HomepageOn Monday, after a year of industry rumours and hushed gossip, luxury retailer Selfridges launched their full commerce offering, having previously only sold sundries such as hampers online.

As someone who spends an inordinate amount of time looking at pretty bags, I couldn't but help get stuck in with a site review.

I was, after all the bellringing and hype that Selfridges was going to revolutionise e-commerce, secretly hoping to hate this site, that it would be another Whistles….

…but I can’t. It’s actually quite good. Dagnabbit.

Homepage Homepage
The homepage is clear, if sparse, with a flash animation that “spills” promotions across the homepage. The promotions end up a bit haphazard but it is eye-catching.

However, this just doesn’t work from an interaction perspective, and considering how accessible and usable the rest of the site is, this feels like a throwback to the bad old days of the Internet. The same feature could have been written using JQuery, and it looks lazy doing it in Flash. The "throwaround" function of these blocks is unnecessary, and looks like it's just a restyled version of someone else's work.

There’s also a link to the Selfridges blog, though it’s a bit lost amongst the kerfuffle. I won't link to it as there's a frankly frightening picture of Dame Vivienne Westwood in the latest post.

Oddly, the biggest call to action “Let’s Shop!” isn’t actually a link, and doesn’t go anywhere.

Site search & navigation

The navigation is clean, and utilises a mega-menu to present the options. These menus consist of Brand Rooms (more on them later), the subcategories, and addendums such as in-store services and a Product of The Month. At the time of writing, the Product of the Month was the same across categories, however I suspect this will become more dynamic as the site matures.

Use of the word "Product" here does feel somewhat odd, considering Selfridges Brand Language and their "Forget Self CTRL" campaign. I would have expected "Pretty, Shiny, Object of Desire of the Month" or something similar. If these offers were not only limited time but limited availability as well, I would argue a "Now or Never" campaign would be more effective.

It’s not immediately obvious that the in-store services change from category to category, however eventually you do notice that Tailoring, for example, is shown exclusively within the Menswear section.

Site search is handled well, with live filtering of likely matches. This not only covers product data but also extends to brands and categories.

Amazingly, for a high-end retailer, the site works with javascript turned off. I could almost kiss them for that.

Category pages

Category pages continue the sparse style, but offer several interesting features, including grid size variations. Pagination is present but has been styled practically out of existence - I would be interested to see how many visitors get past the first page of a category.

It's quite interesting to see context-sensitive filtering options in place -  in this example of the Men’s fragrance, I have subcategories of fragrance type.
Category pages on
It would personally be interesting to see this extended along the lines of what Les Senteurs does, or even a proper note search (basic note searching can be done on product description), similar to Basenotes.

The characteristic search could then be extended to cover trends for clothing, usage for accessories, and so on. It does seem odd that at the moment you can't filter on colour when buying shoes, for example.

I do have to say, that browsing around, you do feel that the product offering is, especially within Menswear and Beauty, where practically the same brands (possibly a more restricted set) are available online as at the "other two" high-end department stores.

I was particularly disappointed to see that high-end fragrance brands such as Serge Lutens and Bond No 9 were not available to purchase online, as they are on Though perhaps this will improve as brands become confident in the platform.

Delineating arrows on does have this obsession with Brand Rooms, which it uses like “ floors”, for want of a better word, to separate out Casual, Designer and Luxury brands amongst others. I don’t believe this works from a UX perspective, and would be one to tick under “Internal Language”. This is repeated on its subcategory pages, however they do illustrate it will with a neat Arrow device to show the delineation of these Brand Rooms across that category.

If anyone from Selfridges is reading this, I totally prefer the arrows from the pre-launch beta site – giant chunky purple arrows. They were great.

Longchamp La Pliage Tour EiffelThis Brand Room concept is carried further into the Product Taxonomy, which is odd, and sometimes gets in the way of shopping.

For example, for this purposes of this review, I’ll be purchasing a really nice Longchamp La Pliage Tour Eiffel Weekend Bag. I’ll be mostly using it as a picnic bag, and as a way of annoying my partner, who insists it looks like something an old lady would carry.

So, looking at the breadcrumb trail left by my browsing, the Selfridges architecture is:

Home > Accessories > Brand rooms > Designer > LONGCHAMP > Luggage

When I would argue that: Home > Accessories > Luggage > Designer > Longchamp would make more sense.

