Retailers’ mobile sites should feature a clear search box, offer predictive text and clearly indicate out of stock items, according to a report examining user journeys.

Ecommerce consultancy Practicology and online user testing company WhatUsersDo examined consumer behaviour on 15 of the biggest retailers’ mobile sites including Amazon, House of Fraser, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer during January and February 2014.

The research, in which eight consumers tested each site, analysed the entire shopping journey and split their findings into 11 different areas including reserving products and prices, finding contact details and product information and imagery.

Practicology said it wanted to showcase the findings from the report rather than pitch the retailers against each other by ranking them. The other retailers were: Argos, Asos, Currys, Debenhams, Fat Face, Goldsmiths, Ikea, Ted Baker, Topshop and Very.

Practicology said: “As there is yet to be clear best practice in mobile usability we did not feel that it was appropriate to directly rank the sites against each other. Instead, we have produced narrative findings and highlighted some of the highlighted some of the positive and negative experiences that our testers came across while using the sites.”

A selection of the findings are below:

Homepage layout

The research found that consumers prefer the shopping basket to be featured in the top right hand corner, like it is on most desktop sites. Users tend to scroll down the whole of the homepage to look at everything before accessing dropdown or slide across menus from the top navigation bar.

The good

Very and Amazon were highlighted as two retailers that offered a positive experience for customers, with the etailers serving up easy-to-navigate homepages. It said Amazon stood out for providing links to its mobile apps.

Very's mobile site

The bad

Users struggled to make sense of Topshop’s homepage, largely because they expected to find contact and returns information in the footer. Also users complained that there was no search box on the homepage.

Search and search results

The research found that users like to type as little as possible into their mobiles, and so retailers offering predictive search results were at an advantage. Users liked reasonable-sized pictures accompanying results and like to look at product reviews, products on promotion, and key product features to be flagged up at this stage.

The good

Mobile users liked the way New Look’s site brought up a menu of choices within search results, such as ‘men’s’ and ‘women’s’ when scouring for shoes.

Ted Baker’s mobile site was cited as easy to search.

Ted Baker's mobile site

The bad

Fat Face was cited as offering a negative experience for expecting people to use exact terms, with the correct spellings, that match the retailer’s search results, such as ‘t-shirt’ and not ‘tshirt’.

Product information & imagery

Similar to their behaviour on desktops, consumers want multiple product images even when shopping on a mobile device. They’re also fans of zoom functionality.

The good

Etailer Very provides arrows at the side of the product pictures, making it clear how to scroll. It was also praised for providing a range of alternative merchandise products below the product information.

The bad

Debenhams offered limited product information on some items, such as no detail on materials on a soft furnishing product.

Users said they were unable to zoom into Fat Face’s imagery.

Fat Face's mobile site

Delivery section

Users really like to see delivery options before they reach the checkout, especially if they have to register to checkout. Click and collect is seen as a bonus, and they like having to only add in their address once when delivery and payment details are the same.

The good

Currys was highlighted for remembering the users’ closest store and using this as a default.

The bad

With Ikea, a couple of users complained that they added items to their shopping list rather than their bag and then were confused when the items disappeared at the checkout.  

Checkout

The research flagged that uses prefer to input only a small amount of text in order to checkout on a mobile. They don’t like having to input the same details more than once, and don’t like being asked for information that is not strictly necessary - date of birth, for example.

The good

Fat Face was cited as providing a smooth checkout process, offering up a numerical keypad to enter their phone number while address details need only be entered once.

The bad

Curry’s mobile checkout caused problems for several users, as the form fields were found to be a little small to click on and the payment details page was not mobile-optimised.

Users shopping on Ikea’s mobile site were not happy about the amount of compulsory information, such as date of birth, which they had to enter.