Eastern Mountain Sports launched their new website today. While not a drastic change in terms of branding or overall aesthetics, they did streamline the site and improve upon its navigation and usability. My guess is that most visitors will notice something has changed, but will probably have a hard time pointing to something specific. A lot of the user experience improvements are subtle. Things like enhanced search, the addition of in store pick up, and more payment options – but this stuff can add up to really provide a better online experience for customers.
Here are the two things that strike me as substantial improvements:
- Navigation: The old site had woeful navigation. There were times when I would give up looking for items on the site because I either got lost in their navigation system, or was overwhelmed by the way pages worth of products were displayed. Online, it is all in the presentation. If I get confused or annoyed trying to find a product on a website, I’ll simply go to another one and find it there. In this regard, I have always found REI’s website to be the creme of the crop – its navigation is intuitive and products are presented in a clear, easy to browse way. The new EMS site takes a big step in this direction as well. Most notably, it emulates the top of page drop down navigation system that REI employs and it has cleaned up its product display pages greatly. You can see the similarities in the screenshots below:
- Customer Reviews: It is hard to imagine a good retail website without some sort of rating or review feature these days. It is just so incredibly helpful to have access to the opinions and experiences of people who actually own or use a product. The old EMS had a review/rating system, but it wasn’t as refined or easy to use as this new one. Again, here they seem to have taken a page out of the REI playbook. In fact, I wonder if they are using the same third party system… a software solution from a company called Power Reviews. It definitely has the same feel and feature set. At any rate, this was a noticeable improvement for their site.
I’ve yet to find what I would consider the perfect outdoor vendor website, but have long felt REI.com was the best of breed. EMS.com has taken steps to move in that direction and I think it will pay off for them.
Overall, I feel this was a well done and much needed upgrade for one of the better outdoor vendors around.