Hem is the new high-end furniture ecommerce site from the team that brought you Fab.com.
It aims to deliver designer furniture at affordable prices by cutting out the middleman.
And if that sounds familiar, it’s because Made.com has been doing the same thing for several years, so Hem will have to try and differentiate its offering – it will have to re-disrupt the online furniture market.
Hem is currently taking pre-orders so all items will take a minimum of six weeks to be shipped, and it will also be launching a customisable design tool in the near future.
It sounds like an interesting proposition, so I tried it out…
When you first arrive on the homepage it plays a short video, though only on the desktop version (read my other post to discover 20 other sites that use video backrounds).
You might even say there’s too much use of white, particularly when it comes to this meek call-to-action on the homepage.
Scroll down the page and you’re greeted with information on Hem’s USP – original designs and quality craftsmanship at affordable prices.
There are also videos from ‘inside the Hem workshop’, featured products, and several attempts to get you to follow the brand on Instagram. Perhaps Instagram has usurped Pinterest as the social network of choice for homeware brands?
It’s also interesting to note that though the featured products appear in a carousel it doesn’t scroll automatically – users have to click on the arrows to view the various options.
Carousels have proven to be ineffective on ecommerce sites so it’s pleasing to see that Hem has stepped away from automating this feature.
To browse the site users can either click on the ‘Shop’ icon in the top nav and select a specific product category, or click the ‘Shop now’ CTA in the middle of the homepage to browse the entire range.
It’s slim pickings at the moment, but then it’s early days plus this is supposed to be unique, designer furniture rather than the mass-produced, homogenous homeware on offer from Ikea and Target.
As one would expect the product options are displayed in a tiled layout with white space in between. This gives it a modern, clean look and also means its scales neatly to a mobile screen.
Hem’s product pages are currently quite sparse, which is surprising given that its main selling point is the quality and artistry behind its furniture.
People aren’t going to buy an £800 armchair on impulse – it’s a considered purchase so there needs to be a lot of information readily available to persuade shoppers that they’re making the right decision.
Hem offers the basics – four photos, a brief description, a photo and biography for the designer, and limited shipping information – but it could easily be doing more.
For example, Made offers eight images, information on the product’s style and design, and even details of media coverage.
In my opinion the most glaring omission from Hem’s product page is a picture if someone sitting in the chair to give a better idea of scale.
Before I get started on the checkout I feel it’s necessary to highlight this rather pathetic attempt at notifying shoppers that they have an item in their basket.
I know that Hem is aiming for a simple, clean UI, but this tiny text link is going too far.
That issue aside, the shopping cart offers a decent basket summary while alerting me to the fact that shipping is a whopping £58.79 (Made.com caps delivery charges at £39.95).
There is also a guest checkout option and there’s much to like about the simple, uncluttered design.
It also looks great on mobile:
Sadly there are also a number of UX flaws that Hem should look to address.
For example, you might have noticed that the currency randomly switched from pounds to Euros between the shopping basket and the checkout.
It also fails to offer a postcode lookup tool, there’s no progress indicator, and mandatory fields aren’t flagged up as such until you try and fail to get to the next screen.
In fairness these issues might not be enough to deter someone once they’ve made up their mind to buy an £800 and already swallowed the £60 delivery charge, but they are still basic errors that should have been avoided.
I’m a fan of Hem’s clean aesthetics and its decision to use responsive design. The site has a bold look that differentiates it from the competition.
However I’m concerned that it doesn’t yet do enough to convince customers of the craftsmanship that goes into the products.
Unless I’ve missed something obvious it appears that the site is very thin on content, and even the product pages offer a very basic amount of information.
The furniture market is extremely competitive and people don’t make buying decisions on a whim, so Hem needs to be trying harder to reassure its users and increase its chance of making a sale.
Hem certainly looks very sleek, but the dedication to simplicity comes at the expense of some important UX features.