Silver surfers need to eat

I don’t normally sound the fanfare when Headscape launches a new site. In my experience it opens me up to more criticism than I enjoy! However I think for once I will make an exception.

The problem is that people can’t help but criticise. They love to spot the fact that a site doesn’t work on some obscure browser under a defunct operating system like Safari for the mac ;).

Anyway the site that we have just launched is an upgrade to a pretty standard ecommerce site which I worked on a few years back. You can view it at:

Despite the somewhat provincial name, Wiltshire Farm Foods is a massive organisation and their website is a significant revenue generator. Basically they sell ready meals to an elderly audience, who don’t have the time or inclination to slave over a hot stove.

I know what you’re thinking. Not the most exciting site ever created. However, it has actually been quite a challenging site to work on. The age and relative lack of web experience, of the target audience meant that a lot of time and thought had to go into the user interface.

I won’t bore you with a long post outlining all the design decisions made and why those approaches were taken. Instead I will let you have a poke around for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Things to look out for include:

  • Nice interface scaling when you increase the font size
  • Lots of friendly cross selling adverts to increase the value of each sale
  • A simple, clean and large interface, ideal for this audience
  • Slick AJAX functionality when items are added to your basket including clear indications to the user that something has happened.
  • Fixed position (impossible to miss) shopping basket tethered to the bottom of every screen

Of course there are a lot of things I don’t like about the site (such as the need to enter a postcode before you can see the price). However, some things are beyond a web designers ability to control.

That said, all in all, it’s come out pretty well.

  • Damn, I’m hungry now!
    Nice site. It degrades well when you resize the text.
    I quite like the postcode price thing actually, though I think it might confuse old people. Might have been nicer to give a price range (£3.20-5.30) before the post code had been entered.
    One tiny Safari issue is the buttons. The “proper” buttons default to Aqua buttons, but you can still see the background. While the “fake” buttons (ie links with background image) don’t.
    Not that many old people use iMacs.
    Only other thing I could pick at (you did want people to pick holes in your design and destroy your ego, right? ;o) is the text size. Seems a bit small for an older demographic – and it might have been an idea to tell them how to make it larger (or give them a way with an annoying set of As). I know it’s in the FAQ, but might have been an idea to link to this from the homepage or top nav somewhere.
    Sorry – that probably sounds like I’m being mean, doesn’t it? Didn’t mean to be – like I said I think it’s a good site.

  • Greg Gottfried

    I like the site. Looks great, scaling function is wonderful, and the site is very usable. I understand why it was designed this way but personally I can’t stand the fixed position of the shopping cart. Not really a big fan of fixed elements on any site to be quite frank.

  • I love the site,
    I have a terribly hard time coming up with a design that is visually to my liking and is easily scalable. Definitley makes me want to try harder though!
    The click me on the large buttons to the left is also a great idea. I always thought “click here” links were tacky, but used in the right context (non-internet savy users) seems like a great idea.
    Great work!
    Personally I think I would like it better if it were all flash though (just kidding!)

  • I really liked the colour palette used on this site.
    The rounded corners are nice too. I’m doing a site with rounded corners at the moment and it seems to be a bit tricky. Do you know of a simple way to do them? Perhaps a link to a great tutorial? :)
    By the way…I’m on a Mac, and speaking of defunct web browsers you should check out the site in MAC’s IE 5.2 …it goes a bit wacky. I’m sure it will keep you up at night. lol.
    Thanks for sharing. I’m always interested in looking at new designs.

  • We stopped supporting IE for the mac when Microsoft did :)

  • Hi Richard,
    that bug you have spotted in safari with the buttons… what version of safari are you using. I dont seem to be able to replicate that one at this end. It was a problem at one stage in development but I thought I had fixed it.

  • Matthew Curry

    I think it’s the most wonderful thing I have ever seen. However, I may be biased.

  • Damn, I keep forgetting that my clients read this blog ;)

  • Hi Paul,
    It’s version 2.0.3 (417.9.3).
    It didn’t happen everywhere, just in some places:
    Eg. at the bottom of:
    Also, here: the required * goes over the form field.

  • Thanks Richard,
    we will look into it. We are aware of the required field bug.

  • Dare i mention another browser it doesnt work fully in.:-p In my copy of opera 8.54 the description of the meals on the home page seem to be squashed into one single line per product so you get two lines of text overlain in the space of one.
    You may have decided that the few opera users (especially with your target audience) is too low but its worth mentioning because it does decrease usability.
    Other than that a pretty cool site.

  • I just added OpenSearch to The Web Design Journal and was really pleased with how it worked with wIE7.
    BUT I do not think it will catch on with Web developers before the Opera Web browser and Firefox supports the system as well. As of right now it is only and wIE7 that uses OpenSearch. The idea of searching over RSS is genius. But there is no use for it yet. So the format must be more widely addopted first.

  • Web person at uni

    Great Site Paul
    I’ve spotted a small little thing I got to say is that when I enter for example xs into the quantity box it doesn’t throw an error but instead puts one into the basket. Also when I enter 4x it still puts in 1 into the basket so therefore people that wanted 4 only get one thinking they ordered 4 if they don’t review their basket. This error works with IE 7 Beta 3 :-) I don’t know if this works with other broswers but it shouldn’t matter as it still goes to the web server anyway.
    From an another web person studing e-commerce at university

  • Daniel,
    we made a decision early on not to support Opera as they had about 1 visitor in a million use it. The return on investment didnt justify it.

  • Hi,
    the quantity box issue isn’t a bug. Its a conscious feature. I wont bore you with the logic of this now but we went round and round in circles on this one and concluded that the current approach was the most intuitive considering the audience. We wanted to test this in usability sessions but unfortunately budget did not allow for this.

  • Hi Paul,
    Just one more thing.
    The top rounded corners on the postcode box have a slightly different colour to the background, so I can see the square edge.
    I really like the way you’ve used the berry image as the hero on the site. It’s a great emotive element. Should I assume that this image or area might change seasonally? Fantastic Idea.

  • tj

    I think its nicely laid out, easy to get around. I too question the ‘stuck on my screen’ cart. Its a little annoying and I wander if its a ‘I can do it, so I will’ element? Do users really need to see that on a constant basis?
    I don’t pretend to know the answer, just my 2 bits (you asked)

  • Chris O’Brien

    Nice job. I really like this look of this and am especially fond of some of the smaller elements, like the fixed shopping cart.
    I have just recently stumbled onto your podcasts and have to say that I am hooked.
    Appreciate all your hard work. Keep it up!

  • Chris O’Brien

    Nice job. I really like this look of this and am especially fond of some of the smaller elements, like the fixed shopping cart.
    I have just recently stumbled onto your podcasts and have to say that I am hooked.
    Appreciate all your hard work. Keep it up!

  • Chris O’Brien

    Nice job. I really like this look of this and am especially fond of some of the smaller elements, like the fixed shopping cart.
    I have just recently stumbled onto your podcasts and have to say that I am hooked.
    Appreciate all your hard work. Keep it up!

  • william pimblett

    like the fact that when you enter your postcode in the checkout basket i remembers it for the free brohure page.