Why are Large Retailer Websites Impossible to Navigate?


The other night my wife was browsing the GAP(gap.com) website, itching to spend her “gap bucks”. She asked if I needed anything and as I browsed through the site looking at clothes I didn’t need, but maybe wanted, I found a constant, frustrating theme throughout…this site was not designed for anyone to actually use. Let me clarify below…

In The Beginning…

Let’s start at the beginning of any website, the homepage. It seems that on many large retail sites immediately upon landing you are bombarded with the latest trends in e-commerce sites, a full page interstitial takeover, begging you sign up for their newsletter for an extra XX% off your purchase.



After dismissing the popup you are able to actually land on the homepage, though almost wishing the popup would return, so there was a clear message or action to take. The sheer amount of available options is overwhelming. I wasn’t sure when looking at the homepage, if GAP wanted me to:

  1. Check out their other brand lines
  2. Click the rotating “details” GIF, outlining their shipping, returns, and checkout processes
  3. Get the latest discount offer
  4. Or actual purchase clothes from their company (probably this one)


Since I am a professional designer but also a user, when I go to a clothing site to purchase something, that’s all I want to do…purchase that item. I hope that retailer websites such as GAP improves their site so it’s easier to navigate, because who doesn’t love a good sweater or pair or pants from GAP?

On the flip side I do understand the need from a marketing perspective to answer consumer needs and questions that may relate to the aforementioned list. But surely there is an alternative approach to providing people that info.

Perhaps as someone goes through the shopping experience you can lay these bits of content out in appropriate spots. How about when I add an item to my cart? Why not present me with a coupon option then. Or maybe offer me recommendations of other brand items I might like after the checkout process, perhaps on a thank you screen or in my email confirmation. Crafting a breadcrumb trail like this, and targeting people to take action at the right time, could inevitably lead to more e-commerce sales.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter though, because design at it’s core is about solving problems. And if GAP has found that the way their site is structured solves the problems of their users, that’s all that matters.