Play.com has just launched their new site design (18th August 2011) supported by User Experience Design Agency Splendid. First impressions are it has been well thought-through and designed, with consideration to the user experience and their path to purchase/conversion, through a clear strategy focus on an improved navigation, homepage and product pages.
It is clear from the look and general feel, Play.com have really tried to focus on the information architecture and visual saliency of the site making it as easy as possible for customers to find the product they are looking for, either via the search bar or exploding menus now supporting each department.
Like many new site designs Play.com have completely removed the left-hand navigation and implemented a single horizontal navigation with exploding menus. This approach allows them to shorten user journeys (clicks) with deeper menu options by incorporating Category headings and Sub-Category options.
In the previous navigation design it took 2 clicks to get to the DVD Comedy section whereas it now takes 1.
This ability to shortened click journeys means customers spend less time looking and more time browsing.
The new navigation has also been well supported with an improved faceted/attribute navigational options making it possible to refine your search by more in-depth sub-categories like television show or movie, price, actor, director, certificate and more.
The previous site design was split into a single horizontal element containing the top navigation and three vertical elements – as shown below. The new site design has been split into a greater combination of horizontal, vertical and single box frame elements, giving the marketing and ecommerce team’s greater flexibility and opportunities to push messages and offers.
The new design more clearly separates and defines promotions and messages allowing each to have an improved level of impact.
The full width rotating promotional banner is an example where the new design has allowed for improved message clarity.
One change I did find particularly interesting was the change to the Search button, from “Search” to “Go”, conventional best practice often advises using the word “Search” as it more clearly defines the actions the user is about to take.
Old Site Homepage
New Site Homepage
Though the changes are more subtle than the homepage, this is the page where you can really feel the improvement. The old product listing was far more cumbersome and often felt like there was little management of the section via the CMS as you could often find the alignment of products completely disjointed and there was not a clear call-to-action to encourage the next step.
The new design address these issues far more nicely by using a light grey line to give each product the appearance of its own piece of site real-estate along with using bigger images of 180x180 vs. the old design which used 58x88 (DVD section reviewed). This design change makes the browsing of products far more enjoyable and easy to navigate.
In addition and possibly most importantly they have included the Buy button as a clear Call-to-Action (CTA). My only complaint would be they are not aligned collectively product-to-product, which if done would round the design off nicely.
Old Site Product Listing Design
New Site Product Listing Design
Following the same pattern as the homepage and product listing, product item pages are now much improved, providing easy access to:
- Special Features
- Technical Details
- Customer Reviews
- Delivery and Returns information
They have also included a much larger pictures along with easy access to special features such as video trailers.
In addition it is now easy to see if the same product is available via Play Trade. All-in-all the Product Item Pages are clean following all the best practices for usability including maintaining a nice clear call-to-action and easy visibility of the basket as items are added.
My one complaint would be that the information seems all congregate together leaving what appears and feels like a lot of wasted space to the right of the BUY button (Red box below).
While there will always be areas of improvement available to Play.com (additional features are promised in the near future) I think the new design is a good improvement on the old design.
Rather than changing everything, Play.com have focused on what needed improving so core elements such as the centralised search bar, the shopping basket located at the top right, and the prominence of Play Trade have not been diluted.
It is clear that a large amount of user and competitor research has been undertaken and the results visually are impressive.
The design is clean, fresh and contemporary, with navigation from search to checkout much easier and smoother.
The outstanding question is have these changes given the desired conversion rate uplift?