Having only recently come across Pretaportobello.com, I find myself questioning how I hadn’t seen it sooner. Pretaportobello is a fashion website that brings the distinctive and quirky trends of the world-famous Portobello Market to a new online audience. The website successfully conveys an eclectic and diverse nature of a truly unique product range, but also many of the best-practice staples of a successful ecommerce website.
There are, of course, improvements that could be made to better optimise the browsing experience and selling power of the website; plus the very fact that, as a well-versed ecommerce professional, I hadn’t come across the website before suggests there is work to do on its marketing. However, these are hurdles that with time and planning could easily be overcome.
If you were described the famous London Portobello Market and you then stumbled upon Pretaportobello, it would be obvious that the two married very well together. This is captured by the presentation of the promotional content on the homepage with its disparate choice of banners and hero shots to set the scene, its typeface choice, its language, and its general quirkiness in both design and content.
Stripping out the promotional content of the homepage, technically the template of the site ticks many of the boxes on how navigation and user journeys should be constructed. The header includes clear “comfort content” such as a phone number, delivery information, links to customer account and shopping bag, product search, and, of course, the transactional navigation to its product range.
While it does this well, there are ways it could be optimised. First off, design. A fashion website is all about the shopping experience, and adjusting the header to push more focus on to the shopping bag would do no harm. Oversized shopping bags not only offer improved visual clues to access your cart, but lend more interest and enticement to fill them up. Calls to action, including the search button, could also be made more obvious, and also potentially adding links to the delivery and exchanges subbanner could be implemented.
The site search does present a point of weakness and unfortunately is often an area that is hard to remedy without the right technology behind the website. A search for red dress returned just three results when there are many more than this if accessed by filtering by the colour red in the dresses category. More concerning was a search for dresses that returned zero results. In general, sites should consider a broad depth of search keywords plus mistypes or “fallbacks” for key phrases. Consider also allowing non-product content to be searched, for example, delivery costs.
The navigation categorisation appears to be well done, however I would advise to group transactional pages together—for example, sale is currently at the end of the list—and improving the presentation of the drop-downs. When setting up drop-downs, steer clear of “slide-down” effects; rather, display the whole menu in one go with a very slight delay upon mouseover. It would also be nice to see the menu more geared towards a mega drop-down that includes more content to browse the product range, explore other areas of the site, and perhaps even include promotional content.
The right image choices are critical to the stickiness of a homepage and as I was writing this review I saw a great photo of a model strutting her stuff through one of London’s markets, complemented by a variety of contrasting promotional banners that, in situ, look fantastic. I would have liked to see some variety of slideshow effect on the main banner to further enhance the energy of the homepage.
I would also add that a couple of the banners were rather hard to read, but this did not take anything away from the overall image of the website.
Thought could also be given to bringing forward more focus onto the Stalls that are at the heart of the fashion site, or even a featured range of products, as while the homepage is presented very well, I suspect the next interaction once visiting the homepage is to click the navigation bar, rather than one of the homepage banners. The intent would not be to clutter the layout, but rather include more useful links that could potentially lower bounce rates.
If I had to name the biggest weaknesses of the site, this would be one of them. There were no discernible category pages on the site, which could do so much to help optimise the shopping experience. While I appreciate some categories are limited in the number of products shown and it is often better to jump straight to the product listings, for a category such as Dresses that has more than 70 results, I would not expect to click this from the navigation and just to see a grid of products. Think landing pages. These offer a way to further show off a product range by specialist banners, promotional content, and a general aspiration when you introduce a category. Think of them as more targeted, more tailored homepages.
Product listing pages
Pretaportobello has, without doubt, a great product range that has been well photographed and described. Although the product listing pages had some good functionality such as faceting, there are some obvious areas where usability and user experience needs to be better optimised.
First of all, image sizes. Make them bigger. It’s a quick fix. Images are so critical to this variety of product range and a 25 percent increase in size would really make them stand out. The borders on the images really aren’t necessary and by both removing this and enlarging them, the page would instantly look cleaner. The mouseover view-change effect is becoming very popular on fashion sites as well as “tagging” products with promotional stickers, and Pretaportobello does this well.
