Republic launched its first mobile commerce site this week, becoming the latest fashion retailer to do so.
From the various mobile site and app reviews I've written, consumer surveys and more I've compiled a checklist of key points to create a usable mobile site. (Please suggest any others I may have missed out).
I've been comparing the new Republic site against this checklist...
A simple (but not too simple) homepage
Thanks to the size of the mobile screen, designers are limited in what they can do here. In a recent mobile commerce benchmark study, mobile commerce homepages achieved the lowest scores, partly down to the fact it they are so different than desktop.
While surveys suggest that mobile shoppers want an experience that is close to that of desktop sites, it isn't currently possible to cram in the amount of images, links, offers and information that the average e-commerce homepage contains.
Therefore, they can often be dull, but Republic does at least provide some imagery and colour:
Clear site search bar
Site search can provide a valuable shortcut for mobile users, and saves a few clicks, and therefore page loads, for users who know what they want.
Republic provides a persistent search bar on every page (except checkout) of the site, which is very useful.
Site search could be improved by allowing more filters, and the ability to search within product categories to narrow the selection.
Navigation options should be clear, though complex enough that users can find can narrow their product set by browsing through categories and sub-categories.
For example, if your mobile site has 200 shirts in the men's section, then they need to be split up into further sub-categories (casual, short-sleeved etc) to make the number of results manageable.
Navigation starts on the homepage with four product categories, then the next page has 30 or more, including types of clothing, offers and brand categories.
There are no filtering options here, just a drop down which allows users to sort by bestsellers, price, rating and A to Z. Useful, but not really enough.
So, for the jeans category, there are 50+ pairs over three pages to look through. By providing the ability to filter by colour, brand, fit, size etc, Republic could make it much easier for users to fit the product they want.
Full range of stock on the site
Some of the first mobile sites and apps just provided a limited range of stock for purchase. Shoppers want to see the full range, and In this case, everything that is available on the main site can be purchased on mobile.
Keep page loads to a minimum
Mobile devices and websites are getting better, but retailers developing mobile commerce sites still need to account for the fact that users may have variable connection speeds.
With a slow connection, every extra page load or refresh means more time spent waiting, and more frustration.
The fewer the number of page loads, the better, and Republic achieves this reasonably well, though better filtering options would reduce time spent loading different pages of search results.
Multiple product images
For customers to make an informed decision to purchase a product, they need to see some good product imagery, and this is especially important for a fashion retailer.
Republic does this reasonably well, with a range of images showing products from different angles:
Detail on product pages
Again, to make a purchase decision, shoppers need details. This may be information about type of fabrics, technical specifications for electrical goods, or delivery timescales, costs and returns policies.
While retailers designing for mobile may be tempted to leave things out to keep pages simple, customers do need this information, and mobile product pages should be a close to their desktop counterparts as possible.
To achieve this, space can be saved in various ways, such as using tabs to present product details, delivery and returns:
In addition, Republic provides average review scores and links to share on social media sites:
While many e-commerce sites have now removed compulsory registration before checkout, this still remains a barrier on many mobile commerce sites and apps.
If retailers can get customers to register, then it does make return purchases easier, but this may be best done within a guest checkout, giving users the option of registration after purchase:
The checkout process is simple enough, and only requires two or three page loads to complete a payment. Forms are simple, though a postcode lookup tool would be a useful time saver for customers.
Store locators are valuable tools on mobile, and should perhaps be more prominent than Republic's, which is at the foot of the homepage.
It works well enough though, using current location to serve up the nearest outlets, as well as providing a map, directions, and store details.
The Republic mobile site is a very good example, with some good navigational elements, excellent product pages, and a guest checkout option.
However, the lack of product filtering options does make product search and navigation more difficult than it needs to be.