Electrical retailer Comet has this week introduced a new beta version of its homepage, asking for user feedback on the new design.

We talked to Comet’s Content Manager Robbie Tutt about the thinking behind the new homepage.


Can you explain the changes made to the Comet homepage?

In a nutshell, it has changed from a price-led homepage to one that better represents the breadth of our knowledge and experience.

Price is still very important but we have opted for a more service and knowledge-led approach, as Comet wants to present itself as an expert in the field of electrical products.


Why did you decide to redesign the page?

After carrying out lots of research, using focus groups, customer feedback, and speaking to people within the business, we decided to improve the page.

The feedback was that the homepage was too cluttered, and that it didn’t stand out enough from other sites in the same sector.

Comet as a brand is changing and we wanted to reflect this by making it more of a destination website, offering our expertise on electrical products.

The site is not all about selling; at Comet we would prefer not to sell at all than sell someone the wrong product for their needs. We want customers to understand about the products they are purchasing.


Is this about reducing the number of complaints / returns?

We want visitors to get the information they expect from the site, and this can help to avoid negative customer experiences.  If they don’t know much about products they are thinking of buying, we want to help them understand, which is key for a lot of electrical products, like HD TVs.

If we can clear these concerns up, then this is half the battle both online and in-store.


How many are coming to the site to research products?

Around 70% of visitors to the Comet site come to research prices and product details, while 40% of visitors to our offline stores have previously looked at products on our website.


How many are using the ‘collect in store’ option?

We launched this 18 months ago, and it has been wildly successful since then. Almost half Approximately half of sales on our website are via the collect in store option.


You are using Flash to display the latest offers on the homepage, why did you take this decision?

The reason behind the use of Flash was to reduce the clutter on the page, but we did our research before deciding to use Flash.

We have looked at figures on Flash penetration, and the majority of internet users have Flash Player installed on their PCs, so we made the call to use it as a way of reducing clutter and adding some interactivity.

There will be a non-Flash version introduced for people without Flash Player or those using screen readers. It is important that our site is accessible for non standard browsers.


In the feedback pages, some people have mentioned the load speed with the Flash display, is this something you considered in the design?

Download time is a key metric for us, people need to be able to load the pages on the site quickly, and we are constantly testing for this. We actually halved the size of the Flash file on the page to make it load faster. And the total size of the beta homepage is a third of the size of our current one.


The basket link and the search box are now much more prominent. What was the thinking behind this?

This was a deliberate change, as we looked at the features on the site that people were using most often. We found that the search box resonates well with customers and also converts well, so we have made it more prominent, which should help customers find the product they want more easily.


In our Online Retail Checkout Report, we used Comet as an example of an enclosed checkout process. What effect has enclosing the process had?

The checkout process was changed as part of a major redesign that was implemented two years ago. We changed a lot of features on the site, so we can’t tell exactly what effect the changes to the checkout have had on conversion.

There is a link out to the ‘click and chat’ option during the checkout process so customers can chat msn messenger style to Comet staff about delivery options or for advice on products, and we have found that this has had a positive effect.

From the feedback we have received, many customers have said they would have dropped out of the process if not for this contact option.


When will the new homepage go live?

The planned date is August 14, though we intend to listen to customer feedback and change the design or, if necessary we will even postpone the launch.


Are you planning to revamp the rest of the site?

There will be more changes on the way, but we can’t say exactly what yet. We have a programme of updates on the site and change features all year round, with the exception of the busy Christmas period. 


Related research:

Online Retail 2007: Checkout Special