Product sorting is also an area that could be improved. It was rather clunky to use and I honestly don’t know if it actually adds anything to the product listing pages. Regular users may benefit from being able to see the latest products, but I would imagine this is missed by most users. Just as you would visual-merchandise a retail store, consider doing this for the product listing pages, for example grouping by style, by colour, even trend.
The product faceting was technically very good but the visual cues weren’t as obvious as they should be; choosing a filter at the bottom of one of the facet groups forced a page-reload but it didn’t tell me what I had chosen. I would also advise against remembering facets when a user comes back to a product listing page. For example, I chose to filter by red in the dresses category, browsed to another category, then came back, and it still had my choice saved. Even though it was fairly obvious to me what had happened, it wouldn’t be for many users.
Finally, products per page. It’s almost rather old-school to limit the user to only a certain number of products per page. Either extend the limit to show a higher number or consider implementing infinite scroll. Tests have proven that where a category has more than five pages, people don’t proceed further than the third.
Product detail pages
The product pages are structurally well presented and what I would consider pretty well optimised. The images are clear, the image zoom works well, there is clearly defined product description content, and it includes the bread and butter of product pages such as social network links and easy navigation. But like anything, there is always room for improvement.
There are simple design tweaks that could be implemented to give more breathing room to the page but the biggest focus should be given to the purchase process. When a product comes in variants, these should never be disguised within a drop-down menu. First, it’s unclear as to what options are available and what is in stock, but it’s also clunky to use and I would think causes a lot of drop-off. Variants should be exposed in clear swatches if referencing colours, or clear labels if referencing sizes. It’s also much easier to display options that are out of stock or cost more.
Extraneous links such as Tell a Friend or Ask a Question should be separated from the core purchase section of a product page to avoid distraction. I also advise implementing product reviews—fantastic for subjective purchases such as fashion, and also upsells such as create the look, outfit ideas, and so on.
Cart and checkout
The quirky design theme is consistent throughout all areas of the site, which I do applaud, and this is even true of the mission-critical areas of the site such as the cart and checkout. The cart is clear and relatively concise, includes delivery costs as well as “carrots” to qualify for free delivery, and well-defined links to pay for your order.
From a design point of view, I would say the sections of the cart need clearer delineation and perhaps to be made a little less fiddly to interact with, and I would favour moving the coupon entry and gift wrap option to less prominent positioning. However, unlike so many other sites, the cart includes very good comfort content, such as payment type accepted and returns information, which should hopefully help reduce abandonment.
The checkout on Pretaportobello is done reasonably well, including a clear step-by-step process, an option for guest checkout, as well as an “isolated” process where navigation distractions are removed. However, my overall feeling was that some sections felt rather overwhelming, particularly the use of three different routes on step one to proceed and some rather laborious forms to fill in.
Little things like not having a postcode look-up, which is now standard practice, having Title as a freeform text field, which I suspect has caused a lot of admin issues, and having to specify a date of birth, do make the difference to capturing a sale and not. I was also rather confused that step three of the process took me to a page that looked very similar to the cart page, which at first made me think I had bounced off the checkout. More worrying was going back to the cart, which had emptied the contents of my order and I couldn’t proceed to complete it. I would suggest the checkout process undergo a more intensive study to help remedy some of these issues.
Nevertheless, I stand firm by saying that pretaportobello is a very well done ecommerce website that has great potential for success. If the current platform allows for it, I would like to see at least some of the best-practice suggestions implemented to really make the site a go-to destination for the fashion-hungry.
Chris Mattingly is a director at ecommerce agency Blubolt.
|Name your price|
|One feature of the site that is certainly worth noting is the “Haggle for a Deal” function. It’s a feature I haven’t come across before and is actually rather clever. On selected products, rather than adding them directly to your bag, you can barter for the price you want to pay. The system looks to have a set of fairly intelligent rules that provide instant feedback based on the offer you’ve entered, for example the offer is too low, the offer is less than your first offer, the offer is accepted. I think this is a great way to encourage user interaction and it’s certainly an interesting differentiator for this fashion site.—CM|
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