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Schuhstore: design & navigation redux

September 4, 2009GeorgeAll posts, review3

So you may remember (actually you won’t remember because you’ve probably never read this blog) that about a year ago I reviewed the design and layout of the Schuh website. Well, they’ve relaunched it. In fact, they relaunched it a while ago, but I’ve only just got round to looking at it. So anyway, predictably, here follows …

A(nother) critique of www.schuhstore.co.uk

When I looked at this site before, there were serious hierarchy issues, navigational weirdness, coding oddities and some frankly bizarre graphics. Have things changed for the better? Is there a clearer idea of where to go? Read on and find out!

Structure
Unfortunately, the main structure of the site appears largely unchanged from last time. There’re still some fairly easy wins that could be achieved by simply looking at what their visitors do when they visit the site, and then optimising the content accordingly.

There are also options available that will optimise your content for you: Omniture’s Test & Target is one such product. Upload a number of ‘recipies’, and it will serve them up, learn which is the most popular (based on who clicks through/purchases), and display the most popular automatically.

Design templates
The look & feel of the site has changed since the last review, but they still lack priorities and hierarchy. At least they’ve gotten rid of the bizarre approach to graphics! You may recall that this screenshot was taken whilst in the men’s shoes section. Well, that’s all gone now, and at last we have clean-looking and relevant sections.

However, all is not rosy. The homepage is still a chaotic mess, and shouts about every brand and activity under the sun. From a design perspective, inconsistent use of fonts and colours is quite eye-straining, and whilst I appreciate not everyone cares about that – plenty of people do.

There’re also serious inconsistencies with the main ‘brochureware’ (I hate that word) parts of the site versus the transactional area. The moment you want to purchase something, you’re dropped into a completely different-looking journey. This is not good from a customer’s perspective: parting with money is clearly an emotive subject, and ensuring they’re as happy as possible that a) you’re not a dodgy phishing site, and b) you look like you’re able to handle their credit card details professionally & securely is absolutely paramount. Making this key part of the journey as painless as possible is really, really important. Don’t give your customers an excuse to drop out the flow and go elsewhere.

Technically, the site is lacking. It’s built using ASP includes and frames…and this is really a no-no these days in terms of making your content as accessible and spiderable as possible. Whilst Google does indeed have sight of the content that’s on here, it could be so much better.

Even using something like WordPress as a CMS and creating a great theme for it would help hugely, since it’s very standards compliant, which – let’s face it – the current site is not (see the result of the W3C checker here).

Twitter
Being a retail store -and a cool young brand – means that Schuh could make seriously good use of Twitter. Not just to tweet generally about cool stuff, but also to do Twitter-only deals, promoting codes that could only be found via Twitter – stuff like that.

Not only that, but they could start to use Twitter as a great customer service tool. Encourage users to ask questions via tweets! And – better – answer them by tweeting back. Order statuses, questions about stock, new deliveries…it could all be shouted about.

I had a look around, and couldn’t see a Schuh profile on Twitter, so they may already be doing this. If so, they should be shouting about it on their website. Correction: they do have a Twitter account – it’s at http://twitter.com/SchuhHQ

Incidentally, E-Consultancy have done a recent piece about customer service via Twitter. It’s worth a read.

To conclude

  • The homepage is STILL pretty chaotic with all elements trying to compete for your attention: it wants to do everything, all at once.
  • Site templates are lacking in accessbility and spiderability.
  • It’s all built in tables and frames. I’ve said it before: tables are bad.

Phew! There you have it then. It’s changed…but not much. This is a pity, since this site could be so much more.

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3 Comments

  1. Carol McWhirterSeptember 4, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Hi,

    Thank you so much for the critique- it is genuinely useful to get feedback from people who are using the site.

    We are re-launching our site on 5th October and would love to have you critique the new version?

    Kind Regards
    Carol

  2. GeorgeSeptember 4, 2009 at 11:56 amAuthor

    Carol, thanks for the comment. I’d be happy to critique the new site once it’s live. :)

  3. Tim DavisSeptember 4, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Carol – Is the re-launch a complete overhaul by a reputable digital production company?

    I’d be interested to hear about the process, as up till now your web presence hasn’t been tackled as if it were a crucial part of Schuh’s business model. It should be!

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