Friday, 26 March 2010

Compare and contrast: Lush

Chocolate Easter eggs always seemed a British thing to me. The same way the Americans call Christmas “the holidays” to accommodate all faiths, I always thought Easter was handled similarly. I mean, they don’t have a bank holiday to enjoy. However, according to an American friend of mine, Easter eggs, especially chocolate ones, are big business across the pond. It is this conversation that first piqued my interest in this week’s compare and contrast subject.

Lush, a retailer of handmade cosmetics with a “green” ethos, is active in approximately 43 countries. Let’s take a look at Lush’s American site ( and its UK website ( to see how each handles Easter-related promotions, and what other differences there are between the two websites.

The first obvious distinction is that the two sites have very different layouts. The UK home page (below) is a simple black on white with the main space dedicated to Easter products such as egg- and chick-shaped bath bombs. The very bottom of the page is given to displaying links to the rest of the site.

The US site (below) has many more elements to it and is instantly more dynamic and engaging. First, it seems slightly larger, in that it takes a few more clicks of the mouse’s scroll wheel to see all the content compared with the UK home page. Second, the main part of the site is designed to appear as though it is on parchment or paper—with paperclips to boot. Whilst it uses a drop-down menu system for its product categories, like the UK site does, the American site uses smoother AJAX and animated icons that make the menus look slicker.

On the left-hand side of the US site are links to social-networking website Facebook as well as product links. The main part of the page is dedicated to a rotating graphic that flits between Easter offers and a caption competition. The US site looks “fun”—the cute chicks, eggs, and rainbows give it a cheery and uplifting air. If it weren’t for the colourful products on its home page, the overbearing black of the main banner on the UK site would make it look formal and corporate—an image I’m sure Lush does not want to portray.

Also missing from the UK site is a Favicon, an icon that sits in the address bar, on the page tab, or on a favourites bookmark, that can be customised as the brand’s logo or in its colours. The US site has one. Why this was left off the UK site is a mystery (see image, right). Another design element missing from the British site that’s present on the American home page is that the links to other pages of the site are image-based rather than text-based—users can navigate to the forum, a store locator, and to the Lushopedia (a cornucopia of product information) by clicking on the corresponding graphic. The UK site either features the links at the very top of the page (without images) or buries them at the bottom of the page (also without illustrations).

According to Amy Africa, the worst position for a search box is the top right of the site. Both Lush sites are mindful of that, but each chooses a different spot. The UK site goes for the middle of the top banner, whilst the US site places it where Africa recommends—the top left. However, the US site fails to act on another of Africa’s tips—where is the buy button? Whereas you can buy directly from the UK home page, visitors to the US site must first click on an item either in the rotating graphic or on the sidebar and then add the product to the basket

Speaking of product, moving inside the site I click on the “bath bombs” link in the US website and the equivalent “bath ballistics” link on the British site. Name-differences aside, I much prefer the US website’s grid layout. The UK site presents me with a page of “ballistics”, as I hover the cursor over a certain colour I highlight a particular type of ballistic. I then have to click through to see just that item. Hold on… where are the Easter-themed ballistics? Why aren’t they on this page? What else is missing from the main graphic and where can I find the item I want? Oh, wait a second, there's an option to “Change to grid view”. Much better, but it took a friend to point this out to me before I found it.

Whilst both sites devote a prime section of web real-estate to Easter, the US website comes off more modern, with a breezier design and more engaging copy. It seems odd to me, seeing as Lush was founded in the UK, that its American counterpart would get the better creative treatment—the UK site misses out on basics like a Favicon and dynamic imaging on its home page. The US site offers customers so much more—video content, the opportunity to join a campaign against seal hunting, and a note about the company’s eco-friendly packaging. For a business that prides itself on its hip attitude, Lush’s UK website comes off rather bland.--MT

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