Inside the Suitcase
Dear Whole Earth Provision Co.,
Texans are lucky to have such a cool, outdoor-loving company such as yours. Every visit to your store is an adventure in itself thanks to all of the toys, techie gear and gadgets. As for your website? Let’s just say I need to buy a compass to navigate that digital terrain. As much as I love your company, your website needs a little TLC.
First and foremost, no e-commerce? Bummer. I know online shopping will never offer the same sensory experience a Whole Earth store does, but in this day and age, people move fast and shop fast. Adding an online shopping feature, even a limited one, will likely do wonders for your sales. Just think there’s a whole breed of people who avoid the holiday shopping madness and do all of their gift buying from the comfort of their homes. Don’t forget about the millions of iPhones out there too.
Secondly, let’s talk page structure. Remember that compass? I don’t mean to sound harsh, but I need it to navigate through your unusual layouts. To put it plainly, they’re not very user-friendly.
Heat map testing shows users look in the upper left corner when first entering a site, which is why most logos are placed there. While the Whole Earth logo is huge on the homepage and is actually positioned in the upper left corner on the interior pages, the unusual layout and inconsistency provide an extra challenge for users. The first two rules to being user-friendly is 1) anticipate a user’s typical behavior and 2) keep things consistent.
A second layout change I would suggest is getting rid of dead space. As soon as a user enters an interior page, they’re confronted with loads of dead space on the left, and as their eyes travel to the right, they’re hit with a cluttered, narrow content column. This abrupt shift from empty to over-packed makes navigating through the various pages cumbersome and difficult on the eyes.
My third suggestion is to rework the news layout. It took me a good while to realize the typical news features (search field, archives, categories and RSS) do in fact exist. I found them at the very bottom of the page. Go ahead and bring those up to the top of the page so users can more easily interact with the page. Nobody likes to scroll that much.
This last suggestion is a softball but an important one. Change your sitemap from a static image to dynamic text. A sitemap is intended to help users find and link to certain pages. It should transport them, not just direct them. Dynamic text is also important if you want search engines like Google to better recognize Whole Earth’s site structure.
And done. That wasn’t so painful, right? Whole Earth Provision is a fantastic retailer, and I just think it’s time to show that in the digital world too. In the meantime, I’ll keep my hiking boots on because that is one rough pixel terrain.
Posted by Dániel
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