E-Commerce Sites: A comparison of Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom and Anthropologie

Group: Dawn and Fina

Genre: e-commerce

Sites: Urban Outfitters (UO, ours), Nordstrom and Anthropologie

Visual design similarities:

  • All have shopping carts and search bars prominently displayed
  • All have social media
  • All have a phone number listed for customer service and live chat
  • All have their logo prominent displayed at the top of the page
  • White background
  • A rotating slide show of featured content in the center of the home page.
  • Top navigation bar organized by department
  • Newsletter subscription option

Visual design differences:

  • Nordstrom and UO have shipping info at the top of the page, but Anthropologie doesn’t
  • Anthropologie and Nordstrom have very clean navigation bars, but UO’s is cluttered
  • UO and Nordstrom have shopping “bags,” and Anthropologie has a shopping “basket”
  • UO has an irksome font, background image looks like it was drawn by a child. It’s also geared towards younger generations, very animated, interactive, great photos/images, colorful.
  • Nordstrom: more old school, not as interesting images, a little more bland than the others. Their brand is higher end, with no specific types of items, and all of their products are very general to appeal to a large audience
  • Antropologie has a link to its magazine in the navigation bar
  • Urban Outfitters has the blog, instagram feed and a contest front and center. Way more social media icons than the other two. UO has a prominent blog, you have to search for it on Nordstrom, and Anthropologie somehow doesn’t seem to have one.

How effective is the design?

UO: Confusing, don’t know what to click on because slider keeps changing, very distracting. The design is boldly colored which can be offensive to some, or attract others. It seems like there are options for doing many other things other than shopping by way of their social media, blogs, contests, etc.

Anthropologie: Laid out very well. Clean design, a space for everything, sales prominent, multiple ways to search for what you want. Beautiful bold images that highlight the company’s higher-end products and clientele.

Nordstrom: Really effective. Clear and intuitive, easy to navigate, nothing distracting you from what you want to do on the site. Easy drop downs and clean visuals. Some could say it’s rather boring, but we think this is intentional so that customers can focus on the product, and not site design.

What constitutes success?: Our definition of success is if our persona is able to find the perfect dress in thirty minutes or less because she is a busy girl, (has to go to the football game and it’s Saturday night) and she’s captain of the dance team.


Brittany, a 20-year old university student is heading home for the holidays and in search of the perfect dress for an upcoming New Year’s Eve party in her hometown. Brittany shops online a lot and uses her parent’s credit card to buy everything she needs when she needs it. She really doesn’t have anything in the way of a budget. Her style is glammed up, lighthearted and young. The audience segment is 20-somethings. She is a size two and sometimes has difficulty finding things in her size online.

Test: Urban Outfitters

On UO’s site, there’s a size chart that will indicate whether a size 2 on the site will fit her body. Brittany can search by size, occasion, color and brand, which makes it simple for her to pick out something that she knows will fit and is apt for the occasion. The site shows if the dress is in stock online and in store, which makes it easy for her to pick up in person if she’s running late on time. They also have three images of every dress to show her what it will look like from each angle, and they also have a review section with individual’s comments and sometimes images of what it looks on to help her decide if it’s the dress for her. They also have Facebook comments so she can see if any of her friends have this dress so that they don’t match at the party.

Analytical summary: UO’s site is pretty savvy, a bit overwhelming with features and options, and well-equipped for individuals looking to purchase items online, rather than find items online and purchase them in store. The multiple images per item, review section with ample comments and even the Facebook comments feature allow buyers to choose items after viewing others’ experience with them and by seeing how they look on real people. The multiple search features make shopping for any item easy, and overall their site is built to lend to a great user shopping experience.


  • Allow product previews after clicking on a genre (ex: allow to see details of a dress when scrolling over it)
  • Show details and reviews without having to click on them to expand them
  • Clean up the front page a bit. There’s too much going on and it can be distracting to someone just trying to get to the items


  • Overwhelm customers with contests, blogs, too much social media that’s detracting
  • Use irksome, child-like fonts and too many colors. It irritates people looking at the screen

Test: Nordstrom

Brittany heads to the site, clicks on “women,” then “dresses” and the next drop-down that pops up is “occasions.” While there are work and cocktail links, there isn’t a semi-formal genre, so she clicks on cocktail dresses because that’s the next closest thing. She clicks on a Valentino dress with lace and leather, and decides that it’s not quite her style and keeps looking. She clicks on another dress that also has sheer panels and lace but is much more presentable and her style. It’s available in her size and traditionally ships in 3-6 business days. Due to the East Coast storms, the website says that “delivery may be delayed.” This is vague, and though Brittany isn’t sure if it’ll come on time, she orders it anyway because she’s familiar with Nordstrom and trusts them.

