Designing an online haute couture rental service
My penultimate project within the General Assembly’s UX Design Immersion course was the first project tackling a presumably real life situation, i.e. developing a complementary product offering for a client which would deliver an incremental increase in its revenues.
Together with two fellow students, I explored the possibility of introducing and developing a “Clothing Rent Service” for ASOS, the UK based, leading online fashion retailer.
The proposal shall:
1. Research and analyze the clothing rental services currently available
2. Develop solutions to enhance the user experience in fashion clothing rental through ASOS’ website
Young people are frequently called “NOwners” relying on sharing and renting to fill their wardrobes. Currently, ASOS targets the low to medium client segment as evident from their product scope and pricing.
In our proposal, ASOS would introduce High Fashion products as a rental service only given that typical ASOS customers do not have the financial resources or are not willing to pay for example $3,000 for a Moschino McDonald’s collection jacket.
We decided to name the new service ASOS Rent Corner.
Discovery & research
Have defined the opportunity set, we entered the time consuming but essential discovery and research phase.
Feature comparative analysis
We analyzed existing features and services currently available at ASOS and developed a comparative analysis of five companies which are already active in the fashion rental business, i.e. Rent frock repeat, Dream Wardrobe, Girl Meets Dress, Rent the runway and Bag Borrow or Steal.
- Tracking email is sent to a customer
- Return shipping is free across all competitors
- Renting period ranges from two days up to a maximum of one month (however, we found in our later stage usability tests that users typically may not wish to hold on to an item for so long)
Major Design implications:
- Rental period restricted to 4 or 8 days
- Include filters enabling sorting by size, colour etc.
- Tracking email and free return shipping to be included
- Live Chat functionality
Furthermore, our in depth competitor analysis revealed that Rent the runway and Rent frock repeat matched most closely our planned product offering as they offered a comprehensive product offering including gowns and accessories. Therefore, we decided to focus our more detailed analysis on these two competitors.
In order to gain a better understanding of the process involving renting a dress with our main competitors, we conducted a task flow analysis starting from the initial search for a dress to the selection until the successful payment of the rent.
Researching technical constraints
ASOS Rent Corner is a mobile responsive website. Based on our Screener surveys, more than half our respondents used the desktop version and yet wished the website to be mobile responsive such that they could navigate on-the-go. As a result, we chose to develop all wireframes and mock-ups for website as well as mobile.
Our website platform shall meet our user needs of:
- access relevant and detailed information
- appropriate and appealing visualisation of the clothes
ASOS Rent Corner’s content is managed by the ASOS team and housed on a content management system (CMS). As ASOS Rent Corner requires content from outside sources, e.g. in order to facilitate PayPal, credit card payments, there are APIs and other third party services required at this point in time.
The standards icons used in our website design are easily recognizable for most people who have frequented e commerce websites in the past. Whenever possible, we tried not to deviate too much from icons used on the existing ASOS webpages representing cart, likes, etc. in order to offer a fully integrated solution to the current clients of ASOS.
An online Screener survey was carried out such that relevant candidates for meet-up interviews who currently buy/rent clothes online could be identified as is shown below:
The survey results can be summarized as follows:
The Screener survey indeed helped us identifying a number candidates for interviews. However, prior to commencing the interviews we defined the main open points and questions we would like to get answers on in order to maximize the effectiveness of the interviews, i.e.
1. Finding out ways people buy or rent clothes online today.
2. To validate whether renting clothes is a valuable revenue generating feature for ASOS.
3. Which products are the most appealing ones for the rental option.
4. To explore the different rent option services users are willing to pay for and the whole experience process.
These were the key takeaways from the interviews:
We proceeded with an affinity mapping exercise to identify trends among the most important points our interviewees had mentioned. After sorting the findings based on, pains (red), pleasures (green), context (purple) and behaviors (yellow) we were able to identify common themes among our interviewees:
With the results from our affinity mapping in mind we were able to develop three problem statements which occurred to be key for our interviewees:
1. When users shop and rent online, they want the experience to be hassle-free and informative before making a decision to purchase or rent so that they would not have to worry about receiving a faulty item.
Takeaway: Rent Process has to be smooth and informative.
2. When users rent items, it is for special occasions mostly as they would not need to spend too much money on an item that they would only wear occasionally otherwise.
