Extreme Sport E-commerce: a UX Case Study

Some background

Hardcore Hobbies is a small extreme sports shop started by a local BMX rider who turned his passion into a business. Since it’s creation the store has become the cornerstone of the local extreme sports scene.

In-store business has been going steady for some time, but to achieve greater success Hardcore Hobbies needed to reach a broader audience through online shopping. Their website was built around 10 years ago and has not been kept up to date causing them to rank poorly in search results.

My friend Nick and myself wanted to learn a little more about Search Engine Optimization and Web Analytics and thought that the Hardcore Hobbies website would be a great opportunity for us to use as a test case. Nick knew the staff in store personally through shopping and so we approached them and asked if we could use their website as a test to learn more about analytics and in return share our findings with them.

Our goals

The most obvious problem that we were aware of was low page ranking in search results. At best some products on the website would appear on page 3 of the results, others would be even further.

Some objectives we set for our study were:

  • Review and identify any issues through analytics and user studies
  • Discover the search patterns of customers and ensure it accurately matches the item description on the website
  • Increase the conversion rate by improving the site structure and content grouping
  • Improve the customer journey from looking for an item to purchasing it
  • Personal development

Reviewing analytics

In order to improve the conversion rate, we first had to understand the customer’s behavior on the website. We wanted to learn how people use the website, where they come from, how much time they spend, what their search patterns look like and how many times they achieved the goal of successfully completing a purchase.

We did a comprehensive analysis of the data from the last 2 years, provided from Google Analytics dashboard.

Sessions

Page view and pages per session enabled us to learn about customer visits (peak times per year and if it matched the physical in-store visits), how much time each visitor to the website spent per session and how many pages they browsed. The data proved that the website visits matched the in-store visits and there was no issue. The number of page views seemed to match the flow from picking the item to getting to the checkout.

Bounce rate

Helped us to understand what percentage of people left the website without a single interaction, suggesting that the content they found was not relevant to what they were looking for.

Goal completion

Gave us an indication on how well the website performed as an e-commerce platform. The data showed that there was a significant issue with the checkout procedure, with over 88% of visitors that were trying to make purchases dropping out at the very first step. We were unsure why and decided to create a user study to investigate the issue. In addition, we hoped to learn more about user behavior on the website as a whole by asking users to perform a series typical shopping tasks.

While I was reviewing analytics, Nick analysed the site through the Google Search Console to see how google viewed the site and to identify any problems that could cause poor indexing. In general, there were a lot of duplicate page titles and meta descriptions through poor site management. To us this was a win, we had identified an opportunity to improve and optimise the website for better ranking. As a possible solution, we developed an easy to follow page title and meta description template for the shop staff to follow when creating new pages. Our hope was to improve SEO by cleaning out all of the page title and description duplicates across the site and make them more meaningful to users.

In store user study

To encourage customers to participate in our study Hardcore Hobbies offered all participants a discount on all items in store if they would make the purchase through the website allowing us to study the session and ask questions.

Through our study we were hoping to answer the following questions:

  • Why and where users were dropping out while trying to make a purchase?
  • How easy can users find what they are looking for?
  • Did users face any frustrations while using the site?

We asked users to shop in their natural way using the device that they would normally use. This way we could gain a more accurate insight into how a customer would naturally shop without the problem of having to deal with an unfamiliar piece of technology.

Based on our notes we felt that we had a good idea of why dropouts were happening and could see that the site could do with some basic improvements.

The insights we gained were

  • After adding an item to the basket people struggled to find the checkout
  • When searching for a product customers had to make their way through a lot of pages
  • The cookies message was oversized and very distracting, especially on mobile

Nick prepared wireframes for the updated checkout procedures, while I got busy reviewing some competitors websites. My ideas was to identify some standard site architecture and navigation patterns that we could propose for the Hardcore Hobbies website.

Based on my findings I took the best parts of each site’s structure and used these as reference to create a basic structure that could be applied using the hardcore hobbies content.

Conclusion

To conclude the project, we presented our ideas a set of UX deliverables that the staff and web developer could apply in easy logical steps, ranging from highest priority to lowest.

For both Nick and myself, this project was a great opportunity to find out more about SEO and Web Analytics. The key things that this project allowed us to improve on was

  • Gain a better understanding of how to review and apply analytics
  • Use some of the freely available tools like the Google Search Console and the Google Analytics Dashboard
  • Plan and run user studies
  • Take all of the insights gained and turn them into UX deliverables
  • Present these deliverables to project stakeholders

We will revisit Hardcore Hobbies in 6 months to check if the changes we suggested were applied and if so what impact our work has made.

For now, thank you for reading my very first article. Please leave any feedback, the good, the bad and the ugly…

Thanks again, live long and prosper and may the force be with you!