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Website Wars: How prepared is Target's ecommerce platform for the growing holiday traffic?

Our review series of major ecommerce websites and their UX design continues, with Stephanie Prevost, head of user experience at Lowe Profero New York looks over the Target website,

Living in New York City doesn’t allow me the simple pleasure of wandering the aisles of Target, impulse-buying small kitchen appliances and a years worth of toilet paper, so being asked to review their website is a bit of tease.

Target is clean, simple, bold, and design-focused, which tends to play nicely with a good user experience, but behind every site are marketers, designers, and technologists who, for every piece of brilliance, make their fair share of mistakes.

I started on the homepage where I was happy to see that someone fought the homepage carousel war and won. There was one main image, one message, one button

However, I went back the next day and there was a “Today only! Christmas Bonus!” banner right above that image, so there seems to be some compromise going on there.

It was also nice to see the prominent placement of the Search box at the top and the category navigation to the left. It’s probably time for all of us to admit that people use the search bar as primary navigation, no matter how perfect we make our category taxonomies.

Another element worth mentioning is the grid of promos just under the main image. It’s a great example of how usability and visual design are so closely intertwined.

The simple change of black to red for a few key words like “30 per cent off” makes the grid scream savings without a single starburst or animated gif. Plus, the banner space in the top right makes a marketer somewhere very happy, while its full-color design makes it clear that it doesn’t belong with the rest.

After this section of content though, I think the homepage starts to lose focus and become cluttered. More promos, more banners, more product callouts, etc.

From here, I went to search for toys. The extensive filtering options are great – what’s not so great is that every time I select a filter, it doesn’t anchor to the top of the new result set, so I find myself clicking and scrolling, clicking and scrolling. It starts to feel tedious instead of quickly guiding me to a product page.

The product page is where I see the most room for UX improvement. Their clean and simple design aesthetic is pushed aside for big fonts and even bigger buttons. And in this case, bigger is just bigger.

But the real issue is the content. I’m far from an expert in ecommerce technology, but I am an avid online shopper and I think there is a fundamental problem to product detail pages that is not unique to Target. My hunch is that the majority of ecommerce sites use similar technology platforms, and those platforms just keep adding features that marketers don’t want to turn off.

Do we need all of it? I’m not convinced. I typically go from the image to price, down to reviews, hang out for awhile, and go back up to the description. That’s not even 50 per cent of the content of some product pages. There are top selling items; products that were ultimately purchased; videos from the manufacturer; a 360 degree view; featured products; more images; popular searches; recently viewed items; plus, the necessary evils of banners and sponsored links; and, of course, the fat footer. It’s just too much.

If improving user experience isn’t enough motivation to take another look at it, consider the fact that it’s simply clashing with the brand identity. It’s not clean, and certainly not simple, even if it is using all of the features available from their ecommerce platform.