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Retail review: HMV Web Effectiveness score, Nicola Dunlop – (IRM55)

Retail review – HMV – Nicola Dunlop, User Experience Analyst, User Vision – Web Effectiveness score 13/25 (IRM 55)

Music consumption has evolved in the digital age to create a new generation of customers. These consumers download and stream their music as opposed to engaging with a physical artefact. This development has changed the consumer market, pushing users away from the high street and onto online sites. Such a digital evolution has consequently damaged many music retailers, in particular HMV. The online experience of music has become a prime contender in today’s consumer market. The following review looks at HMV’s online experience and assesses its proposition in such a digital landscape.


As a user looking to purchase music from, confusion begins on the homepage. Content is primarily focused on blogs, interviews and news articles which obscure the ability to purchase products from the site. While blogs and news articles show HMV are knowledgeable about the industry, this page does not respond to direct user needs and so is likely to result in high bounce rates and drop offs. Therefore HMV should look to enhance the transactional content on the homepage and emphasise the function of the site.


Discovering music feels a bit like a mine field as the mega menu presents multiple destinations and categories to navigate through, bamboozling the user with choice. The navigation and information architecture needs to be evaluated and readdressed to generate a more intuitive flow and response to user expectations.

In a priority position in the music mega menu, users are asked to initially decide on the format of music they are looking for (CD, vinyl, single, box set). This process is not how users naturally search for music. HMV should research their users and see if leading with more inspiring topics such as music genres or trending artists would provide a better starting point.

The ability to download music should be combined into this section. Currently music download is a micro site leading users away from the general music shop section. Music download is a highly demanded format and so should be a prime feature throughout the site

Category Page

Once the music format has been selected, the user is then presented with multiple results. Users can only filter product options by music genre and format type, limiting their flexibility and freedom within this section. The site should work harder in presenting users with additional options to filter and search for content which inspires and engages them. Additional filters could include critically acclaimed or highly rated by other users.

Product Page

Unlike those who are purchasing a music download, users buying a CD are unable to listen to a preview of the album. This unnecessary limitation in streaming functionality in a single section of the site not only sets users up for disappointment but makes them more likely to migrate to other streaming sites where they can instantly listen to the album of choice and subsequently purchase – this will be losing HMV sales.

Check Out

Once the user is committed to a making a purchase, the checkout process works well. Page elements are clearly aligned making the basket items easy to scan and review. Clear calls to action are used throughout, with strong colour contrast making for good accessibility.

Few accessibility issues were noted. The search and sign up input fields do not hold alternative text and would be missed by screen readers. Similarly the HMV logo is an unlinked image, meaning screen readers would skip this content.


HMV has much to improve on, especially around the information architecture and navigation across the site. Although HMV have caught up with the notion of downloading music, it is still within a separate section and needs to be further embedded.

Over and above this recommendation, HMV must recognize the power of music streaming. One only has to look at the success of sites such as Spotify, Last FM, Tidal and Apple Music to notice that these services are now dominating the market. Therefore to ensure that HMV’s history does not repeat itself and that it remains a key contender within the music retail space, the next logical step for the brand should be to develop its own streaming service. This should be present within their sites and stores to create a seamless service experience that matches growing user behaviour and expectation.

Navigation and IA – 1

Persuasion and Trust – 2

Checkout/Bookings – 4

Product Page & Merchandising – 2

Accessibility – 4

Total: 13/25


Nicola is an experienced service design and UX consultant who has led several projects for financial service, retail and government clients. Her projects have included applying service design thinking and ethnography research tools to establish new market opportunities and user behaviour patterns.

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