Having recently ended its partnership with Amazon and launched a new e-commerce site in the US, I expected that Borders would develop a similar version for the UK.

However, the redesigned Borders.co.uk has now gone live and it is completely different to its US counterpart.

We’ve taken a look to see how they compare…

Homepage

While the homepage of the US version is dominated by the Magic Shelf display, the designers of the UK site have decided not to bother with it. This is a good thing in my opinion, as I found it fairly ineffective in finding new books, while it also slowed up the loading time of the page.

Here’s the UK version:

Borders UK site

And the US site:

Borders US site

Instead, staff picks, latest bestsellers, recommendations and new releases are given prominence on the homepage. By not adding the Magic Shelf Flash tool, there is also more room for navigation features.

Navigation

While the US site has four main product categories on the top navigation bar, Borders.co.uk has seven, which makes it easier to start your search in the relevant section.

Here’s the UK navigation:

Border.co.uk navigation

And the US version:

For instance, you can select ‘non-fiction’ straight from the UK homepage, whereas Borders.com doesn’t even have this category. 

In addition the promoted bestsellers, recommendations etc in the centre of the page provide another way of browsing through the site, while the search tool is very useful.

It has an auto-complete tool so that, as you type in your search term it suggests names of books, authors etc. This can be useful, and is something that other etailers should consider using.

Borders auto suggest search

The results for the queries I tried were accurate, and the site allows users to sort by category, author, tags and media type to narrow down the selection:

Borders serch results

If you browse through categories via the main navigation, the filtering tools are just as useful. But in some cases, after you narrowed the selection down as far as the sorting tools will allow, you are still left with 100+ books to look through, which is too many.

Book suggestor

The ‘Spookily Accurate Book Suggestor’ is a search tool which aims to recommend books based on the book title you enter, a favourite book, or one you have enjoyed reading.

It seems to work well. For instance, I entered ‘Stalingrad’ and was pointed towards other books on Russia and WW2, as well as other titles by the same author. All useful suggestions.

book suggestor

Product pages

The product pages have plenty of detail to help you decide on a book. As well as a synopsis of the book, user reviews and related blog articles are provided, though most books on the site have not been reviewed as yet.

Borders product page  

Price, delivery details and availability are displayed clearly, though you need to scroll down the page for further terms and conditions and payment methods.

Basket/Checkout

The basket link is in the top right, where you would expect to find it, but some other aspects of the basket and checkout process are confusing.

Clicking on the basket link brings up a mini basket which shows the contents and total price. However, where you would normally expect a link to the checkout, you instead have the option of ‘review and purchase’:

After clicking the ‘review and purchase’ link, I was expecting to see a more detailed summary of my basket, but Borders has combined the basket and checkout functions into one page.

Borders basket / checkout

There is no link that makes it clear you are entering the checkout process and, beneath the summary of items you have added, you are expected to enter address and payment details, after first registering.

Some users may find this process confusing, as it differs so much from the practice of most other e-commerce sites. I’d prefer a clear ‘proceed to checkout’ link so it is obvious that you are about to start paying for your items.

Conclusion 

I wasn’t that impressed with the US version of the site, but Borders.co.uk is an improvement. The navigation is more intuitive, making it easier to browse around for books and music.

The search and Book Suggestor tools are useful for getting ideas for new books to read while, once the site’s users write enough reviews, the product pages will be very useful for deciding which book to buy.

Borders has also added a forums and blogs sections, allowing users to update profiles and write reviews and blog posts. This should be useful when deciding whether or not to rely on a particular review, as you can visit users’ profiles, see their interests and other reviews.

The checkout process lets the site down though; being so different to other e-commerce sites, as well as the fact that it lacks a clear checkout link, may confuse some shoppers.

Related research:

Usability and Accessibility Buyer’s Guide 2008

User Experience Roundtable Briefing – May 2008

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