Grocery retailer Waitrose launched a new website earlier this month after a £10m revamp, but there has been a flood of negative feedback from customers. In response, the retailer has been forced to issue a statement promising to address some of this issues raised. 

Website redesigns are never going to be universally popular, the recent Gawker redesign is one such example, but the new Waitrose website has provoked much more criticism than most revamps… 

new Waitrose

Customer feedback

A quick look at the Waitrose forum topics gives you an idea of customers’ opinions. 

Waitrose complaints

Twitter search for ‘Waitrose website’ tells the same story. 

Waitrose website Twitter

The first post in the ‘new website’ thread on the forum praises the new site but at least about 90% of the comments that follow are from users that hate the redesign. A very high proportion. 

There are always at least a few complaints when a popular website changes, but Waitrose must be surprised at the level of negative feedback to this version. 

Problems with the new site

Aside from the fact that customers don’t always respond positively to website redesigns, as they are used to the old version, there are some genuine usability issues which have been highlighted by customers. 

Shopping / product lists

Shopping lists are crucial for repeat customers, as they allow them to quickly select items that they have previously purchased or bookmarked. 

As the comments on this thread show, the way lists were displayed meant that customers had more work to do to select items. For example, a list of 313 items was split over 28 pages, which is a real pain, made worse by the fact that items are listed randomly. 

In response, Waitrose has changed this to 50 products per page, but there are now complaints that, when items are selected individually, only the first 12 are added to the trolley. 

Slow loading pages

Many of the complaints on the forum were around the slowness of the site, something Waitrose has acknowledged in its statement: 

As a matter of urgency we are still addressing the overall speed of the website and have engaged our technology partners from around the world to help find a speedy solution.

I tried the site today and didn’t find it especially slow, but if customers are spending time adding a long list of items to their trolleys, then slow loading pages are a major source of frustration.

Navigation

Several users said they found it harder to find the items they are looking for by browsing, and had to resort to searching by name. For example, I had a problem finding where bread ‘lives’ on the site. Since it’s a basic of most grocery orders, it should be easier to find.

It turns out that you need to select cupboard, food, bakery, then bread is listed. A lot of clicks to find a basic item. Perhaps showing more items on the menu (shown below) would help.

Waitrose nav menu

Also, once you have navigated to a particular sub category, the route back to the start point of your search isn’t so easy, while it isn’t possible to jump to another category quickly: 

Waitrose nav 2

So, if I’m on prepacked cheese and I want to jump to the bakery section, that’s another three clicks away. To speed up the experience for users, a few shortcuts would be useful, or the top navigation menu could provide quick links to product categories. 

Other issues

There are other issues raised by users within the site’s forums, including problems with the recipe search, and the loss of offer codes when orders are updated. 

The Waitrose response

Waitrose has been responding to comments made on the site’s forums, and has announced that a number of changes will be made to the site, including fixing the issues with lists and working on the speed. 

However, some customers aren’t convinced by this, and believe that it is the basic design of the site that is at fault. There are plenty of calls for a return to the old version, and this comment is typical: 

Waitrose complaint 2

Having spent £10m on a redesign, it’s hard to see what else Waitrose can do at the moment, other than work as quickly as it can to fix the issues raised. 

It does raise the question of how much usability testing has been done though. Some of the issues raised by users, such as the way lists are displayed, should have been uncovered long before the design went live. 

I have heard that the redesign was running behind schedule, so it makes you wonder whether the anount of time spent testing the site was cut as a result… 

UPDATE: 

A Waitrose spokesman contacted me after seeing this article and left this statement: 

Following one of the biggest retail web changes ever, we’re seeing unprecedented volumes with orders up by almost 34% on the same time last year, so clearly the vast majority of shoppers are getting on well with the new site. However, like all new websites there are some problems, and we would like to apologise for the inconvenience and frustration this has clearly caused some of our customers. 

We’re working hard to correct the issues that some shoppers are experiencing as fast as we possibly can. We’re using the feedback from our customers to prioritise the changes we need to make. The first batch will include improvements to the login and ordering process and these will go live soon. We are using our online forum to let everyone know which changes are being made and when these have taken place.