Analytical summary: Nordstrom loses points for user experience by limiting the types of events that one would shop for, particularly around the holidays. One would expect this company to highlight other dress options. Individuals can, however, shop by style, brand, material, size, length, color and many other options, so I think this makes up for it. The site is very clear in addressing possible shipping delays, further enforcing the belief that Nordstrom is a trusted brand. Overall, the site is streamlined with a minimum of distractions, keeping the shopper’s focus on the task at hand. Not too pretty, but that’s likely not their focus; their products are their focus, and they highlight these well. Not a perfect user shopping experience, but almost.


  • Highlight more event genres for certain types of items (add semi-formal in the dresses genre, for example)
  • Try a bit more with design. It wouldn’t hurt to have one interesting aspect on the site that isn’t items
  • Add a few more social media options so that the customers can interact more with the brand


  • Be afraid to try something new (but not overwhelming) on the site every so often to keep things fresh and lively
  • Limit the types of items individuals can search for

Test: Anthropologie

She opens the page and sees a link for “the dress shop” on the navigation bar.  She clicks on it and then hits “occasion.” She clicks on a dress with lace, a cutout in the back and some cool colors called the Toulouse Sheath Dress. After clicking on it, four images pop up that show the dress from multiple angles. Though she likes the sheer fabric and other details she decides it’s not her style/is too grown up, so she keeps looking. She then clicks on the Needlepoint Dress. It’s black with lace, is short and not too revealing for her taste. She clicks to see if they have it in size 2 but rather a size XS and that Anthropologie uses sizes XS-XL, so she searches for their size guide. Also, the size guide doesn’t pop up in a new window, which was frustrating.  It takes a minute to find it as it’s near the bottom of the page. After looking at the size guide, she notes that a size XS starts at a size 2, so that works. She clicks add to cart then checks out. The Anthropologie page says that the dress will ship in 5-7 days as she ordered it on a Sunday morning at 9 a.m., so that will work perfectly and arrive in advance of the party.

Analytical summary: Anthropologie makes it easy to search for a specific type of dress by bundling all special occasion dresses under one tag: occasion. The sizing guide not popping up in a separate window may irritate some, but isn’t a make or break flaw. There are also sizing guides at the bottom of every item page, but not everyone may scroll down so far to find them. The sign is beautifully designed, easy to navigate and mostly intuitive. The site also has suggested items that pair well with the items, which helps when wanting to create a perfect outfit in one shopping trip. The shopping cart experience is pretty straightforward and the shipping expectations are clearly communicated. Overall, the site lines up well with the experience a customer would experience in-store.


  • Create a blog already! We’re not sure how a brand can still exist that isn’t utilizing this type of social media
  • Promote social media a little bit more. The buttons are at the bottom of every page, but there’s no way to share items with friends if you like them.
  • Allow for the sizing guide to pop up in a new window, and not make the customer have to scroll back to the product page.


  • Have a pop-up that comes up anytime someone adds something to their basket that they have to X out of. They’ll remember what’s in there, and if not, they can always click the shopping basket tab.
  • Have the product description be so low on the page. People will want to see this info before they see the fiber content/care information.
  • Have such a long sizing guide be at the bottom of every item page. It’s unnecessary to post it for every item, and rather just focus on fixing the sizing guide issue so that individuals can click and find this info when they need it, rather than be bombarded every time they’re checking out an item.

8 responses to “E-Commerce Sites: A comparison of Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom and Anthropologie”

  1. Kathy E. Gill says :

    Very clear do’s and don’ts. Conversational style explanation in the scenario tests. Suggestions for improvement -> UO test is written in a less specific manner. Make screen captures larger; consider annotating.

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