The House of Fraser app is fairly new on the application scene. The brand is one that I often perceive as fairly mature, especially in the department store category. However, after viewing the app, my perceptions have definitely started to shift. A while before they released the app, they had designed a House of Fraser gift app, which I unfortunately never got round to reviewing. I was waiting for the day that they would release their entire store into mobile form, and finally that day came.
Along the bottom of the app is a tool bar. From here the user can go home, shop the store, find a store, view their account and checkout. By placing the bar at the bottom of the page at all times allows ease of use for the consumer and helps them to quickly access the most requested areas.
By choosing to 'Shop', the user is given the option of shopping by department, by brand name or within the sale area. By narrowing down the categories in such a way, it keeps the design clean and simple and not overly fussy. Yet, the consumer is still given a choice.
I opted to search by department. so I was given the choice of beauty, women, shoes etc., and obviously HOF's biggest selling categories. By moving into dresses, the products are spaced in rows of three as thumbnail images. There is no text to tell you prices or descriptions, therefore the user relies on their interest in the product to take them further. This does allow for quick product scanning though. However, by choosing the button third on the right, displaying four squares in a window pattern, the screen is customised to products in rows of two. This display allows the user to view the products larger and with accompanying text, prices and reviews. Customisation tools are a must have feature for retail apps, especially for department stores with such a vast assortment of product.
The user is also able to 'filter' the products by a number of options. Again another must have for such a wide variety. Lets just say, 1748 dresses! The 'sort by' function is also extremely useful for narrowing down the product search by brand, price or name. The handy drop down is also really aesthetically pleasing.
By moving into the product page, the user can view a larger image, a description, prices and multiple views by scrolling horizontally. The page is fairly clear and uncluttered with a number of simple options.
By tapping an image, the view is zoomed to full screen where the user can manually zoom into the feature and inspect the item in more detail. From here they can also look at the alternative views shown as small thumbnails along the bottom.
By scrolling down the product page, all of the product information is listed below. What I really liked was the amount of detail and description that each product had. When some retailers only offer one line of description to their consumer, this app came as a breath of fresh shopping air. Everything is clearly listed with quick usable buttons if they are needed. If I was truly interested in this product, I could look through this areas to add the item to my gift list or wish list, or even find a store that might sell it. I can then look at the description of the product and lower down (Right hand image) I could share it on Facebook, Twitter or via email. Furthermore if I am querying whether or not to buy it, House of Fraser have gone extra efforts to reassure me why I should buy the product with delivery, returns and sizing information at the tap of a button.
Reassuring the consumer is key to mobile success, and by providing the consumer with more confidence via such simple elements as extra information in the place it should be, I say hats off to HOF.
Here are examples of two of the areas. The delivery info page opens to a full screen scrollable page consisting of all of the relevant information. By opting to tweet the garment, a cute tweet box opens up to represent your own tweeting box. From here you can write what you want and tweet it straight from the app - of course with the garment URL attached. All very easy.
The third option on the toolbar is the store locator. The main purpose of apps at the beginning of their mobile reign was to direct the lost and wanting consumer in their direction. After a while, apps became far more interesting, yet have still remained to ensure traffic to store. I find it all very boring, but I do understand why it's on there. I suppose in the case of being in a new and unshopped city, this may be extremely handy; yet I often find myself fumbling for google in those cases.
The store locator is handy enough to give you addresses, directions, the address and even opening times. This is fairly useful actually and I haven't seen many stores that have in-putted such detailed information about their stores. But then again, there aren't as many HOF's as there are Topshops in the world, so this shouldn't be such a problem.
The 'My Profile' area if one of my favourites. Whereas other retailers would have made this a boring area of account information, your addresses and previous orders, the House of Fraser app mixes it up with cute little icons and broken up sections. The user can 'keep in touch' by viewing messages from the brand, read their blog or look at their Facebook page. They can also find their store again, scan products or manage their gift and wish lists. Here they are also able to sign in to their account and view their information that way.
The user can also 'Check in' to stores, just to integrate even more social media into the equation. There is also an area for customer services information and settings options.This is by far one of the best profile areas I have seen.
Here is an example of the House of Fraser blog that can you view via the profile area. I had to put this in just because it is that brilliant. Long have I moaned about retailers not utilising optimised blogs within their mobile apps. Finally it looks like someone has taken the time to listen and has really shown the others how its done. All it takes is an image, followed by some text and a scrollable page. Yet House of Fraser make it look fantastic. It looks like it has been designed with responsive design, allowing the page to fit within usable tabs such as women, men and beauty below a nice blog banner. Each post is separated by a large title header and a photograph of the author. It is neatly and professionally done. See, its really not that hard is it!?
Finally, the 'bag' area is a general checkout space. The items that the user has placed into their 'bag' are displayed as large thumbnails with a small description. Below this, just in case the user was unsure, the retailer has listed the possible ways to have the item delivered, including free collection in store. Again it works as a reassurance tactic and persuades the user to follow on with their checkout.
By choosing the checkout, the user can see their subtotal, and the items listed below again.
By moving down the page, the user comes to a discount code box (always nice to see) and the options to pay. Again, the checkout area is very well explained, laid out and contains all of the relevant information. It makes the process easy and swift.
So, overall what is the verdict? Excellent! The product viewing functions are ample and easy to use, allowing a thorough view of the garment. The checkout process is simple and intuitive with full explanation. The store locator is helpful and presented neatly. The profile area is filled with more areas than you can shake a stick at and answers any questions you have. Yet, I do have a few qualms with it. Where is the imagery or the inspiration? Where are the videos that show me the garments or the new collections? The blog however is fantastic, but I think it should be brought out and made more of a fuss of. Someone may overlook it in the area it is placed and the brand could make it a real asset if they spent time creating great content. For really surprising me and making me appreciate this brand a lot more now, I award the app a 4 star rating.
All screenshots taken of the House of Fraser App, August 2012.