Apple UK is an example of a company doing things right on its website, apple.com. It shows off its products well, and once you’re sold on an item, you can buy it then and there through Apple’s online store.
The interface is crisp and clean – fitting with the design of the Apple products themselves. It breaks those internet conventions followed by the majority of sites, for example the “breadcrumb trail” is placed near the bottom of the page. The site can afford to try new things because Apple attracts more tech-savvy people who will feel more comfortable with navigating out-of-the-norm site layouts. The result is very different and engaging website, but less skilled users may struggle.
A consistent look and feel runs across the entire Apple site, from the online store to the iPods section to the Macs section. This is no mean feat when you consider the conflicting needs of each department. Key functionality (the navigation and search) are located in the same position and look the same throughout. This ensures the site feels like one integrated entity. This can only be achieved through strong communication and a clear design guide for each department to follow.
The main problem with shopping in an online environment is that you can’t touch anything – there’s no way to try things out for yourself. You cannot reproduce the hands-on experience. But Apple has had a good go at providing as rich an experience online as possible to help you make a purchase decision. There are very large, great quality images of all the items from a range of angles, including close-ups where relevant. Apple annotates key features on these pictures, highlighting further what each Apple product offers. Also supplied are well laid-out technical specifications, broken down into sections with clear bullet points and pictures. Finally (and most compelling) there are product videos, showing the products in action.
Apple has created a great site, spanning all its products and departments, that really acts as a great showcase for its products. Go see for yourself.