Wine retailer Laithwaites has launched a new version of its website to improve the user experience and provide more help for customers in their wine selection.

I’ve been talking a look at the new Laithwaites site, which is powered by ATG

Laithwaites homepage

Homepage

The new homepage is an improvement on the previous version, with a clearer layout than before. Prominence is given to the search box and the wine finder, as well as a rolling display of the latest offers.

The search box and navigational options are clear, but Laithwaites doesn’t give enough prominence to its recommendations, which are buried in a sub-category under the unhelpful label ‘our wines’, while the wine plans aren’t advertised on the homepage.

Navigation

I like the way that Laithwaites is using filtered navigation to help users find wine. If customers have a specific wine in mind, the search box works well, but for a product as varied and complex as wine, users need help to narrow their selection.

There are useful filtering options, such as food matching, body/sweetness, as well as more obvious filters such as wine types, country, and grape varieties, while a slider tool allows you to select a price range:

What makes it more usable is that results update quickly once you add, remove or alter a filter, rather than having to click again to update results or reload the page.

Other filtering options may be useful, such as by recommendation or user review score, and this may be a good option to add once a decent amount of reviews are available on the site.

The way the search results are displayed can be adjusted so you can see more detailed listings of individual wines, enabling the user to scroll and compare without having to click each result for more information:

The one thing I would criticise about the navigation is that some features of the site, such as staff wine recommendations, mixed cases, and wine plans are hidden thanks to unclear labelling of navigational options.

The three options on the tabs, ‘Our Wine’, ‘All about wine’ don’t rely describe what can actually be found under these options; recommendations, food matching guides etc, while the ‘About Us’ link doesn’t necessarily belong in such a prominent position.

Product pages

The product pages do a good job of describing the wine and contains some useful information on food matches, serving temperatures, and even provides matching recipes for some wines.

I would have liked to have seen a clearer call to action here, while delivery charges and related information is missing from the page.

Compare this to Naked Wines and Majestic – Naked Wines makes its delivery charge clear throughout the site, and provided a next day delivery countdown as a persuasive sales driver, while Majestic provides a clear free delivery offer. This information is important to customers so should be made clear.

Basket / checkout

The shopping basket is clear enough at providing a summary of contents and the option to add and remove bottles, but the delivery charges are too small, and the delivery options aren’t displayed.

Other information on available payment options, as well as reassurances about server / transaction security is missing.  

Login or registration before checkout is compulsory, making for a potential obstacle for some customers, especially as available delivery option and times have not been displayed at this point in the process, meaning customers seeking this information may be deterred by the need to fill in forms first:

The registration issue aside, the checkout is well designed, the process has been enclosed to remove distractions from users, and forms are easy to fill in, though it is too strict on postcode validation.  

I also like the delivery options, which allow customers to select a specific delivery slot, including the option of evening delivery, useful for customers who are at work during the day:

Delivering items on a particular days can be a compelling prospect for
customers, so it should perhaps be made clearer earlier in the process, on product or shopping basket pages. 

Conclusion

The new Laithwaites website is a big improvement on the old, more complex and cluttered version, and the wine finding tool makes it much easier for customers to search and narrow their choice of wine.

There are some issues which, if fixed, could improve conversion rates, such as using reviews and recommendations more effectively, being clearer on delivery charges, and possibly making registration voluntary.