Today we are starting a public trial of our new store finder.
We’ve been testing with colleagues and invited users until now, using this feedback to design the version you see today. From today, we’re directing 50% of the traffic from the old store finder to this new one.
We are trialing it in this way to iron out any bugs before switching off the old store finder. This is much better than the risky ‘big bang’ launch approach.
Let’s take a look through some of the best bits of the new store finder and the thinking behind it.
Most visits to our website are now made with a smartphone or tablet device, yet our old store finder wasn’t optimised for small screen sizes and touch interfaces.
For our new store finder, we’ve designed for mobile first and then adapted it to larger screen sizes. We use a responsive design, which means the same design can adapt to any screen size rather than us maintaining two separate applications — one for mobile and another for desktop.
Each store has an individual URL
Our old store finder was a single page application. This meant that you could search for a store and view its details without leaving the page.
While this has some advantages, it comes with a major disadvantage: every store had the same web address. With the old store finder, it wasn’t possible to copy and paste a link to a store or bookmark it for later.
Even worse, search engines couldn’t understand our old store finder at all. If you searched for “well chorlton”, you wouldn’t end up on well.co.uk because Google and other search engines couldn’t index or deep link to our old store finder.
With the new store finder, we’ve created a page for each store. The URL structure is clear and each ‘slug’ contains the name and street name of the store. This will hopefully maximise the chances of users finding the right store.
These URLs will stay the same — we’re not planning to change them. That’s important: persistent identifiers on the web help others to rely on the resources without fear the link will lead to a dead end.
When we release a public API for stores, we will use the same persistent identifiers. It’s likely we will adopt the same approach to other resources in future as we develop other digital products (e.g. services, medicines).
Designed for the common case
Through user research, we identified that most users who were trying to find a store based on a location wanted to know what their nearest store was. So, we designed a service that made it really easy for people to do this:
- We created a ‘use my location’ button, which uses a device’s GPS or similar to send approximate location details to the store finder.
- We highlight the nearest store to the specified location, and set a distance radius (20 miles) based on a reasonable assumption of how far people would be willing to travel to a store.
We also identified another major use case for the store finder: people who wanted to find out when their local store was closing.
So, as well as showing all store opening hours, we highlight information relevant to the current time: whether a store is open or closed, when it closes and whether it is closing soon. We use colour markers to make this clear to users at a glance.
Well stores don’t just dispense medicines, they also provide a bunch of other services from stop smoking support to flu jabs.
On our old store finder these were displayed in a small, comma separated list. Many services provided by stores weren’t listed, and many that were listed weren’t always clear and understandable to customers.
Easy-to-read lists of servicesIn the new store finder we’ve given more prominence to services, provided a more comprehensive listing and tried to use clearer language to describe them.
However, this is a complex area: services vary from store-to-store and there are regional variations on the same services due to the way NHS services are commissioned.
We have more work to do to make services clearer for customers — this is just version one.
No dead ends
Well operates 780 stores across the country: England, Wales and Scotland. However, we’re not everywhere: there are patches of the country where we have no presence at all.
We figure that people using our store finder want to find a pharmacy, even if that’s not always a Well store.
The ‘no results’ page on our new store finderRather than showing a page with ‘no results’ or directing people to a store over 20 miles away, for locations where there is no Well store we decided to signpost users to the NHS website.
As pharmacists, it’s important for us to do everything we can to care for patients — even those who don’t become Well customers.
Accessible to all
Making digital services accessible isn’t just a box ticking exercise to meet web accessibility standards or make them usable for people with disabilities.
As a pharmacy, we provide services to a really broad group of people — many with health conditions. We have people with hidden and visible disabilities, people with little or no experience using digital services and people using older devices.
When you’re designing on a 15” MacBook Pro, there’s a big “well, it worked on my machine” danger. We’ve gone out of our way to avoid this.
Making services accessible benefits everyone. We’ve designed for and tested a wide variety of situations with the goal of providing access for all.
We made the decision to adopt a progressive enhancement approach: everything works with just HTML, and anything else is an extra.
This has meant a bit of extra work, but the result is that everyone can use it — regardless of how old their browser, how powerful their device or how reliable their connection.
It’s for colleagues, too
As well as customers, colleagues make extensive use of the store finder.
Store colleagues use it to look up details of neighbouring stores so they can call them up — for instance, to ask whether they have a particular item in stock.
Store and region numbers displayed for colleagues
Headquarters colleagues use it when they’re on the road, visiting stores.
Rather than creating two separate store finders — one for customers, one for colleagues — we’ve made the same service for both sets of users.
That’s why you will see store and region numbers at the bottom of each store page. And if you already know the store number, you can simply search for it and you’ll be directed straight to that store.
Little things, but hopefully useful to colleagues.
Things we didn’t have time to do
Our new store finder isn’t finished. It never will be — we’ll keep updating and improving it.
There’s a bunch of things we would have liked to include in this beta version, but didn’t have time to. Here’s some things we’re thinking about building next:
- Adopt the Schema.org microformat for pharmacies
- Release a public store API
- Improve services — clearer names for services, link to content about each service
- Bank holiday opening times
- Filter search by services, opening times and facilities available
- Show more pages of results
- Store manager details
If you’ve got anything to add to this list, or any feedback on our store finder please get in touch.
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