I can see how it works with the brand of Selfridges however. When you walk in the store, each brand has essentially their own room to some extent, and allowing to brands to control the space their products are sold in will encourage them to sell online, which can only be a good thing. 
Brand Spaces on
Amazingly, some labels are generally reluctant to sell online, the ultimate being French malletier Goyard. They won’t even tell me what they sell, let alone how much it costs. This may however work in their favor as I have been know to haul myself across to their Paris store simply to look at a wallet. It was indeed fabulously expensive.

Product pages

Product pages, you guessed it, are clean and sparse, focusing on product pictures, with more details available as an overlay. Further to this, a size guide is available where appropriate, as well as a stock availability indicator to add urgency to the purchase decision.
Product Page -
Some items, like this stunning Mulberry Alexa Clutch offer 360 degree views, as well as the standard multi-shot & zoom offered by Adobe Scene7.

I can imagine that some brands would be unhappy offering 360 degree views, due to possible counterfeiting issues. Louis Vuitton famously didn’t even show its bags from the back until recently. However, when you’re laying down over a thousand pounds for a bag, it certainly helps.

New features offers a number of quite cool little features, that seem oddly underplayed at the moment but I imagine will become prominent as the site matures.

Account management

Account Management -
Oh yes, Account Management, sounds fascinating yes? However this feature on the Selfridges site offers an embarrassment of riches. Most interesting is the Connections option, which implies that social shopping is on its way.

Wish Room

This is where it gets cool. Essentially a series of mannequins that you can dress to try out different looks, these rooms can act as a simple wish list, however you can also socially enable them, share with friends & offer them for public scrutiny and comments.
Wish Room - Social Functions
Most importantly, these Wish Rooms offer a “Complete The Look” function, which acts as an intelligent cross-sell based on the items chosen.
Wish Room Complete My Look -
There were some UX niggles around the wish room feature, moving back and forth between my rooms and others wasn’t as smooth as it could be, and the Complete the Look option has a completely unnecessary tickbox, but it’s a great feature when you play with it.

Site maturity

When browsing you do get the feeling that this is a just launched site. There's bits and pieces of incomplete or missing data, such as here which can interrupt the user experience, but I'm sure these will be resolved over the next month.

Whilst writing this review, I did abandon the checkout halfway through and left it overnight to see if I would receive an Abandoned Baskets email. I didn't. I would argue that during the teething stage of a site, anything that can detect potential errors or poor experiences and get people back to the site is imperative. Alternatively an Experience Monitoring system such at that offered by Sci Visum may be of use.

I also encountered occasional errors, as shown here, but again this site has just been launched.

Random Errors on

Checkout process

The Selfridges checkout is neat and fully enclosed, with the call to action being only one of three elements of colour on the page. Checkout
There are some display issues around the Gift Wrap part of the checkout, however, interestingly Selfridges offer a Skip function, which performs the same action as pressing Continue. I would suggest that this temporarily distracts the user and adds a disjoint into an otherwise smooth experience.

The final Thank You page is concise, and follows most of the best-practice of Snow Valley's Thank You page report. Post-order communications, such as receipt and dispatch, are done well, with witty on-brand subject lines such as "Your order has left the building" and plenty of information for the customer.


I do have to say that at the checkout I encountered a more severe error, which meant during writing this review, I couldn't place my order. However, during each attempt to do so, an authorisation for the order value hit my card. I don't know the details however I assume that an unhandled response code from the payment processor would be to blame. did eventually correct this and I was able to place my order, with the assurances the authorisations will reverse out over the next week, however had I been purchasing a more expensive item this would have caused quite a problem.

I would suggest that a Card Decline Report built into the engine at launch would have caught this issue more promptly.

Conclusion is certainly an excellent e-commerce offering, and is quite a leap considering where the company has come from. I would think the challenge now is to strategically build upon the offering with all the social features that the site hints at. 

I would also suggest that a Microcopy review of the site is performed, particularly around the checkout and Securecode/Verfied By Visa page. The Checkout error I encountered was "Unfortunately we are unable to process your order as it has failed our validation checks" which does sound like it was written by a developer. I can heartily recommend The Construction of Instruction by Relly Annett Baker.

Clearly the site is still in a teething stage, and it is a bit harsh reviewing it so soon, but I would have liked to see more support infrastructure in place to identify and correct issues as they arise over the next few weeks. For example a live feedback mechanism such as GetSatisfaction, or an Order-based feedback area on the Thank You page or Order Confirmation email would have been welcomed.

