed very clearly at the top of the home page. 

It may seem like an obvious idea, but offering some kind of perk to new customers is really important. 

It’s also important to make the offer clearly visible, which Matalan Direct has certainly managed to do here.

Matalan Direct new customer offer

Navigation

You can either click through the slider halfway down the homepage or head up to the top navigation menu. 

The top navigation menu is split into the kind of product categories you’d expect: furniture, showers, baths, etc. 

If you click on one of those categories a large box appears with further subcategories and some basic information about deliveries and returns.

Matalan Direct navigation

On a side note: at £499 the free delivery threshold seems to be eye-wateringly high for a supposedly discount brand. 

That said, in general I much prefer this type of menu to the traditional drop-down list. Not only does it look much better, it’s also much easier to navigate for the user. 

When you click on one of the subcategories you get another page similar to the homepage, with nice blocks of colour and clear product images. 

Matalan Direct navigation

The only slight improvement I’d add here would be a very short description when you hover over each product. 

Search tool

An effective search tool is crucial to any ecommerce site, and it can make or break the user experience. Let’s see how the search function on Matalan Direct holds up. 

The first thing to note is the predictive search functionality. When I was reviewing the top supermarkets’ sites a few weeks back this was one of the key themes in the research I cited. 

Matalan Direct predictive search

The results pages themselves are accurate and displayed in a tidy grid format, and you can drill down further by price, type, etc. No complaints there.

Matalan Direct search results

On-site content

The site has a blog page called ‘Inspired living’ that mostly features tips-based articles relating to interior design, such as ‘Bathroom cleaning hacks that might surprise you’.

Matalan Direct blog page

One improvement within the actual posts could be a better use of imagery, especially considering the subject matter. The post I just mentioned, for instance, would have benefited from a pictured example under each subheading rather than just text.

No comments are allowed either, which is something Matalan Direct should consider changing if they want to encourage people to engage with the content. 

It would also be a good idea to add a link in the author's name to all their posts. If people particularly enjoyed an article they might want to see other work by that writer. 

Product pages

The product pages have a simple design with all the information you would expect: basic product information, price, stock levels, delivery details, and a nice clear ‘add to basket’ button as a call to action. 

Matalan Direct product page

In terms of what’s missing, there are no customer reviews or ratings. Personally I feel much more comfortable buying a product online if I can read what others have said about it. 

There’s also very little cross-selling of relevant products going on, with only a link in the description which isn’t particularly obvious or inviting. 

When you click ‘more information’ you do see some recommended content on the right with one product recommendation, but it seems strange not to include this on the main product page. 

Matalan Direct product page

It’s nice to see additional product images and delivery/warranty details under the ‘more information’ section, along with some illustrated product specifications. The more information people have, the easier it will be to make a buying decision. 

Checkout design

After my comments about a lack of cross-selling under the previous heading, Matalan Direct has redeemed itself here. When you click ‘add to basket’ a pop-up appears with some recommended products.  

Matalan Direct checkout page

The checkout page itself is fairly simple. Two positives to note are the fact that delivery cost is included early on in the checkout process and the inclusion of a large 'checkout now' call to action at the top of the page. 

Matalan Direct checkout page

The next step is fairly straightforward. You have to set up an account, but only using basic info that you would expect to provide anyway, and you can save your details for faster checkout next time or just checkout with PayPal to avoid having to provide all your details. 

Matalan Direct checkout page

On the payment page Matalan Direct has kept up the call to action with a big red ‘complete order’ button at the bottom of the page. This is an important feature because even this close to a purchase there is a danger of basket abandonment.

Matalan Direct checkout page

Conclusion: a visually pleasing site with just a couple of tweaks needed

Overall I think Matalan Direct has done a good job with this sister site. With any brand new launch there are always going to be a few tweaks to be made, but generally the site looks good and is really easy to navigate.

One point to mention is that while there’s a link to the main Matalan site on the top navigation menu, there doesn’t seem to be much promotion of Matalan Direct on the main site. Again, a missed opportunity. 

There is a pop-up asking customers for feedback the first time they go on the site, so it will be interesting to see how the site develops as the comments comes rolling in. 

