Art.com is a leading worldwide retail site that sells fine art prints and decorations. Their tagline is “Find your art. Love your space.” The website has numerous features that make discovering and buying art an engaging and fun experience, including a visual search tool and expert interior decorating tips.
I have a rich background in fine art and design, and I enjoy exploring and immersing myself in works of art. I noticed that Art.com was working on the next generation of their website, so I decided to brainstorm ideas for a product feature that I could create as a UX designer.
What’s missing on the current site?
One thing I love about viewing art with friends is comparing our unique reactions to it. It’s also rewarding when we experience a transformational moment together, inspired by the art. On Art.com, I can create my own personal gallery and share the images with my friends on Facebook, but somehow it feels like a lonely thing to do.
“I can create my own personal gallery and share the images with my friends on Facebook, but somehow it feels like a lonely thing to do.”
This lonely feeling led me to start brainstorming ways to make the experience more fun and social. I sketched and surfed the web and made notes and sketched some more. I had a rough idea of a new feature, and then I performed guerrilla user research on several art-loving peers to validate my assumptions and gain further insights. I created provisional personas to help me pinpoint the behaviors, needs and goals of users.
The idea and opportunity
The resulting idea: add a group gallery feature to the Art.com website so that people can select, discuss, and vote on art together, usually with the goal of making a final purchase. From a business perspective, the feature would expose new potential customers to Art.com — those who are invited to the group must sign up for an account in order to participate in the group. (It’s likely that many of the group members would not have joined the site on their own.)
“…people can select, discuss, and vote on art together, usually with the goal of making a final purchase.”
UX Design Process
Personas and use cases
Meet Kari, one of the personas. She is a 27-year-old marketer working at a startup with 15 other coworkers. They just moved into a new office space in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood, and the founders are open to everyone’s ideas about how to make the space more fun and beautiful. The lobby area has a large, open wall that Kari thinks would be the perfect spot for a painting. She would love for the team to choose the artwork together so that everyone feels a sense of shared ownership in making the office more beautiful.
Additional users with similar needs and goals include:
- Family members who wish to collaborate on choosing art to decorate their walls
- People in shared living situations, including college roommates, couples, and people who share apartments in densely-populated urban areas like New York City and San Francisco, who wish to purchase art together
- Groups of friends who want to combine funds to purchase a wedding or other gift for mutual friends
- Property management personnel who are charged with choosing or updating art for public areas of buildings
Starting with the high level design story—Kari can choose art with her coworkers for the lobby wall—I brainstormed and edited the sub-level stories to clarify what users can and cannot do with the new product feature. There are over 50 design stories in total. Below are a few examples.
Create a group gallery:
- Name it (optional)
- Add a description (optional)
Invite members to the group gallery:
- Enter email addresses
- Invite friends via Facebook
- Edit the default invite message
- View list of invited people
- Re-invite members
Finalize art selection(s):
- Choose final art piece(s)
- Edit a default message
- Send notification to all members
Vote on art in the group gallery:
- Vote up
- Vote down
- Change vote
On sketch paper, I mapped out the relevant, existing user flows on Art.com’s site, including those for choosing art and creating a gallery, to familiarize myself with entry points into the new flows. Next, I worked through and refined new flows based on the design stories. Then I focused on two key stories—create a group gallery and invite members to join—and created a polished flow in OmniGraffle.
User interface sketches
Combining my original UI sketch with the fleshed out design stories and task flows, I started working through the interface flows. At this point I researched design patterns and walked through similar flows on comparative sites.
I built wireframes in Omnigraffle and a clickable prototype using Marvel to bring the concept to life. Designing the interaction and interface details at this stage forced further refinement and careful integration with the website’s existing UI.
The final wireframe shows the group gallery once it is in use. Interface additions and adjustments have been made to the site’s current My Profile > Personal Gallery screen to optimize for the new feature. The header area includes settings for the group owner, which are not all visible to group members (group members can view the owner’s name and thumbnail image, and they can see the “View All Members” icon and link.)
The art selections are sorted in order of most votes to least votes, so members can quickly assess the top-voted pieces. The user’s profile image size has been reduced to improve the overall screen hierarchy by allowing the art to take center stage.
The new feature is complex and needs to be validated by further qualitative user research. My hunch is that it will prove to be an excellent opportunity to serve the desires of current and new users and to increase sales for Art.com.