Boots’ website

is pretty good in some areas, but as with pretty much all retail sites there are always areas crying out for optimisation.

We’ve come up with a few suggested improvements from a customer experience perspective….

Make the site fill the whole screen

One of the first things you notice about Boots’ website is the vast expanse of blank space on the right hand side of the screen:

Boots homepage

Not only does this look untidy, but it is also a waste of valuable space above the fold.

Below the fold, there is a similar amount of blank space:

Boots blank space

The recent BBC website redesign included a new wider version, with the corporation calculating that 95% of web users have screen resolutions of 1024 or wider, so there is little reason not to widen the site.

Even if Boots centred the content, it would be a big improvement. Marks & Spencer’s site has a similar amount of blank space, but looks much better.

Put important navigation above the fold

The navigation on the website is unclear, and important links don’t stand out in the way they should do.

For instance, if you select a category from the navigation bar near the top of the page, then you would expect to see sub categories. These are there on the left,  but in a small, indistinct font, and so are easily missed.

Boots does have clearer presentation of these categories, but has placed this beneath the fold where it is likely to be missed by many visitors:

Boots sub category navigation

Provide email sign up options

Customers have to register with the site before they can be sent the Boots newsletter with information about new offers and online promotions.

Many visitors would not want to register with the site, providing name and address details just to receive a newsletter, so Boots is missing out on potential email subscribers by making the process too tricky.

It would be better to provide a prominent subscribe links on the homepage and other pages, allowing visitors to sign up for emails by adding a few simple details.

More visible basket / checkout link

The checkout link is up there on the top right of the web page, where you would normally expect to find it, but it could be clearer, and looks like a greyed-out Windows button:

Boots checkout link

Also, on the shopping basket page, the link to proceed to checkout is below the fold, where it could be missed. The key here is to make the link as obvious as possible to avoid the risk of losing sales from customers who cannot find the link.

The checkout or other links which lead the customer further along the purchase process should be the most prominent on the page.

Don’t make me enter the same details twice

It’s annoying enough that Boots forces customers to register before they begin the checkout process, but you also end up entering the same details twice.

Unlike some other sites, it does not give shoppers the option of using their first address as the delivery address.

This is pretty annoying, unnecessary, and may be frustrating enough to make some potential customers give up altogether.

Enclose the checkout

This is something I have mentioned in other similar posts, as many e-commerce sites leave links that allow customers to leave the checkout process and lose all the information they have entered.

In the case of Boots, the main navigation bar is still there for anyone to click on, as well as links to other areas of the website:

Boots payment screen

The point of enclosing the checkout is to focus the customer’s mind on what they need to do to complete the purchase by removing any unnecessary distractions.

Once customers enter the checkout, they should be funnelled towards the purchase confirmation screen with as little friction as possible.

Provide some contact details

Contact details are a basic thing for an online retailer to provide; not only does it help if customers want to ask about an order or have some other query, but it is also a mark of trust that shoppers often look for on a website.

Boots does provide contact details, but finding them takes some effort. I initially found them via the ‘About Us’ link at the bottom of the page, but it appears they are also displayed under the ‘Help’ link at the top.

It does provide a range of contact options, but why not put them under a ‘Contact Us’ heading as most other site do, and where most customers would expect to find them.

Better still, on some e-commerce sites, contact details would be better placed on product pages so that customers with a query about a product they are thinking of buying can easily find them. 

Delivery details on product pages

Details about delivery are important to customers thinking about making a purchase online; people want to know how soon products can be delivered to them, the different options, and the costs.

These can be crucial factors in the decision to buy online, so customers should find it easy to access this information. Giving customers delivery options and charges on product pages would help them make a decision.

However, though Boots clearly states that delivery is free for orders over £40, which is a good move, any other details are hard to find.

If you want to find delivery charges, you need to go through two stages of the checkout process first, which would include registration if you are a new customer.

Improve product pages

The product pages could do with more details. Apart from the lack of delivery times and charges, the pages are not detailed enough, the photos are basic and product information isn’t extensive.

In the case of products like pain relief belts, heart monitors and the like, customers could do with more information before deciding whether or not to buy.

User reviews would be a useful addition here; as well as helping customers make a more informed decision, they are useful sales drivers.

Offer to contact customers when items are out of stock

Some would argue that online retailers shouldn’t display items that are unavailable, to avoid customers becoming frustrated.

Certainly, shoppers shouldn’t be allowed to add out of stock items to their baskets only to be told once they reach the checkout that they cannot purchase an item.

Boots does display unavailable items, and these are clearly marked as such on the product pages and search results.

Offering to email customers when an item is available again could not only prevent the customer from shopping elsewhere, but also provides an excellent opportunity to start communicating with interested shoppers.

Alternatively, retailers could use this as an opportunity to cross sell by offering similar products, or tell them where they can find the product at one of its offline stores.

Boots does neither, and is missing out on the opportunity to convert a few more visitors into paying customers.

Related research:
Usability and Accessibility Buyer’s Guide 2008
Customer Engagement Report

Related articles:
10 things Currys can do better online
Ten ways to improve your conversion rates