Cellar Stories Redesign

Revamping an Outdated Website

A Bookshelf in Cellar Stories Storefront

The Problem

Cellar Stories is a popular used bookstore in Rhode Island that has been around for 30 years. The website is updated daily with new titles that customers might be interested in, however, the design hasn’t changed in years.

As a result, the website feels clustered and chaotic, a common thread amongst older websites without much information hierarchy.

There’s a whole online audience and new oppertunities waiting for small businesses like Cellar Stories. If they miss out, they will suffer from it.

Cellar Stories is one of many small businesses with online representation problems.

The Redesign: Visual

In the redesign, I sought out to create that missing information hierarchy and make the website more navigable, while still maintaining the initial charm.

Here is the visual design of a possible homepage:

Making simple navigational changes along with adding more of an emphasis on the books themselves gives clarity and makes it more user friendly.

The Redesign: Wireframes

I mocked up a few wireframe screens to better understand the navigation.

I focused more on users who might browse books instead of simply using the search or advanced search functions. To reach a larger audience, the website needs to be prepared for these different kinds of users.

User starts on Homepage
Browse Page When User Selects “Browse”
Information about Specific Book User Clicked on When on Browse Page
Shopping Cart Page After User Adds Book to Cart and Clicks on “Cart” icon

User Testing

I tested the wireframes in a Wizard of Oz test, a printed prototype user test (i.e. finger instead of mouse), with a few different users to see if the navigational logic made sense.

The testing was very successful. Users often clicked on images of books instead of buttons, making me believe the book cover-oriented design was working.

I later asked them about their use of online databases for libraries or bookstores. Many replied with something along the lines of “It’s been a long time…” However, they did talk about using Amazon and GoodReads, two user-oriented approaches to promoting/selling books online.

So there isn’t simply a lack of interest in ordering books online. Boring website designs for online databases aren’t successful because of just that:

They are boring.

Visual design and navigational clarity are crucial to get rid of that “boring-ness” and allow for a larger audience of online buyers.

Considering Responsiveness

Creating a website that is responsive to different screen sizes was also important in opening it up to a wider audience online. Here are annotated versions of what changes could be made to allow for that:


There are audiences online that go untouched by small businesses like Cellar Stories. It’s the boring design, the poor navigation, or the uninteresting databases that turn online shoppers away.

Buying books is exciting in person, why can’t it be exciting online?
Inside Cellar Stories Storefront

From this redesign experience, I’ve learned that there needs to be a creative lense put on sites like this to inspire modern shoppers. And that navigation and information clarity really matters to encourage users to revisit.