First impressions of the desktop site were positive with users describing the bold design as neat, clean and colourful.
However, some mobile users found it confusing at first as they expected to be able to see product type categories up front whereas these are within menus behind the hamburger icon.
Also, one or two found the home page too long to scroll down with the items featured on this page a little random.
Adding items to the basket
Once into the main tasks the site supported locating specific items quite well. Some users preferred to search, whilst others browsed to the item via the menu items but all were able to find what they were looking for.
Adding an item to the basket from a results or category page caused a little confusion for some as it is not possible to specify the quantity.
For this it is necessary to go into the product detail page. However, some users did not realise this and assumed it was necessary to adjust the amount in the shopping basket page.
Poor content structuring
However, off the beaten track of a targeted shop, the users began to encounter serious difficulties.
The site has some fundamental issues in the underlying information architecture which means that casual browsing for ideas and inspiration is a very poor experience.
On looking for information to help with a room update, most users navigated straight to the inspiration section but from here the user journey is very muddled.
It is little wonder users struggled as the set up of these pages is poor. The inspiration landing page has one main image and style suggestion then three further headings: ‘Latest Articles’, ‘Featured Articles’ and ‘Popular Articles’.
These are not the sub categories users are likely to find helpful. For the user it is not important how this content is divided up internally; if you’re looking for ideas you’re more likely to be thinking in terms of style types – e.g. contemporary, country, traditional – not how recent an article is.
The inspiration menu does have other style categories under room type sub categories but these can only be accessed after clicking into the main style suggestion, which you may never do if you don’t like that look. There is no information scent to lead you on.
Muddled navigation paths
Compounding this poor categorisation of content, there is multiple cross pollination of ‘articles’ across the categories which makes navigating through it and trying to makes sense of it almost impossible.
For example, in the Bedrooms section within ‘Popular Articles’ there is a link ‘Interior Autumn Style for your home’ which does not show you a specific bedroom style but instead takes you back to the main feature on the Inspiration landing page - an Autumn style living room.
Understandably our users found this frustrating.
Furthermore, the content itself, once users got to it, was not found to be particularly helpful and tended to mostly concentrate on décor items such as cushions, pictures and door stops.
Overall this section failed to live up to users’ expectations and was not a guide for how to makeover a room in a certain style.
It did not even state which paint is featured in the images which would have been both obvious and easy to include.
Further navigation confusion
The repeat content and confusing navigation was also prevalent in the projects section.
This means that there is little distinction between the projects and inspiration section making it difficult for users to understand where to go for certain types of information.
For example, following a link to ‘The annual kiddie bedroom update’ takes you to a page with general text about this subject which doesn’t do much to get you started.
Clicking on the ‘Ideas’ link beneath this takes you over to the ‘Inspiration’ section. Users were expecting the ‘project’ section to provide more along the lines of a step by step plan but since there is already a ‘Help and Advice’ section in the top level of the navigation I’m at a loss to understand what the purpose of this section is as currently it just adds to the confusion.
The text itself is far too dense and lengthy as the example below shows (which is much worse on a tablet or a phone). I doubt anybody is going to read all of this through and I am surprised that this continues to be an issue after having been highlighted as something to avoid in web design for so long.
Barriers to purchase: unlinked product images
Inspiration and ideas are all very well but the ultimate goal is to get people to buy products. The unguided task here revealed areas where the site failed to support this.
In this clip the user has come across an image of garage shelves which he likes the look of in an article about decluttering a garage. He tries to click on the image in order to view the details and price but it is not even linked.
Once into the purchasing pages the process was fairly standard however there was one area which tripped most users up which was the password entry.
As David Moth predicted, forcing registration in order to make a purchase was not popular and to add to the frustration users initially failed to enter a valid password.
There is no visible instruction by default as this is behind a tip icon and so no user entered the minimum characters allowed first time.
I’m guessing that currently most purchases either online or in store are pre-planned where the customer knows either precisely or roughly what they want. This site supports that task reasonably well.
However, if B&Q’s business case is also based on increasing its customers range of purchases by becoming a place for advice and inspiration for decoration as the main navigation items would suggest then this site is falling short.
If it was my £60m I would have expected a more polished all round experience for all that money.