Crabtree & Evelyn have recently launched a new mobile website. Upon visiting their main website it will detect mobile device users and automatically redirect them to the new mobile version. Today I take a look at this new mobile web offering.
Crabtree & Evelyn are an American retailer of body and home products with a range of stores across the globe. Originally founded in 1972, their first retail store opened five years later in 1977 selling a range of soaps. The company name is apparently inspired by the 17th Century renaissance Englishman John Evelyn. They claim over 160 natural botanical ingredients are used in their skin care products.
Having now tried the website on a variety of devices I can say that it has been an enjoyable experience. Included in the header is a good sized search bar and three interface controls; sign in, find a store and the shopping basket. Unfortunately these being textual links rather than icons, combined with being situated closely above the search bar means it's not so easy to operate these interface elements via thumb touch.
Situated directly below the main header are two further links for the account and contact us. I feel these links are nicely positioned, highly visible and easy to operate. Underneath this is a series of four product advertisements which scroll natively and can be manually manipulated via a sliding touch. These pictures look nice and the scrolling is smooth even on devices with lower processing power.
I really didn’t experience any issues with the usability of the site beyond some minor niggles with a few of the text based links being too close to other interface elements. All in all I was happy with the mobile usability experience they offered and I would recommend the site to a friend .
Upon inspection the page weight of the Crabtree & Evelyn mobile website isn’t too bad at 598KB. Testing with the Chrome developer tools on a desktop gave it a loading speed of 1.03 seconds, this is almost spot on the #goldensecond. Although it does still have a sizeable page weight, more than twice what we would consider excellent. In monetary cost it would equate to a little over 2.3p for a single page view on Vodafones tarrifs.
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My first impression is that the company name takes up a large amount of screen real estate; this is ok on larger phones and tablets but uses precious space on smaller screens. Aside from this I thought the design looks smooth, it differs quite extensively from its desktop counterpart but is consistent with other mobile retail sites. Existing users will adapt easily and it’s also intuitive for new users. I personally prefer the desktop version due to the images and icon based links which are healthy for any site selling aesthetic products.
Negative aspects I found include a distinct lack of icons throughout the site; instead they have opted for text links which I think is perhaps a little lazy. The colours are sharp and bright and kept mostly to the blue and white theme of the company; unfortunately this doesn't lend itself well to battery consumption. I don’t have any hard and fast numbers other than to say browsing the site consumed half of my phone battery in less than an hour.
In comparison to the desktop version the horizontal product menu has been converted to a vertical display now positioned under the scrolling image. Although this approach is nothing original it does work well for smaller screens, which is why many other sites have opted for this method. Under each product heading is a breakdown of categories. These lead to a list of products which are nicely presented, accompanied with well-spaced filter and sorting options. A further touch will take you to a detailed product page with most of the functionality of the desktop version intact.
The site looks best on average size phones of around 4-4.5” or so, as screen size deviates further away from this middle ground the design begins to lose some appeal. My favourite area of the design is the individual product pages, the layout of information and purchase options were very pleasant to view. My least favourite part is its unoriginal design, although this isn't necessarily a bad thing as it does performs its intended job admirably.
Performance was decent, almost breaking into the #goldensecond. The site serves only 28 element requests which is good, the main source of page weight comes from the rotating banner. I think with a few minor tweaks in this area they could gain an excellent score.
What Crabtree & Evelyn gained in usability and performance they lost in an average design. I understand that for a retail site the performance and usability are going to be paramount so I don’t begrudge their choices. On a personal level I feel that the site just lacked a spark of imagination, I don’t think I would be enticed to visit for any other reason than a functional purchase.
Final Score: 4.2/5
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 51Degrees.mobi.