Play.com came out on top in the UK's first National Customer Satisfaction Index survey of retailers in February 2009. So it seems UK consumers were delighted with purchases and complaint handling from Play.com. And its recent sales figures have surpassed expectations at a time when most retailers are caught in the jaws of a recession.
Amazon (UK) was the most popular online retailer last Christmas with over 15 million visitors, compared to Play.com's 5.7m. And it also did well in the NCSI-UK survey coming a close second at just two points behind the leader Play.com. Amazon is continuing to expand its retail sectors having recently acquired Zappos, a shoe and accessory e-tailer.
With internet retail set to grow and both Play.com and Amazon ramping up their e-commerce activities, we looked at how their sites shape up against each other in terms of the user experience.
Criteria under the spotlight include homepage, navigation and search, content, presentation, interaction and brand and persuasion. Overall, Amazon came out better off, scoring higher than Play.com in a number of areas.
Amazon.co.uk offers a clearly laid out homepage with good use of white space but there are no prices. So if you're new to Amazon the value proposition isn't apparent.
User tasks are well supported with obvious links to delivery and returns information but the main navigation is slightly fiddly with the hover over effect. Excellent search results with stock availability are shown right from the start.
Excellent content with just one issue - the navigation separates the areas of computing and electronics but when you click into electronics, content from both is bundled together.
Good use of colour and excellent use of white space to create and define areas. The clear layout of various page elements reduces visual complexity, making it easier on the eye.
Good interaction with the site, not requiring too many steps to get where necessary. It also has very good error recovery and is quite responsive overall.
The site is well branded with compelling content and customer reviews available for most products. The area for ‘customer discussion' of the product and the feature ‘customers who bought this item also bought' persuade a continued journey with Amazon.
Amazon provides a pretty good user experience with good navigation, clear layout and compelling content. The main user tasks are well supported with additional product recommendations continuing the user journey that step further. The presentation is professional and doesn't overwhelm while ensuring brand values come through. The intuitive interaction brings it all together into an experience one will probably repeat.
Play.com has a well laid out homepage with obvious pricing for all featured products. It also has clear navigation with numerous ways of delving deeper into the site. It's a little busy with the number of bright promotions however.
Good navigation that highlights current location well but returns information is one level deeper than on Amazon (within ‘Help'). Search results don't tell you when an item is out of stock.
Too much content is present at lower levels of the site with no obvious way to sort or filter the number of options down to a manageable few. This poses an issue particularly in electronics when looking for something brand or product specific, like Sony or an Apple iPod for example.
The pages look a little cluttered with numerous promotions. The use of many strong colours makes quick visual scanning of pages difficult as the eye darts from one part of the page to another. However, most web conventions are followed with clear visual cues for the main calls to action such as ‘Buy'.
Good visuals lend themselves to interaction in a straightforward manner. However, finding some products (e.g. sex and the city box set) required so many clicks that I gave up!
An obvious phone number and easy-to-find physical address helps build trust in the brand. The customer reviews help persuade you to buy from Play.com while the security certificates calm any fears about security of online purchases.
Overall, Play.com provides a decent experience but is let down by the lack of sort and filter options for its products. It's surprising that a site like Play.com would miss a basic guideline such as this. Its use of persuasion can also be improved so customers continue their journeys and consider purchasing additional items.
Amazon wins this contest of user experience with a seemingly better thought-out customer experience strategy and design. However, Play.com can improve by paying greater attention to detail, particularly within the deeper levels of its site.
This sponsored article is courtesy of Webcredible.
Webcredible is a user experience consultancy, offering a range of usability, accessibility and design services for websites, intranets, mobile devices and applications. Founded in 2003, the UK-based consultancy researches, designs and builds interfaces to support user requirements and business goals.
Webcredible adopts a knowledge sharing approach to its work, and its expert team regularly reviews, tests and designs websites in both the public and private sector, ensuring that companies are providing the most usable and accessible websites possible.
With a long list of global clients in the private and public sector, including AIRMILES, uSwitch.com, eBay, the BBC and the World Health Organization, Webcredible is widely regarded as one of the most respected consultancies in the user experience industry.
Over the course of this series of special reports, in conjunction with Revolution, Webcredible will be evaluating the websites of some of the top brands on the web, and pitting competing websites against each other to find out which is the most usable.