I wear contacts most of the time but I still keep a pair of glasses around for scenarios like reading before bed, getting my hipster chic on, or situations where I need to appear smarter than I am. My current glasses are getting a bit mangled so I figured it was time for a replacement. This time instead of paying $300+ retail for a new pair of glasses from the likes of Lenscrafters, I’ve decided to purchase my glasses online from Zenni Optical to save a bit of money as well as satisfy my curiosity of how their offerings currently stack up against those of our Luxottica overlords.

Zenni Optical All Included

Zenni Optical All Included

Zenni Optical Website UX

Obviously the main problem for buying eyeglasses unseen is the issue of fit and looks. Zenni’s website has a cool little feature where it simulates a person’s face (you can upload your own passport-style photo) with the glass frames you are currently mousing over. While I ultimately didn’t upload my own photo, I did use the Zenni Frame Fit ® (Registered – that’s the sound of competitor tears dripping down competitor faces) with the various stock photos for a rough idea of what I was getting into. I figured since I don’t have a deformed head and I was primarily looking to use these glasses in the privacy of my own home, I could slack a bit on the Quest for the Perfect Glasses ™. Those of you who have a particularly ogre-ish head may want to apply a bit more rigor and go through the process of finding, cropping, and uploading you own mug-shot though.

The rest of the UX is rather ho-hum; usable but quite mediocre with some baffling elements. For example, from the main page if one clicks Men > Shop All Men’s Glasses, the categories are displayed as images so a user would have to mouse over each one to know what he/she is looking at. The filter options are also very limited:

Zenni Optical filter options on the Men > All Men's Glasses page

Limited filter options

On the other hand, if I choose Men > New Arrivals or Best Sellers, the filter options are much more robust and useful:

Zenni Optical Men > New filter options

Expanded filter options

One notable missing filter is recommendations by face shape.

The other biggest usability nit-pick is although you need a prescription to order, there’s no field in the check-out form that lets you upload a scanned prescription (pdf, jpg, etc). Instead, a customer service rep will email you sometime after your order is placed and request your Rx via attachment or fax. So basically for every order placed there is an additional mandatory roundtrip interaction with the customer, whereas if they simply accepted the scan as part of the check-out process, another roundtrip would only be necessary in case something went wrong (incorrect Rx, etc).
Amusing tangent: I initially sent the Zenni customer rep the wrong scan, having mixed up my prescription and a scan of old childhood photos. Included was a rather embarrassing shot of myself peeing on a tree (with full glory exposed). I’m probably on the FBI wanted list now.

Pricing

I wanted the lightest pair of glasses I could get so I ordered titanium frames. The price for Zenni Optical’s titanium frames range from $35.95 to $45.95 and as of this writing, there are 53 choices. By comparison Lenscrafters offers 34 frame styles and prices range between $139.95 and $300.00. While I’m sure Maui Jim or Oakley frames are of higher quality than the no-name “brand” offered by Zenni Optical, I’d bet a significant percentage of that premium has to do with brand perception rather than actual cost-basis.

The titanium frame I chose cost $39.95, the lens (1.59 Polycarbonate Single Vision) was $9.00, and the standard anti-reflective coating was $4.95. Shipping was $4.95 for a grand total of $58.85.

Zenni Optical glasses

Zenni Optical glasses

Zenni Optical glasses rear

Zenni Optical glasses rear

Conclusion

$58.85 vs $300+ is a no-brainer for me, especially considering my usage patterns. The glasses are very light and seem durable enough. I can’t find any flaw in the craftsmanship. For the price, these really can’t be beat.