December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Practically perfect

No gaps here. When it comes to retail-friendly design, Gap is a “nearly perfect site” says Duif Calvin at IXL. “A lot of sites may be easy to use, but are not necessarily easy to buy from.” Yet for many shoppers, Gap.com makes it all too easy to part with their money.

With links to BabyGap.com and GapKids.com, the site harnesses the power of three brands and goes to great lengths to showcase apparel-a tricky online category. Shoppers can rotate items, zoom in on details, view different combinations of tops and bottoms and compare styles of jeans and khakis by overlaying images.

What’s more, navigation is uncomplicated. “As the transaction unfolds, you’re presented with logical choices along the way-that sounds simple but it’s not apparent on every site,” points out Matt Stamski, senior analyst at Gomez Advisors.

Just as Gap refreshens merchandise and presentation in its bricks-and-mortar stores, the Web site is constantly updated. “Every time you go there, it looks different,” says Tracy Toepfer, senior art director at Fry Multimedia in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Gap also wins kudos for turning its Web site into an extension of its physical stores, coordinating selling across channels. Don’t like those boot-leg jeans? Online customers who don’t want to fuss with shipping returns can head to their Gap store. More multi channel retailers are doing that now, but Gap.com has allowed it from the very beginning.

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