Waitrose website redesign - a lesson for us all

Without warning or fanfare UK supermarket Waitrose launched their new website. Waitrose has always gone for the higher end of the food retail market and their previous site was a demonstration of that.The entire UX has to rival, if not beat the experience of shopping the store to justify it's exsistence. It's customers (not dissimilar to MORE TH>N's) are discerning and demanding. This means any slippage in the shopping experience can be costly for the brand.

It seems that on this occasion the online experience has let the side down. As per usual Twitter is one of the most visible places people have shown their discontent. I've personally never used the site to shop so my shallow browsing experience didn't flag up any issues. From a visual design point of view it seems to fit the brand, it's nothing mind blowing, but that wouldn't be befitting of Waitrose. The IA has had a really good sorting out and the front end build seems solid enough. So it's fair to say the majoriy of bugs lie in the commerce engine. If anyone should be shouldering the blame on this one, it's Waitrose technology partner.

In almost every complaint someone has mentioned the £10million price tag. I don't believe Waitrose have confirmed this price, but having worked inside a large organisation on e-commerce projects it doesn't blow me away. If it's true I'm quite sure the ten million isn't just the design work from Grand Union. It most likely covered research, IA, visual, build, setting up hosting environments, load balancing, backend integration and possibly build or development of a CMS. Customers and designer behave like this is an outrageous amount of money, but when you consider how many millions runs through the site and how much it saves in shop operation costs, it really isn't that much.

I hadn't intended this to be a defensive of the new Waitrose site, but it looks like they are doing all the right things. They have set up a forum for customers, they are being proactive on Twitter and they are responding to negative Facebook posts.

What can we learn from this?
  1. Lead up to major overhauls to avoid the 'shock' factor
  2. Keep the public informed of improvement plans and hope they come back
  3. Share the process, let people see the work done
  4. Don't let budgets get out and blur the issues
  5. Make sure your online brand is in line with offline brand.

Article on Webologist | Article on EConsultancy