In Habitat’s own words, the new website brings the following improvements:
- Refined user experience with easier navigation and multi-divide image browsing.
- Easier checkout process.
- Enhanced search function.
- Improved rich editorial content.
In this post I’m going to focus primarily on those four factors, specifically from the point of view of a mobile user.
The user experience
Mobile UX is extremely important when it comes to maximising revenue in online retail. Let’s see how Habitat’s mobile site fares.
The first thing to note here is the slightly annoying pop-up that seems to instantly appear upon entering the homepage.
To me, pop-ups are nothing more than a nuisance. I can’t remember ever engaging with one in any way other than clicking the cross, but perhaps that’s just me.
The homepage is heavily image-based and quite clearly laid out. No complaints there considering the type of products Habitat sells.
As for the navigation menu, it is easily accessible from the homepage and easy to use once you go into it.
The above menu is, however, missing some key elements that could improve the user experience further.
One of those is the inclusion of a link to frequently asked questions or something similar: information a customer might be looking for.
The other thing lacking is a contact telephone number within the menu. This should ideally be displayed somewhere near the top of the page.
On this site you have to scroll all the way down to the bottom to find links to useful information such as contact details and store locations. Not ideal for somebody looking for quick and easy answers.
The functionality of the menu is actually pretty good. When you click on a parent category a second menu replaces the first with further sub-categories.
Clicking those sub-categories opens up a drop-down menu where you can select a specific range.
Once you click through to a specific range it’s easy to sort the products.
You can filter them by a number of criteria such as colour or collection, or by price using the neat little slider tool pictured on the left below.
Or you can sort items by recommendations, name or price using the selection wheel shown in the right hand image.
As for the product listings themselves, I like the simplicity: a clear image, the product name and the price, surrounded by a subtle black line that jumps to the next product as you scroll.
For some sites I might have suggested that a small description could be added in, but in this case I think the quality of the imagery speaks for itself.
It’s not like we’re dealing with technical products here.
I have to say the product pages are pretty damn good. With furniture it’s largely about how things look, so Habitat has quite rightly put a strong focus on imagery.
The page includes several different standalone product images from every angle you can imagine, along with multiple lifestyle images where you can see the product in its natural environment.
You can tap to expand one of the product images and then double tap within that screen to zoom in further.
As you can see below, the detail and quality of the zoomed-in images is fantastic.
There are also videos on the product page showing the product range in action, including commentary from an expert at Habitat.
This is a clever approach because it caters for various different types of people. Some like reading about a product while others would rather hear somebody talking about it.
Providing various options enables Habitat to please the maximum amount of customers.
Below the product there is a clear summary, including delivery time, and a big call-to-action button that you can’t miss.
It’s also worth mentioning at this point that you can tap that upward arrow in the bottom right at any time and be sent back to the top of the screen, which is a nice touch.
You can scroll down the page further for written description, which is split into four categories.
It’s worth noting the clearly displayed delivery cost information. A big positive.
The checkout process
When you click on your basket the summary page contains everything it should. Most importantly the total cost, including delivery, is included at this stage.
There are also two clear CTAs, whether you want to go to your bag or continue shopping.
When you click ‘go to my bag’ you’re taken to a full summary page with much of the same information, although at this stage Habitat attempts to cross-sell you other products.
This could actually be useful to the customer if there was something they genuinely missed.
Again there are clear CTAs here, with the ‘proceed to checkout’ being the most prominent button.
The next page contains further positives: a customer services phone number clearly displayed at the top of the screen, the reassuring ‘secure’ symbol and ‘secure checkout’ wording.
You do have to provide an email address in order to get to the actual checkout, but thankfully Habitat does not force you to register in order to continue with your purchase.
Forced account creation usually results in instant basket abandonment for me, unless your site happens to be literally the only place on the internet I can get that product, which is extremely unlikely.
