I’ve been spending a great deal of 2020 (thanks COVID-19) in finding a number of small – as well as some larger – home improvement projects.
In turn, this had lead me to shop online quite a bit between Home Depot and Lowe’s websites, which are both close to my home. In consistently shopping between both websites, and while taking a UX class, it’s made me think a lot about the differences and similarities between the websites.
It’s also made me think of which one might be a bit more catered to someone casually shopping for home improvement products and projects.
So in thinking about the user or customer, both stores share similar types of customer bases but it’s the nuances of the definitions that showcases the differences.
According to Market Realist, Home Depot focuses on three types of customers: DIY customers who are often homeowners, DIM (Do-It-For-Me) customers who are looking to hire a contractor or service, as well as professional contractors, handymen, etc.
The same website says Lowe’s simplifies this to focus on the retail customer – who is searching for products or services for an owned or rented home – and the professional customer – who is looking for items to complete a project such as a designer or contractor.
With that in mind, you can see that come through in each of the websites’ homepages.
For instance, Home Depot relies on a number of header elements, which includes a complex navigational toolbar, a top toolbar seemingly dedicated to specific site elements as well as a search bar. The taxonomy and labeling in this toolbar is more than about the products, but providing users inspiration, services, and several different offerings.
Compared to Lowes, this is done in a more simplified fashion. The labeling and taxonomy is simpler and cleaner than Home Depot with terms such as “Shop” and “Services.”
That being said, each one has a number of similarities such as both rely heavily on imagery and iconography, have deep hierarchy and – of course – offer similar products, services and idea generation.
But there are more differences in design principles.
Home Depot uses a lot of consistency in terms of how to find things, local navigation, and more throughout the website. The same can be said for visibility. Home Depot uses a peel the onion back approach where you find more and more on each layer you peel back.
That being said, there is lacking constraints on content and offerings, which could easily overwhelm a user. Simply put, it’s a busy website.
On the other hand, Lowe’s has a number of constraints in place to be able to guide the customer throughout the website and buying process. It’s much simpler in the approach than home Depot, but the site has less feedback and mapping as well as inconsistencies.
For instance, the navigation at the top, some of the terms take you to a different page, while others may create a submenu or two.
With all of that being said, just from the home pages, which do I prefer? Although Lowes is closer and is catered toward a “retail customer” such as myself, I do prefer Home Depot for its simplicity in terms of search and being able to find what I need easily.