Boots.co.uk has tonic for High Street.com blues



Boots is one of the High Street's fixtures, but not a company that you would immediately associate with cutting-edge technology. And yet its...



Boots is one of the High Street's fixtures, but not a company that you would immediately associate with cutting-edge technology. And yet its www.boots.co.uk is one of the best-designed in its class.

Various elements are used throughout the site to unify the design, but vary subtly to lend diversity. Some fairly advanced Web technology is employed, but never intrusively. The checkout is straightforward and well-explained.

Where the site really shines is in its content.

Boots is wisely trying to build on its image as a point of reference within its particular field, and has therefore placed a great deal of well-written and interesting material on its site that is worth viewing whether or not you intend to buy.

Moreover, the transition from content to commerce is never forced or exaggerated, as it is on some sites. One criticism might be that the information about the goods on sale is a little thin at times. There are generally no opportunities to find out more, or to zoom in to view an image in greater detail. Unusually, there are forums where visitors can join online discussions, which really makes this site exemplary in just about every respect.

Another High Street fixture is the Post Office. There are a number of items that can be bought online through the Royal Mail's site.

The design is not nearly so clean as that of Boots; in particular, the use of a fixed frame down the left-hand side of the page for internal navigation is very wasteful. There is also relatively little content,and nothing in the way of community. The weakest element, though, is the checkout. Although a secure connection is used, it is not clearly signposted. For psychological reasons, customers need to be confident at all times about the safety of the data they send.

More serious, from an e-commerce viewpoint, is the fact that visitors are not given any chance to review all the details of their order before finally committing themselves.

The absence of this reassuring step means that potential customers will be more reluctant to press that button in case they have made a mistake.

It might seem paradoxical, but the more chances customers have to change their mind, the greater the likelihood that they will buy.

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