Jack Simpson

Published 20 July, 2015 by Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (7)

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Graham Perry, Senior Sales Executive at Neotys

A nice, clean site with straightforward navigation. At 2 MB it is a little hefty and it has a couple of connection errors from Shopify but overall a good effort.

over 2 years ago

Tim Bilsborough

Tim Bilsborough, Managing Director at Vedo Limited

Very nice looking site, but as always product and navigation imagery are an after thought and the poor relation on what looks like a considerable investment for matalan. Pretty colours and graphics don't support the purchasing process....

over 2 years ago

Karl Brown

Karl Brown, Web developer, actor, voice over at KBD/KBV

The layout looks good, but the colour scheme needs to be improved. A lot of the blocks of colour are too light to use with white text; I tried the blue, purple and green against Lea Verou's contrast checker tool and all 3 failed the WCAG 2.0 standard (highest contrast was 1.8, should be 4.5 to meet AA standard for normal sized text).

Also, the font they've used in some places is difficult to read even with my classes on; I had to change the font in Chrome to be able to read some of it as the lines are too delicate at the size they've used it.

over 2 years ago

Karl Brown

Karl Brown, Web developer, actor, voice over at KBD/KBV

The layout looks good, but the colour scheme needs to be improved. A lot of the blocks of colour are too light to use with white text; I tried the blue, purple and green against Lea Verou's contrast checker tool and all 3 failed the WCAG 2.0 standard (highest contrast was 1.8, should be 4.5 to meet AA standard for normal sized text).

Also, the font they've used in some places is difficult to read even with my classes on; I had to change the font in Chrome to be able to read some of it as the lines are too delicate at the size they've used it.

over 2 years ago

Tim Bilsborough

Tim Bilsborough, Managing Director at Vedo Limited

Like it - pretty and in a very fashionable format - however, as with the vast majority of retailers, visual merchandising of the product is woeful - no hover zoom on the tiny images on product pages I looked at, and if I wanted to look at more tiny images (if there is any) I needed to click on the "view product" button. Occasionally there are additional images for the product but mostly duplicate images (suggesting alternative sizes maybe?) - customer interaction with product imagery has a huge influence on conversation, especially when making an emotional purchase. A great start for Matalan but looking at the sharp end of product merchandising and reinforcing the purchase process will increase conversation.

over 2 years ago

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Ian Batterbee, UX Designer at Ideal Shopping Direct

A very modern and stylish site clearly targeting the younger demographic and early adopters of technology.

I question the use of colour on the homepage - makes it difficult to see what you are looking at, plus it would be nice to see the products in some context e.g., taps in an actual bathroom. Lifestyle photography could inject some more life and inspiration to this site. I can see why you made comparisons with Firebox, but the gadget site only use colour blocks for promoting specific categories or promotions, and yet use lifestyle photography to promote actual product.

The idea behind the introductory lightbox is interesting, but wouldn't it be worth advertising your key USPs e.g., free delivery, sitewide? Customers may easily dismiss the lightbox thinking it is another 'one of those email signups'.

Mega menu is good accept for the fact that it is impossible to close it without refreshing the page or going to another page.

With regard to the product page - I agree with your comments on why some information is hidden. Why would you obscure key information and make the user work harder to access it. And yes, it would be nice to see some cross-sells and perhaps items which could be applied to create bulk / multi-order discounts.

The checkout process is clean and minimal. The PayPal button at the top is an interesting idea which I am now considering testing myself. Nice to see the discount section in situ with the total price. However, I question using red for the main call to action - it uses the same colour as the error validation... Although I haven't experienced the entire checkout journey, perhaps they could have reduced a step by introducing a 'use same address details for delivery' checkbox.

With all that said, it's a promising start, but hopefully they will now A/B test and even carry out usability testing to optimise and improve the site.

over 2 years ago

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Alex Ormandy, Ecommerce Channel Consultant at Bank of America

The front-end user experience ticks most of the boxes for design best practice. Interesting to see a large corporate brand has selected Shopify as a platform over the likes of IBM, Demandware and Magento Enterprise.

over 2 years ago

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