How to design an intuitive shopping website that people love using

A Which? survey of over 10,000 people recently found that homebase.co.uk is the worst online retailer, while brands such as skincare company Liz Earle and electronics shop Richer Sounds are the best, winning over customers with easy-to-use websites. We ask digital and graphic designers about which brands they feel have the most user-friendly online presence.

Will Cookson, head of product design, ANNA Money

“The best retail website design has to be Rapha.cc. The site displays Rapha’s range of cycling apparel with full-width photos and crisp product shots. Setting Trade Gothic with Adobe Caslon on a black and white grid creates clean, flexible pages to explore products and features. Rapha avoids crammed faceted search with a well-organised navigation and simple filters on category pages. No pagination (hooray!) and a responsive layout mean it’s easy to scroll, browse and buy your next tub of chamois cream on mobile, desktop and any screen sizes in-between.”


Paul-Jervis Heath, principal, Modern Human

“It does not surprise me that the Which? survey highlights the importance of a personalised experience. One of my favourite places to shop is online fashion retailer, Thread. Recommendations of real stylists are augmented and personalised algorithmically. It shows the power of human and artificial intelligence (AI) working together to satisfy a real customer need – clothes that make you look good and feel great. It has created what the department stores should have been perfectly positioned to do. After all, their unique value proposition is the curation of multiple brands. If only they had personalised that to individual customers like Thread has done.”


Tessa Simpson, design director, O Street

“I would say outdoor clothing brand Tiso fits the bill. With a huge variety of products to choose from, they have an efficient and clear filter system, which although offering a lot, doesn’t feel too daunting. Their black with red highlight brand colour palette works well for the website here too — keeping things stripped back, while directing users to deals and sales with one or two clicks. The transitions are quick and efficient, but not without consideration and they’ve kept rollover activity (when you hover your mouse over an image and it shifts in the frame or shows a different image of the same product) to a minimum, which I appreciate.

Instead of constantly changing product images, Tiso just does a grey outline around the product image box and their approach to header links is a simple underline on rollover. Also, the dropdown filter menu only appears if you click the main headers, as opposed to dropping down on rollover. All in all, it feels pretty tasteful and clean with a real emphasis on user navigation.”


Chris Kemm, digital director, Thompson Brand Partners

“The idea of a ‘best’ retail website is not too relevant in my view. It’s a bit like asking ‘what’s the best colour’? Brilliant design responds to the market and the users. But, of course, we all have our favourites.

Mine is still footwear brand ETQ Amsterdam. It’s evolved over the years as all websites should—they are living things, after all. The site is clean and crisp which perfectly sets the stage for the product (beautifully-designed shoes for the ‘Amsterdam basic’ in all of us). Clearly, ETQ knows its market and isn’t afraid to push a traditional user experience (UX) to deliver for it.”


David McDougall, strategy director, Studio Output

“The best digital retail user experiences have three fundamentals in common: simplified and frictionless checkout experiences, search and selection based on customer mental models (their thought processes of how things work), and progressive interface innovation. With those in mind, my top pick for the best experience isn’t actually a website, but Amazon Alexa Voice Shopping. Voice is the next evolution of interface and the next great challenge for UX thinking. It’s one we can’t ignore as designers – we increasingly see voice in briefs we answer. Alexa Voice Shopping puts innovation and hyper-intelligent search at the heart of retail and makes shopping from home simple, seamless and user-centred.”


Which online retailer do you think has the most intuitive website? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • Philip Ray November 26, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Everlane is a current favourite because of the huge amount of detail configured in an unobtrusive way. Its clean design is harmonious with its output/product. A lot of information on the PDPs but it doesn’t feel crowded or even come close to maxing-out users cognitive load. Importantly, a wealth of information on where and how every product is made, you can even see the exact factory.

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