Next: Falling below expectations

Next is one of the first, lets say, more mature members of the high street that has ventured into a mobile app. Its closest competitors for the adult market, namely Marks and Spencers, Dorothy Perkins or Wallis perhaps, have not yet adopted a mobile shopping channel, therefore Next certainly stands out as being a little different to the rest. To be honest, the app isnt completely awful, but it isn't all that good either. It lacks in information, multimedia and interactivity, and is definitely more of an extension of the catalogue and the website, than an entertainment channel all to itself.

The main category page, entered via the 'Shop' tab on the home screen, reveals a number of visual broad categories that can be vertically scrolled, including women's, mens, children's and homeware. By selecting the 'N' button on the top right of every screen, the user navigates back to the home screen. 

The product categories are listed vertically in grey and black. Rather plain and boring to be honest. By selecting a product category, the products are listed in horizontal bars that the user can again vertically scroll. Each product bar consists of an image, product title and price on a plain grey background. Almost a tad below the standard. Along the bottom of the app is a toolbar consisting of the primary sections listed on the home screen, for easier access.

The user is also given the ability to narrow the search, allowing the items to be refined by fit, colour, length etc. It is the least the app should have and obviously means that the user doesn't have to scroll manually through 655 dresses. 

Now, the individual product viewing pages are rather disappointing, really disappointing actually. The page consists of a small image, a zoom function, a product title, information and the option to view other related items. The information option does give just about enough information, consisting of the material only, yet it could also give lengths, care instructions or a full description for the consumer. For such a professional brand, I was quite stunned to see that this wasn't offered. Most shocking however is the lack of image interactivity technology on the page. The product is shown once, in one thumbnail that can be zoomed to full screen. You cannot however see the back, see the fabric close up, or any of the usual functions that retailers utilise in order to sell products online. Plus, the overall design of the page is so uninviting and unexciting, I'm just not inspired.

The ability to view the other items listed on the page is however a handy feature and hats off to the brand for implementing this. Although ASOS have an almost flawless website and app, this is one feature that they still haven't yet put into practice, so it's great to see other brands doing this.

The second feature on the app is the 'Quickshop' tool. It is one of the features on the app that truly shows how the app has been designed more for the catalogue consumer, allowing them a faster way to purchase direct from the catalogue pages. The user can enter the item number and size in order to add their products to their bag and buy without the need to phone or send off for their items. But again, the design leaves a lot to be desired. I'm really not a fan of this grey and white with green, but thats just my preference.

The third option is a store locator, again trying to aid the catalogue or store shopper in finding their nearest store. 

The 'Offers' section doesn't quite do what it advertises on the tin. When I entered this area, I expected to see actual promotional offers, such as get 25% off this weekend, anything of that ilk, however it is merely a discounts area. Any products that are in sale, have been placed in this area in order to keep them separated from the other products. Or at least thats what I assume this is. Again however, the colours are dull and plain, this time with a generic sale red colour adorning the title bar. If I wasn't that excited to buy sale items before, I'm certainly not now. 

The fifth area is the account section where a user can log into their account and settings via their email address or customer number. Standard and easy. 

The final area is the help option. Again I expected to see a full and thorough list of help tools including FAQ's perhaps, delivery information, returns, size guides etc. However there are none of these essential pieces of information on this app and it is shocking to see. Instead, the user can call Next in order to gain assistance with the app, at a cost of 5p per minute. Why not just put the most frequently asked queries on the app for the majority of consumers to read, and then offer extra assistance if needed? I have never seen anything like this before, and I think this is why. Its a bad idea. 

The final areas are the checkout options. The bag area is standard, with the products listed in horizontal bars with a price and size reminder. The total price is calculated below with the option to checkout. On checking out, the user is again asked to log in to their account or create one and seems to be a fairly simple process... it just doesn't look at all inspiring. 

Overall, this app does manage to include all of the products that Next sells, which is a very large amount, however due to such, the information provided for each is lacking heavily. Offering consumers only one image of a product is ridiculous, yet perhaps the brand is utilising their app as the catalogue consumer's way to purchase, and therefore they do not feel the need to offer more product imagery. Yet, there will be consumers who do not own the catalogue and would like to shop via the app imagery. The lack of added extras of the app is also abismal, that being none whatsoever. Furthermore, the fact that the consumer can not find the answers to any of their queries directly from the channel is extremely poor. Adding all of this up together, with the fact that the complete design is really uninspiring, I award this app with a 1.5 out of 5. It really needs a lot of work if this is going to be taken from a way to purchase items previously seen, to an inspirational channel for the new consumer to read, watch, listen and buy from. 

All Screenshots taken of the Next app, March 2012. 

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