If you’ve been reading my blog for the last couple of years, you might have caught my previous post about the Costco UK website. It wasn’t very complimentary. Of course, the website deserved it since there wasn’t enough information about anything useful and their location finding “tool” was just a list of UK locations. Luckily though, that’s changed with their new website which they rolled out a couple of months ago.
Right from the start you can tell that the website is better now. The less than stellar design, the actual look and feel, has gotten a bit of a face lift and no longer looks like it was created in 1995. So, that’s a big improvement. But even more importantly, the information contained on the site has been enhanced to make the website actually have a useful purpose of imparting useful knowledge to readers. They have a full set of pages dedicated to informing visitors to the site all about Costco with a page about the company, what departments are available in the store, a Costco FAQ, as well as a page dedicated to talking about the Kirkland Signature brand. Though not in this same area (though I think it should be), there are also pages for information on how to become a vendor and how to get a job at Costco UK. For the vendor and career information, you need to look at the bottom of the pages for the small little links to those pages. If it were my site, I would have bumped those up to be pages linked from the About Costco main menu item. Also, the link to get to the Costco Connection magazine is under the About Costco section. I think this should be placed more prominently on the site instead of buried here where it is hard to find and won’t garner as many readers. Also, this is the UK version of the Connection magazine. But overall, I’m very pleased with the changes that they have made so I won’t harp too much on that little information architecture problem.
One of my biggest gripes with the previous site was how lousy the membership information was on the site and how little of it there really was too. They didn’t even talk about the different kinds of memberships, like no mention of an individual membership at all. I could only tell that they had one because there was a notation about different hours for individual members on the hours for the locations. Now though, they very clearly show all types of memberships and provide full information and details for the various types of membership. This section also includes information on the newly offered American Express TrueEarnings credit card for UK members. This is such an improvement! But wait, it gets better: you can now apply for membership right online! To get a membership, you’ll need to provide them with proof that you fit their employer requirements, which are now listed on the site for each type of membership, but at least you can get it done online now with a bit of follow up at the warehouse of your choice. This is the kind of information that people would want, and expect, when visiting Costco.co.uk. So, I’m glad that they finally got on the ball and are providing this now.
My other complaint was the location finding ‘tool’ that they had on the site. It was a drop down list that was labeled as a way to find your closest Costco location. It was totally worthless, unless you already knew which location was closest to you. And they provided you with lame, non-interactive, map squares that only helped if you knew where you were going. Sad. The locations were the reason that I went to the Costco UK website in the first place, and I ended up needing to go to the Costco US website to actually complete that task. Sending users away without the information they were seeking is not usually what you want to do with your website. So, I am very happy to see that they have corrected this glaring problem with the site. Now they have two ways that you can find UK locations: you can look through the list or you can put in your town or post code and find the location that really is nearest to you. If you carry out a search, they’ll list the locations and the distance from your post code or town, plus you can see them on a Google map that you can zoom in and out of and move around too. When you drill down to the warehouse details you can find address and hours for that particular warehouse, as well as directions on how to get there using the bus and the static map square. So, I was a little sad to see that they still have just static maps on the details page, but at least you can see the more useful Google map on the search area. My real question is: how many people take the bus to shop at Costco? I find that kind of odd and really would love to know how many people do that. I can’t imagine you could buy that much stuff if you’re going to have to drag it around on the bus. I would like it if they would provide a link to find driving directions using Google maps on these pages. In any case, I’m sure that all of the people who have been trying to figure out where the Costco locations are in relation to their home will be thrilled to see this change.
The Photo Centre was the only interactive part of the website before, and it is still on the updated website, but in a more usable way. You just need to pick a location where you’ll pick up your photo products and then you can see all of the different items they have available for photo printing. Once you have selected which type of photo item you want – calendar, greeting card, prints, etc – you upload your photos and personalize, if appropriate. It’s not quite the same as the photo center on the Costco US website but it is easy enough to use and shouldn’t make anyone cry in frustration.
I know that having an e-commerce aspect to the Costco UK website, is what all of us in the UK are hoping to see sometime soon. But that doesn’t seem to be in the Costco game plan right now. They haven’t rolled out online shopping to any of the locations outside of the US and Canada. I’m hopeful that someday they’ll decide to make the investment to get online shopping in other non-North American locations but I’m not going to bet on it happening anytime soon. So until that time, I’ll have to settle for just having a spiffed up, more informative Costco UK website.
Now this is making me wonder if they’ve updated the sites for some of the other countries as well; I’ll have to investigate that.