Living in an age where nearly every industry is driven by ecommerce, it should come as no surprise that this includes the home improvement world. Home Depot and Lowes are titans in their industry, and both have a strong online presence. But when it comes to who may have the better performing site, we set out to nail down one true winner.
For our fifth website Showdown, the AlertBot team got out their proverbial measuring tape and slipped on a stylish apron to dig in to the performance of HomeDepot.com vs Lowes.com.
We used AlertBot’s external website monitoring system and its TrueBrowser™ technology to monitor both sites for a couple weeks, spanning from August 11, 2017 to August 31, 2017. Not surprisingly, the performance for these heavy lifters proved to be rather resilient for both sites. Neither service’s site experienced significant downtime, but as usual, one did prove to perform a little better the other.
For the reliability evaluation of a website, we look for failure events (like when a page doesn’t fully load or it is completely down), and we look for what caused those failures.
HomeDepot.com performed quite well over the tested time period, experiencing no failure events. At most, it had a couple hiccups, like a short-lived Timed Out error or a Slow Page File notice, but none of these occurrences caused any amount of significant downtime. (HomeDepot 9/10)
On the other hand, Lowes’ site experienced one failure event on August 21st when the site was not responding for roughly three minutes around 12:21 in the afternoon. When errors like these occur, AlertBot tests them from a second location to confirm if the error is widespread or just a brief localized outage. In this instance, the error persisted after a few tests in different locations, qualifying it for actual site downtime, before the issue resolved. (Lowes 8/10)
When evaluating a website’s speed, we look at the time it takes the site’s homepage to render and load to the point of being fully interactive by the user. These tests are performed from the perspective of a first-time visitor with no prior cache of the website’s content. AlertBot runs the tests inside real Firefox web browsers using AlertBot’s TrueBrowser ™ monitoring.
HomeDepot.com has a great deal of graphics on the front page, which typically slows sites down considerably. However, it didn’t seem to slow this site down much. HomeDepot.com’s best day, on average, was Tuesday, August 29th with an impressive load time of 1.1 seconds. The “worst” day average was still an impressive 1.9 seconds. When evaluating the site’s speed by hour, the site loaded in just 0.8 seconds at 1AM on Sunday August 20th. The worst hour was also on August 20th, at 2PM with 5.1 seconds. Overall, HomeDepot.com’s speed is quite good. (HomeDepot 9.5/10)
Lowes.com has drastically less content on its front page, but it performed considerably slower than HomeDepot.com did. Sadly, Lowes best day was actually slower than HomeDepot’s worst, with an average of 6 seconds on Sunday, August 13th. Lowes.com’s worst day was Monday, August 26th with 7.1 seconds. That’s not horrendous, but with sites being expected to perform faster and faster these days, a respected retail giant like Lowes needs to up their speed game. On an hourly average basis, their best time was 11PM on Wednesday, August 23rd with 7.1 seconds (Again, their fastest time is slower than HomeDepot’s slowest). Their worst load time by hour was Sunday, August 27th at 1PM with a sluggish 10.1 seconds. (Lowes 8/10)
It’s always interesting to see how sites perform differently across the world. If we look exclusively at the United States, it’s intriguing to see which states regularly see faster or slower times than others.
Usually when we look at site speeds across the United States, sites tend to perform better in California than anywhere else. This isn’t the case for HomeDepot.com, however. For Home Depot, Florida appeared to experience the fastest web transaction (less than one second), while it experienced the slowest transaction test in California (But it’s still only 2.3 seconds). After Florida, however, it experienced the next fastest web transactions in New Jersey and North Carolina (both at 1 second). (HomeDepot 9/10)
Lowes.com had the fastest web transaction in California at 3 seconds. The next fastest was North Carolina, already up to 4.3 seconds. The slowest performance occurred in New York at a whopping 9.4 seconds (with the second-slowest being Georgia with 9.3 seconds). (Lowes 7.5/10)
For usability, we select a common task a user might typically try to accomplish when visiting the sites and replicate it. For our previous Showdowns, we tested things like visiting a site for nutritional information or going through the motions of ordering movie tickets from a local theater. For this Showdown, we’ll see what the experience is like to use their respective websites to add a common product to the shopping cart.
For each of these processes, we started by opening a new tab in Google Chrome and typing in the site’s URL.
From the point of typing www.homedepot.com into our Chrome browser and entering “leather gloves” into the search box, choosing one and adding it to the cart, it took 25 seconds. From the front page, it took 5 clicks to get to the “Checkout now” process. It wasn’t bad, but we found the Lowes process just a bit smoother.
From the point of typing www.lowes.com into our Chrome browser, it took 4 mouse clicks and 20 seconds to get the gloves into the shopping cart and view the cart. The “Add to cart” button is much more obvious and visible on Lowes’ site, where it took a moment to locate it on Home Depot’s site. And while both sites offer a “compare” option so you can look at product features side by side, it wasn’t very noticeable on HomeDepot’s site, while it was more prominent on Lowes.com.
The aesthetic of both websites isn’t bad, but Lowes has a crisper and more streamlined appearance and functionality. Both sites get the job done pretty quickly, but we had a slightly smoother experience with Lowes. With that said, here are the Usability scores:
(HomeDepot 9/10) (Lowes 10/10)
Both sites performed respectably, but HomeDepot.com clearly performed faster and was more reliable than Lowes.com. Despite the fact that we may have preferred the shopping experience on Lowes.com just a little bit more, one cannot ignore the slower site performance.
So, for the fifth AlertBot Showdown, the site that gets to join the ranks of previous winners Apple, FedEx, and Burger King is…