Matthew Curry

Published 26 March, 2010 by Matthew Curry

Matt Curry is Head of E-commerce for online sex toy retailer LoveHoney. He spends a lot of time working on user experience and customer satisfaction is his highest priority. He frequently has to be penetration tested. You can follow him on Twitter, although he does often talk about dildos. He also has a LinkedIn profile, where he has to act professional.

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Comments (21)

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George - Planet Anarky

Good review Matt: I admit I was suffering from the same "I hope it fails" sentiments, too - which isn't really very fair! I'm not a massive fan of unpleasantly sparse product/category pages, but they do have merit in terms of focussing the user's attention...and to be honest, the checkout issues you encountered are pretty unacceptable at any stage of site maturity: surely being such a critical moment in the purchase would have been tested to death...?

over 8 years ago

Matthew Curry

Matthew Curry, Head of Ecommerce at Lovehoney

Well, yes true, although from experience, response code variations from Payment Processors are multiplying, so it's hard to write an exception for each instance, the concept of normalisation has gone out the window. I would have like to have known that this information was accessible by Selfridges support in the back end, via something like a transaction report, xml processing log or a card decline report. It took them quite some time to rectify the problem. It's vital in my business as I can't always rely on the customer to know their details and it helps us quickly spot any new responses we haven't encountered yet. Though, speaking of which, the concept of having to ask the visitor their card type seems a little antiquated nowadays.

over 8 years ago


Clare Blunt

Interesting review Matt. I agree with your 'internal language' labelling of brand rooms, and with it being so far down the navigation it will be interesting to see how popular (or otherwise) this feature is. Furthermore, the one thing I was most looking forward to was how a luxury brand such as Selfridges was going to approach the 'product presentation' dilema. With high street brands such as Next already using inspiring product imagery on their website, and the brave attempt of Whistles to do something different I was hoping Selfridges would try something new, and succeed. Their preference to stick to model shots, cut off at the nose, means they blend straight back into the ecommerce landscape and have missed the opportunity to make a good site great.

over 8 years ago

Gavin Williams

Gavin Williams, Consultant at Gavin Williams

Good article but I couldn't disagree more with your conclusion!

It seems to me that this is one of the most anticlimactic launches that we've seen in the UK eCommerce sector. On a brand level, the website does not deliver Selfridges innovative approach to retail and as an eCommerce platform the site has clearly been designed around the limitations of the catalogue data and not the needs of the customer. 

The basic site navigation seems unnecessarily obtuse (although you're right not as painful as Whistles!) with very little guided search, redundant category landing pages and a bizarre 4 product per page default. "Sneak a peak" is poorly executed and the 360 degree product view looks clunky when you compare it to the catwalk videos that  ASOS and Net-a-Porter are now offering. 

All these issues can be fixed of course but what is most surprising is the disconnect between content and product. As a consequence they have pages such as Women's Show Scrapbook that look like they are lifted directly from an offline press article and suggest that they've lumbered themselves with a poor CMS. 

As someone who has project managed a department store eCommerce implementation I have nothing but empathy for the challenges involved but…

…this is an incredibly linear website and as a consequence feels, well, 'very 2004 darling'. As someone who loves Selfridges I hope they get there in the end, but I can't help out think that behind the scenes there must be a huge amount of disappointment in what they've delivered.

P.S. Go to the homepage, hover over the yellow Selfridges bag and a speech bubble pops up proclaiming "Lets shop!". Try clicking on the link and you'll see it's dead. We've waited 2 years for this?

over 8 years ago


Mark Bolitho, New Business Director - Ecommerce at more2

Just had a very quick look, and have to say my first impression is that I'm not liking it at all - in no way says luxury to me - in fact quite the opposite.

What the heck is that big green 'Casual' all about? Or any of the Brand room pages for that matter...ew. 

I will not like it on behalf of both Matt and George just to help you feel better about liking it...

over 8 years ago

Matthew Curry

Matthew Curry, Head of Ecommerce at Lovehoney

Well, y'see, this is is one of the reasons I like it, it's functional, almost workmanlike quality at launch. It could have been very easy for Selfridges to go from nothing to this big all singing all dancing thing designed to get column inches. You know the sort, it's all brand and no basket.

Apart from the mess up at the last stage of the checkout (I'm writing a whole new post about building a Support Architecture based on that) the actual process of buying something was jolly good. That they've decided to get the actual commerce part of ecommerce right from the start is really encouraging and nice and tells me someone's got a plan under their belts.