Once the email address is provided, I can see from the handy little progress indicator here that there are just three stages to making a purchase. This results in a sigh of relief from me and a reduced likelihood that I’ll get bored and give up.
The forms themselves are short and easy to use, again making use of those scrolling selection wheels.
And the predictive address selection deserves a special mention. Just start typing a post code and get a gradually more accurate selection of addressed to choose from.
Pick the right one and the rest of the form fills out with one touch.
I’ve said in the past that effective UX is designed for lazy people, and this address feature certainly ticks that box. I don’t want to type in my whole address, or even postcode, when your techies can do it for me.
You can set up an account at this point by literally just providing a password, meaning your details will be saved for next time.
The way this is laid out – after you’ve already input your delivery details – means most people would probably just do it as it requires almost no additional effort.
The payment screen provides options for both credit/debit card or Paypal, the latter of which will redirect you to the Paypal site.
Making it easy for people to use Paypal is important from a checkout UX point of view.
The call to action in the right hand picture is another positive. The words ‘review order’ leave no ambiguity as to whether you’ll be charged by clicking, thus increasing customer confidence in pressing ahead.
The final screen in the checkout process gives a very clear and detailed summary of your order, including billing and delivery details, delivery times, total cost, and anything else you would want to know.
The payment call to action is clear and unambiguous, so no complaints there either.
The search function
The search bar is displayed nice and clearly on the site, so plus points there.
There is also a predictive search function, which in my view is essential for ecommerce sites these days. I’m a very lazy man, I’ll give you that. But so are millions of other internet users.
Search results were always relevant to the query, which isn’t something you can always rely on from ecommerce sites.
The editorial content
Now let’s look at the onsite content.
One thing I will say is that the content could have been more easily accessible from the mobile home page. Perhaps the blog should have been included in the main navigation menu.
In fact, there is no directly visible link to the blog. You have to expand the ‘About Habitat’ menu at the very bottom of the page in order to see it.
Granted this is more of a UX issue, but given that Habitat is lauding the quality of its content, why not give it the attention it deserves?
As for the blog page itself, it’s quite visually pleasing, with large images that fill the entire width of the screen and nice clear text for headings and descriptions.
Within the blog posts, however, the story is sadly not such a happy one.
Let’s start with the below headline: ‘Habitat fitted kitchens’, along with the completely impartial subheading of, ‘A new kitchen will change your life, so get yours from Habitat’.
Then, just three paragraphs in, we see the line, ‘Maybe you didn’t realise Habitat do fitted kitchens’, followed shortly by, ‘Our team is there to ensure your new kitchen blah blah blah blah blah’.
I can’t help feel that Habitat has completely missed the point of creating editorial content for a brand.
It’s not about producing a sales letter in a different format, it’s about giving your customers useful information that is relevant to your industry.
Yes, editorial content can, and should, increase sales. But it has to be done right. Brazen sales pitches simply don’t work in this format.
The blog formatting also leaves much to be desired. The paragraphs are long and there are no subheadings to break up the post.
That said, the writing is not bad. The language is clean and simple and fairly easy to read. Plus there is plenty of eye-catching imagery.
Perhaps I’m just picking on this one post (although it is certainly not the only one of its kind). Habitat does have stuff like recipe content, which is certainly moving in the right direction.
But then there’s a post that offers a brief history of some stool that Habitat sells. Yes, it is kind of interesting I suppose, if you’re interested in that type of thing.
But how does it actually help the target audience?
Conclusion: brilliant UX, but blog content needs work
The editorial content on Habitat’s site is undeniably poor, but clearly it has skilled copywriters so it is more a case of coming up with a better strategy and improved formatting.
Having said that, perhaps content is something it’s working on, having concentrated more of its efforts on improving the user experience, which, to be fair, is excellent.
I suppose UX is arguably the most important aspect of an ecommerce site, so overall I would still rate the new Habitat site in a positive way.
It’s just a shame to have an otherwise pretty decent ecommerce site let down by something that could be quite easily improved.