FlashRiver Island is one of the only high street retailers which hasn’t significantly improved its e-commerce offering over the past couple of years, and still retains an all-Flash website.

I have been wondering for a while when River Island would look to improve the site, and Paul Rouke of PRWD has a few answers after attending a Q&A with CEO Richard Bradbury last night.

The problems with River Island’s Flash site were identified when it was first launched in 2006 – this discussion on the Econsultancy forum covers the issue – and it seems to have taken a long time to produce an accessible non-Flash version.

River Island made the mistake of not considering disabled users in the design phase of the website and consequently excludes a significant proportion of the population from its website. It has displayed this apology page for more than a year now, advising disabled users to ‘watch this space‘.

River Island Accessibility apology

Despite the accessibility issues, Bradbury says that River Island’s e-commerce channel is performing well, though I wonder how much better it could perform? 

It isn’t just the lack of accessibility, the website could also be more user friendly for all visitors. The navigation could be better, basics like contact details are impossible to find, while River Island has also suffered in terms of SEO by sticking to Flash for so long. 

Despite Google’s recent moves to start indexing Flash sites, River Island still performs poorly in the organic search rankings, even for precise searches on products I know are on the website.

It has also performed poorly in a recent eDigital Research customer satisfaction survey, with the lowest mark out of 39 top UK e-tailers, and scoring badly for site search and navigation, as well as customer service.

In response to Paul’s question about the Flash site, Bradbury did say that the company is ‘in the process of moving away from our current flash based retail site’, and that relaunch is due later this year.

I think that, however well River Island’s e-commerce channel may be performing at the moment, losing the Flash site and moving towards more of a ‘best practice driven e-commerce operation‘ as Paul puts it, could have a huge impact on its success. I’m just surprised that it has taken so long.