You're right about the weird missing data stuff, of course - no idea why that sort of thing is happening. From what I understand, that awful homepage is someone else's work and it really shows. But, to be blunt, all 4 of the London high-end department stores have kinda workmanlike sites. I wonder if it's because of difficulty working with the brands they carry? I was thinking that you could build a platform that could be individually tailored by each brand, and pull in things like their social media presence, PR and all sorts, so each brand has a clearly definable space - ergo making the brand manager happy enough to allow you to trade their products online.

It is surprising the blog's only had 3 entries since launch, since the store pretty much has 1 event per day at least. I then had the genius idea of chucking models down the catwalk with the little motion capture pingpong balls stuck to them, then allowing you to buy direct from the catwalk show in some kind of augment reality type thing, but less said about that the better......

over 8 years ago

Matthew Curry

Matthew Curry, Head of Ecommerce at Lovehoney

damn and blast this thing ignoring my paragraphs.

over 8 years ago


Mark Bolitho, New Business Director - Ecommerce at more2

Hi Matt

Well, had a better look, and still unable to like it. That is, of course, a subjective comment, not based on a real shopping experience but having had a bit more of a play and a pretend shop, I haven’t changed my mind. In fact, it’s worse than I thought. This turned in to a bit of a long one, so apologies up-front, but that’s just how it unfolded.

I quite agree with Kobi on the web stress issue, although we more commonly refer to this as ‘friction’.

In my humble opinion, there’s the very occasional bit of nice design - the Fragrance page is nice, but then...that’s about it. And the nav didn’t feel intuitive somehow, I was never quite sure where I was, or how things were actually categorised.

The Homepage design serves no real purpose - a test may prove me wrong but I’ll wager pretty much everybody will go for the main nav. I don’t want to have to turn my computer or my head upside down or sideways in order to read what’s on the boxes either, but if they weren’t at quirky angles it would just be a boring pile of boxes. This massively important space could have been put to much better use - a golden opportunity for some quality branding missed in favour of an anachronistic quirk.

‘Sneak a peek’ is tacky - poor choice of language, and why the sensationalist ‘pound shop’ style star?? 

There are unnecessary category pages: from the main nav, click on watches, for example - let me at them! I don’t need another Watch category page, with images chosen for me, not by me. Web stress alert...

I can’t click on images on some of brand/category pages, annoyingly only the ‘Sneak a Peek’ available - heat map will show glowing red here.

Once one gets there though, the product page is actually quite good - clear and uncluttered with just enough info.

The scrolling list of brands etc needs continual clicking as opposed to continuous scroll with 1 click - friction.

It’s not immediately obvious how one gets out of zoom view - annoying. I finally spotted the tiny X top right - more friction.

I felt scared and alone when I removed my item from the wish room - there was nothing else on the page after that - no nav, nothing. I was expecting tumbleweed at any moment...the next time I added something I got mannequins though. Maybe they would be better to exclude certain items from this altogether - difficult to 'Complete the Look' as invited, when only a watch or wallet has been selected. Too posh for a simple Wishlist? Not sure if the mannequin will pass off as a mirror, but it's not bad and QI - great fun if one is bored and in the mood for some whacky outfit creation!

Doesn’t quite work when you add a jacket over a shirt either.

I tried to use the ‘Continue Shopping’ button but was told I needed to be registered and logged in to use the Wish room - very dare they. Okay to use the back button though. 

Viewing the returns policy takes me away from product I’m looking at (okay, I can use back button, but why should I?) - more friction...

Add to Basket notification disappears on it’s own - I might not have seen it, it should be me that tells it to go away, and I might want to go straight to the basket anyway - more friction perhaps? It stays on after adding from the Wish room though, which is better.

The basket is enclosed and nice and clear, but there are zero assurances on the basket or in the checkout itself, they’re obviously hoping the brand is they’re online they’re ‘open to all’ so I’m not so sure it will be on it’s own. 

I stopped here, will take your word that the checkout isn’t brill. In real life I probably wouldn’t have got that far anyway.

Conversely to you Matt, I really didn’t set out NOT to like it, but all in all, in my little ‘pretend shop’ there was enough friction created to stick 100 balloons to a wall. I may have bought, but only if I hadn’t found it for a similar price on a site I liked, and I’d think twice about going back for more. I didn’t find it friendly, and it did nothing to portray the brand values online at all.

Not sure what their brief was, but I’m sure it wasn’t to pee me off so maybe they succeeded at whatever it was. 

If they're tuned in they'll no doubt do lots of testing and hone things as they go. Whether they address certain issues or not will ultimately depend on where they decide to focus and test, and the questions asked/hypotheses arrived at.