Takeaway: Categorize products by Occasion.
3. Users don’t rent garments because of hygienic concerns.
Takeaway: Tackle on hygiene issues.
Using the three problems statements and all of the findings from our research, we developed three personas. These personas would help us to understand the users’ problems and which features our service should have going forward.
We started out by asking our personas to navigate the competitors’ websites and probed them along the way to get a better understanding of their thoughts and behaviors including their pains and pleasures when attempting to find, select and rent a dress. Below you find the journey map of one of the personas, Christina:
We continued by developing a storyboard in order to further support the design process. Our storyboard describes Christina receiving an invitation to attend a Gala dinner. She realizes that she doesn’t have suitable dress to wear and hence visits ASOS Rent Corner in order to find and rent a suitable dress.
We decided to incorporate a number of innovative features in our design that could address the problem statements, minimise pain points and to emphasise pleasure points throughout the journey map, i.e.
- Calendar availability: only available products are shown in order to avoid frustration (example of one of the outcomes from our journey map).
- Size helper: Measurement of the gown.
- Occasions: Product categorisation by occasions instead of by type (addresses problem statement 2).
- Cleaning History (addresses problem statement 3).
- Damage check: Fair and Transparent Items Damage Check process (addresses problem statement 3).
- Item reviews: pictures and comments of previous customers to help personas decide on style, size and looks for ‘normal’ body types.
We discarded the initially envisaged feature Item suggestion after consultation with a developer due to high effort implementation. Complimentary size, receiving the same dress in various sizes free of charge, was assigned a relatively low importance for our personas and also discarded.
The above mentioned features were used to sketch a first paper prototype for user testing on paper.
Prototype 1 addressed the three problem statements mentioned earlier by:
1. Help icon with most important information is visible at all times and on all sites.
2. Categorization of items by occasion.
3. Important cleaning information is available throughout via Help icon.
Wireframing and Usability Testing
We tested our prototype with several people in order to understand better what works and what doesn’t through our medium-fidelity wireframes. Based on the user feedback that we collected, we made changes to the prototype and created a version 2.
Task flow and more iterations
Through out the usability test we were encouraged to also modify the task flow. For example, in our first prototype we asked the users to sign in before selecting an item (as some of our competitors do).
However, the testers’ feedback was negative (“why should I sign in before knowing what the service is about or what is in the catalog?). Therefore, we moved this step further down the line. A sign in prompt will only be shown before the payment.
In another instance, the item availability required a change in the task flow. Initially, we did not ask the users to select a rental date prior to selecting an occasion. This turned out to be the source of significant frustration, if after having found a dress, the specific dress would not be available on that day. As a result, we decided to prompt a date selection step at an early stage, thereby, improving the search experience and search time greatly.
Despite our added functionality relative to our two main competitors, the number of actions and pages necessary is relatively low.
Wireframes for Mobile responsive website
The task flow can be effectively illustrated by looking at the below blueprint for the mobile responsive website. The red dots denote the various actions required, i.e.
- Homepage — choose an occasion
- Calendar — prompt to determine rental period
- Results — select dress out of available set of dresses
- Product page — learn about key details on selection including review and add to cart
- Cart — summary of pricing
- Sign in — possibility of use already existing profile information
- Check out — complete delivery and payment information if required and execute rental
Interactive high-fidelity prototype
The next step was moving from the iterated wireframes to a high fidelity prototype which you can access here.
Usability tests on High-Fidelity prototype
The interactive, high fidelity prototype allowed us to incorporate the Damage Check and test it with users.
Implementing our design solution for ASOS Rent Corner would allow ASOS to tap into a new market. Although, a number of competitors already exist, leveraging on its existing customer base should be relatively easy for ASOS. I believe that our product and service offering addresses the main concerns raised during the initial interviews conducted and by our personas. The usability testing showed that our high fidelity design solution and task flow is stable and an improvement relative to our competitors’ offering. Again, thorough research and extensive usability testing with low fidelity prototypes were essential in developing a user-cantered product.
Apart from more prolonged usability testing, we believe that relevant next steps could be:
- Development of clickable prototype for the mobile responsive website for enhanced testing
- Testing of a delivery tracking feature
- Detailed estimation of implementation cost and timeframe vs. expected revenue