I recently wrote a post looking at the customer journey on Louis Vuitton’s ecommerce site.

It was triggered by a sense that luxury brands struggle to find a balance between an online shopping experience that stands out from the crowd but that also delivers a slick UI.

In my conclusion I noted that the focus seemed to be on content delivery rather than creating an amazing ecommerce experience.

This week I’ve decided to turn the spotlight on Prada to see how it attempts to balance luxury with usability.

Here’s what I found…

Homepage

The homepage is a great example minimalist design and the imagery is very striking, but usability has taken a backseat.

Most of the navigation options are hidden inside a hamburger menu though there are also three text links on the left of the screen.

The pros and cons of hamburger menus are open to debate and though it’s becoming more common to see them used on desktop, I’ve not seen any evidence to show that people prefer them to a standard nav bar.

Prada hasn’t even been consistent with its navigation as the ‘Iconoclasts’ link opens in a new tab while the other two open within the same browser window.

Within the hamburger menu there’s not a great deal of clarity. What sits within the e-store if not fragrance and eyewear?

Also that search tool is very easy to miss.

Content

When looking at Louis Vuitton’s website I found that much of the focus seemed to be on providing high quality content ahead of ecommerce.

Perhaps people are more likely to use luxury brand sites for product research rather than making a purchase. 

Is the same true of Prada?

If we look at the FW 2015 Women’s Show for example, the content is presented on a long scrollable page with the various images and videos opening up in full screen.

It’s all hi-res, looks amazing, and has prominent social sharing buttons, but one criticism would be that there’s little information about the items other than the imagery.

Within the hamburger menu users can access content relating to all of Prada’s previous ranges and ad campaigns.

It follows the same basic navigation template, with swipeable pages giving access to additional images and videos via text links on the left of the screen.

In terms of content layout and navigation, Prada offers a much greater level of consistency than Louis Vuitton, which obviously means it’s easier to explore the different content sections.

The iconoclast campaign, hosted on its own subdomain, is different from the rest of the site.

Prada gave various designers the chance to create an artistic installation in its stores to reinterpret the brand’s image.

There were three such events hosted in Paris, London and New York during February and March 2015.

For each one Prada has created a series of videos and photo galleries showing the inspiration behind the installation, how it was set up, and then the celebrity-filled launch parties.

Again the content is extremely high quality and built for touchscreens, as it all renders in full screen and the navigation is all swipeable.

Search tool

Search tools are very important for fashion ecommerce sites, but Prada’s is quite difficult to find.

However when you click the small text link it opens up into one of the biggest search boxes I’ve ever seen.

Unfortunately its size is about the only redeeming feature as the tool is very unforgiving.

Prada doesn’t offer predictive search or spelling corrections, and to give an example of how specific you need to be, ‘handbag’ returns zero results while ‘handbags’ brings back 300 items.

And even when you eventually find what you’re looking for, there are no filter options to narrow the list down.

Overall the search tool provides a pretty terrible user experience.

Ecommerce navigation

On the Louis Vuitton site it was as if each category page has been designed in isolation, so it was very difficult to navigate the different products.

There are no such issues with Prada as the ecommerce pages follow the same simple tiled layout.

Product options are laid out as square images with no other information immediately on offer, though the price does appear when you hover over them.

Product filters are limited, with only two or three options for each category. For example, handbags can be filtered based on type, material and colour (which is spelled ‘color’ on the UK site).

Product pages

The product pages are consistent with the minimalist design found throughout the site.

There’s no description as such, just a list of product features. This is a missed opportunity for upselling the benefits and luxuriousness of this item.

Another issue is the limited number of images. Product imagery is hugely important in ecommerce as it has to act in lieu of people being able to touch the item for themselves.

Prada’s handbags only have four images each, though on the plus side one of them gives a look inside the bag.

This isn’t enough when asking someone to part with £1,600 for a handbag, and particularly when other luxury sites include product videos on top of a broader range of imagery.

Checkout

As one would expect having seen the rest of the site, Prada’s checkout is incredibly simple.

The shopping basket is basically an image of the item, the price and a ‘Proceed to purchase’ CTA.

The checkout itself is then displayed on a single page, with no mention of registering an account or a login for returning customers.

Customers need only fill in a very basic amount of personal details and credit card information, before pressing ‘Buy now’.

It’s probably the shortest checkout process I’ve seen and offers no reassurance to the customer that their information is safe or when the product will arrive, despite delivery being a massive £15.

 

In conclusion…

Prada is definitely aiming for a simple, stylish website rather than one that delivers a brilliant user experience.

Admittedly it offers a more consistent UX than Louis Vuitton, which means the site is easier to navigate, but it’s so stripped down that even the most basic UX features have been left out.

But it’s not without its charms. I quite like the stripped down aesthetic – nothing appears on the page that doesn’t strictly have to be there in order for people to navigate the site.

However, I’m not in the market for a luxury handbag. If I were, I definitely wouldn’t buy one from Prada’s site as it doesn’t tell me enough about the products on offer.

Though to be honest, would I ever spend that amount of cash without going in-store first?

And I think that’s the point. Even if Prada had created a site that was best in class in terms of UX, people would likely still want to go in-store to reassure themselves and treat themselves to a luxury experience.

In which case, it makes sense for Prada to opt for style over UX online, as it probably won’t make a huge difference to the conversion rate.

As with Louis Vuitton, the site feels like it was designed primarily to showcase Prada’s imagery and video content, which is of a very high quality.