The puzzling design of store locators

29Aug07

I find myself using the “Find a Store” feature on retail sites more often than I realized, usually to figure out the store hours. While most sites make this easy to find, others do some really puzzling things when designing this feature. After spending a few minutes comparing the store locators on 10 popular retail sites, here is my totally unscientific analysis of what separates the good from the bad.

The ones that I found easiest to use called the feature “Store locator” or “Find a store”, and placed the link at the top of the homepage. This group included Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Best Buy, and Target. In the not-so-great group, which included Costco, IKEA, Circuit City, Wal-Mart, and Apple, the feature either had a strange name or was placed further down the page. For example, Circuit City puts the feature in a weird grayed-out graphic labeled “in store find one near you”, and Apple calls it “Visit an Apple retail store” and places it on the bottom left of the page. And if you happen to click the “Store” link on the Apple homepage, it’s almost impossible to find the store locator.

On the plus side, all 10 of the sites included their store hours, which is good.  But only Target offered the option to view a click-and-drag style map. The others are still using old Mapquest maps or a static map image, which make it much more difficult to see the store location and the surrounding area. Considering how easy it is to integrate Google Maps or other modern mapping tools into a website, it’s a shame that these retailers haven’t made the switch.



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