Several online retailers, including ASOS, Argos and JD Sports, have recently launched clearance sites to provide an outlet for older stock, and appeal to bargain hungry web shoppers.

Debenhams is the latest retailer to follow this trend; yesterday it launched Outlet, which sells discounted products all year round. I’ve been trying the site out…

Like the standard Debenhams website, the layout is fine but the overall look of the site could be improved, as it looks a little dated. Making the site wider for higher screen resolutions would be one way to improve it:

Debenhams Outlet

Other things have improved on the site since I last looked at it; better quality product photos are now provided and delivery charges are made clear on product pages, while users now have the option to read and write user reviews.

Still the Debenhams Outlet is a good idea to appeal to recession hit shoppers and clear away some end of line stock, though the usability of the navigation and product search could be improved.

If you are on the Outlet section of the site and use the search box, it will return results from the whole site; an option to search within the sale section only would have been useful.

Also, while there are some decent filtered navigation options that allow users to narrow by brand, colour, size and price, the execution lets it down slightly. For example, having entered my search filters for a pair of jeans, I hit a dead end with no matching products.

This can be avoided by showing the number of products for each feature set in brackets, as Comet does, or by updating the number of matching products every time a different filtering option is selected. Making it easier to add and remove filters would also make it easier for customers to refine product searches.

More annoying was the fact that the filters didn’t work effectively, even when they did return matching products. I searched for a pair of blue jeans size 34, but on arriving at the product page I find out that all sizes but 36 are sold out. 

If items are out of stock it’s best not to let people arrive at product pages only to find their size is unavailable. It is frustrating, and defeats the object of having the filtering options in the first place.

For users that do manage to find their size in stock and decide to buy, it’s good to see that Debenhams has provided registration options; if you want to sign in or register you can, if not you can purchase without having to sign up:

Debenhams registration

The Debenhams Outlet section, like the rest of the website, works well enough in general, and has improved recently, but I can’t help thinking that a well known retailer like this should have a better e-commerce offering.

Compared with rivals like M&S and John Lewis, the site looks dated; the fact that it cracked under the strain of extra demand before Christmas is also evidence of this. In terms of user experience, it trails behind some of its high street rivals, especially John Lewis.