What Can a Man Learn from Purchasing a Purse?

As part of my transition from graphic designer to user experience (UX) designer in the UXDi program at General Assembly, I recently created a microsite for Lou Lou Boutique, an accessories retailer in Atlanta, Georgia. The choice of the boutique was unique because I’ve rarely set foot in one, let alone one focused on accesories. I knew little to none of how women purchased accessories during their shopping experiences.

I started the process by visiting Lou Lou. I found the store to be well organized with its product offerings (jewelry, scarves, bags, etc..) grouped by color, type and name. The sales persons were nice and greeted me as if I would be the one to spread the gospel of accessories to other men. Melanie, a buyer for the store, shared valuable insight for my competitive analysis. The boutique purchases trendy inventory, frequently in small shipments. She stated the average customer purchase for the store was normally in the $19–35 range. She revealed the boutique was often viewed as a desitination because of its location at Ponce City Market. Claires and Francescas would be considered poplar competitors in the online space. Their customers normally purchased items for themselves or other women in their lives, thus a 19–65 year old demographic. Accessory shopping is actually an experience in and of itself for many women. Often, as many as three generations visit the store together as a shared experience. Lou Lou gift cards and web site provide a continued user experience for its shoppers.

Open sort testing result with a prospective user group.

While visiting the boutique, I selected handbags as the focus of my microsite, since their presence were highlighted in the store. I visited the boutique’s current web site to research the company and download 75–100 product photos for developing the microsite’s navigation and information architectue. I printed contact sheets of the images and cut out the individual bag images to do an open sort with prospective users. During the sorting, clutches; normally longer and slender grab bags were confused with wallets, identified mostly when opened by sorted credit card slots and money holders (solution: a photo of all bag in context or opened on the website). Crossbodies were identified by their long shoulder straps while handbags and totes were identified by shorter more durable handles. Satchels had buckles and straps while backpacks were just that, bags worn on their back. After reviewing the gifter persona: “I know what they want - I just have to find it,” targeted user’s pain points; overwhelmed by choice, finding unfamiliar products and indistinct product categories, I merged totes and satchels together with handbags to do closed sort testing. The sorting tests helped to develop a more simplified main navigation. I added “new arrivals, gifts and sales” to the navigation to support user discovery.

After deciding on the navigation, I began to interview women in my life to understand the process of selecting a bag, shopping experiences instore and online. Color, utility, type and price tended to be the main driving forces in selecting bags and would need to be present in the online shopping experience.

I visited Claires, Francesca’s, Charming Charlie, Nike, Gilt, and Amazon web sites to see how their sorting and checkout features worked. I sketched and took screenshots of features I liked from those sites. I included them or redesigned some features in initial wireframes of the Lou Lou microsite.

In developing a gifter’s user flow (purchasing experience), the user needed the option to select bags by color or assumed type. The user wanted the option to ask for help. I added live chat, phone and email options to my wireframes.

User Flow (purchasing experience) from home screen through purchasing a bag on Lou Lou Boutique microsite.

Selecting a product is just a part of an online experience. Checking out and paying for an item should be as equally as enjoyable. Users like to be alerted when an item has been placed in their shopping cart. Users prefer to see the item visually as an image in their shopping cart, not just listed or numerically in a box or list. They liked options to review cart and continue shopping throughout the shopping experience.

During usabilty testing, one user wanted an option to shop as a guest versus being forced to become a registered customer or reward member. Another expressed a problem with the order of the items listed in the shopping cart. Users expressed the pain of having to reenter previously entered content during checkout. I gained more valuable insight from actually testing the targeted demographics and sales persons who assist customers instore than I gain reading online articles and company websites.

Developing modest wireframes and getting feedback from actual users help UX designers unfamiliar with a product or category gain more valuable insight before presenting high fidelity wireframes or prototypes to clients.

View Lou Lou Boutique microsite for handbags at http://t1xygy.axshare.com

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