The Cotswold Company launched a revamped version of its e-commerce website this week, with improved navigation and an easier to use checkout function.

The general look and feel of the new site is a big improvement on the previous version – it is much less cluttered, easier on the eye and the checkout process is simple to use.

The photography is impressive too, which is important for expensive items like beds and sofas. Users can view each item from a range of angles, as well as zooming in and out of photographs.

Generally speaking, the site works well and is pretty easy to use, though I have one or two small criticisms:

Firstly, to find out delivery charges, it is necessary to move your cursor over a small icon of a van or package, which will then reveal the cost. This should be made clearer:

Aside from that, the site works well, the checkout process is nice and simple; you can go straight into the process without having to register first, which avoids some of the pain; data-entry is simple; and customers are given visible signs of progress through the stages of the checkout:

One thing the site doesn’t do, which was recommended in our recent Online Retail: Checkout Special report, is to enclose the checkout process.

As shown above, there are links to every other area of the site, so a customer could potentially get halfway through the process, decide to click a link to look at another section, and leave the buying process.

At this stage, customers’ minds need to be focused, and all links to other parts of the site need to be removed. Once in the checkout there should be only one place customers can go – purchase confirmation.

These criticisms aside, the Cotswold Company has produced a very good site, it looks good, is easy to navigate, and is a big improvement on the previous version.

Related stories:

Why do customers abandon the checkout process?

Related research:

Online Retail User Experience Benchmarks 2006