I hope your review and subsequent comments helps them.


over 8 years ago



The Selfridges website is awesome and its about time that there was a place to shop online that doesn't look like every other shopping website. 

Well done guys.

over 8 years ago



Can say I’m impressed.

Looking at usability first and ignoring accessibility, (because the home page clearly fails on both counts)

I’m surprised at the ‘Lets Shop’ bag, I too clicked on it as I assumed in the last 7 hours it might have been updated to be functional!

Moving through the site, I didn’t find it intuitive, (even got a prospective clients feedback, she wasn’t impressed with the usability either, but liked what they sold!) When browsing the menswear, I expected the on hover ‘Sneak a Peek’ button to actually blink! 

And don’t get me started on the checkout procedure.........OK, you asked for it!

Why are we still seeing checkout pages which require you to ‘create and account’? This is conversion 101, OK no site is perfect (is it?) but I assume they are trying to sell stuff on here?

over 8 years ago


Simon Waller

I need to add my comment to this.

They have clearly gone for the strength of the brand on this new site but I don't see the appeal.  I work on 4 fashion websites and we've done a lot of MV testing to get to where we are today.  However, a brand with this much prestige should not only have got the basics right, but should be world-class.  What went wrong?

Where is the striking photography that makes you want to buy?

What happened to understanding the customer?

The blog is as dry and static as the a budgies cage.

Where is the 'funk' the sassyness that you get in the shop?  Come on!

It's expensive and delivery is too.  What are they thinking?

The search options are from the late 90s, it's a mess.

This site is not intuitive at all - christ!!

Emails they send are one image, as is most of the site - SEO?  Usability?  

Back to ASOS...

over 8 years ago

Matthew Curry

Matthew Curry, Head of Ecommerce at Lovehoney

Hi Simon,

I sort of agree with you on this - this review was written when the site had just been launched, and so I forgave them a lot for where the experience wasn't quite right. I was at the time pleased that they had built a really solid foundation. However this review was back in early march, and the site hasn't progresssed much since.

True, the awful flash has now been replaced with something better ( if a little taxonomy focussed) but the overall experience hasn't been improved - certainly they haven't properly translated the brand microcosms that they succeed at instore.

over 8 years ago


Samuel Lewis

I've seen worse but I hear that there are many staff leaving due to it being a failure.

almost 8 years ago



Having just received an email from Selfridges to say changes have been made I thought I would have a look.

It's still a difficult website to shop, it's like they are avoiding convention for the sake of it. Usability seems to have escaped them.

Firstly - where is the 'view all' ? It's such a simple addition. Then there is the right hand navigation god knows where that came from. The basket is a mess too as there are no visual cues to keep you moving along the checkout it's too bitty. The top level navigation defies logic.... That's where I gave up. I think they need to sack the design agency!

about 7 years ago


I like it.

about 7 years ago



They appear to be struggling with internal politics, old ways of working and a real lack of understanding at the higher levels. Selfridges is run the wrong way around i.e. the directors who have no knowledge are making decisions based on methods of ecommerce that made the first Marks and Spencer website - it's all old stuff that was ripped out in 2007.

about 7 years ago


Paul Luton

Doesn't work for me. Worst website out there.

I too hear that Selfridges wanted it 'their' way and look what happened.

about 7 years ago



looks like the payment processing problems are still occurring - I had the same issues last week when ordering an item - the payment was authorised multiple times by each of my card providers (I tried different ones to be sure that it wasnt my error) but Selfridges said that the transaction could not be processed. Their complaints departmently helpfully sugessted that I placed a telephone order with the store instead...

about 7 years ago



Wahoo!!!! At last they are getting things right!

Kara Bailey - OUT!

Then... Wish Room - OUT! (that's so last season, what an insult!)

Keep up the good work :-)

about 7 years ago



I ordered a pair of shoes on and my card was charged 6 times! They took £1200 from my account and it took over a week to get the money back from them.

Nice store - bad website.

I really wanted the shoes, so I went through the god awful process of registering and buying. Do they have any idea how un user friendly the website is (and how slow!). Also what is 'sneak a peak' that seems to slow my machine down and just offer me a half baked info page.

Look at Netaporter - simple, stunning and a pleasure to shop - then look at Selfridges. It's a real shame.

about 7 years ago



To be fair it does look great but then I think Selfridges do manage to be a classy store, they must have a great PR & Marketing department

almost 7 years ago

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