Enhancing the usefulness and relevance of POPULAR Online

General Assembly UXDI Project 4

For the 4th project of the General Assembly UXDI course, we were tasked to pitch our redesign of the Popular Online website to a “client”.

The requirements for this project are a responsive website prototype, hi-fi mock-ups of key pages, a usability testing report and a project plan. Other than that, we were free to determine what we wanted to showcase during the pitch.

Our pitch was split into five parts (which will be covered in further detail below):

  1. Landscape review
  2. Evaluation of the existing website
  3. User personas and customer journey map
  4. Our proposal
  5. Next steps

Landscape review

We first did a landscape review of the online/ offline bookstore industry to determine where POPULAR stand against international (e.g. Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes & Noble) and regional competitors (e.g. MPH Online, Kinokuniya, Open Trolley).

While POPULAR may not offer an extensive range of book titles as compared to its competitors or promise free/ fast delivery, its extensive network of retail stores in Singapore makes it easily accessible. Moreover, it stocks a wide range of Children’s, Chinese and Assessment books.

Comparing POPULAR’s unique selling points against that of its competitors

We also found that POPULAR Online’s online traffic (from Singapore) generally fared better than that of it’s regional competitors.

POPULAR Online’s online traffic relative to its competitors

In addition, we did a survey to investigate the nature of POPULAR Online’s traffic. We found that out of those who have purchased books online, almost all buy them from either Book Depository or Amazon. Moreover, only 26% are aware that they can purchase books from POPULAR Online and no one has purchased books from POPULAR Online before.

So why are people not purchasing books from POPULAR Online? We have two hypotheses:

  1. It is difficult to navigate the website to search for and discover books
  2. Irrelevance of POPULAR Online given its large retail network (making buying in-store convenient) and consumers preferring to buy from international online bookstores which offer a larger range of books

Evaluation of the existing website

To investigate whether it is difficult to navigate the website to search for and discover books, we performed usability tests of the existing website.

Users were given five tasks to perform using the website:

  1. Find an English assessment book for 11–12 years old
  2. Find a Mathematics study guide for the SATS Examination
  3. Find a children’s book for ages 3–5 years old
  4. Find out the participating merchants that offer discounts & privileges for Popular Card members
  5. Pre-order the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them book from the website

We recorded the Single Ease Question (SEQ) score and average time taken for each task and computed the (System Usability Scale) SUS to determine the performance of the website.

Usability tests results

We found that users generally had no major difficulties performing tasks 2, 3, 4 and 5 using the website. Users, however, found it difficult to complete task 1 as there was no clear category for assessment books/ textbooks. Moreover, even if users managed to navigate to the relevant category, the books could not be sorted by age group, education level and subject making it difficult to find an assessment book for a specific age group and subject.

We also noticed a couple of issues that could be addressed to improve the navigation flow of the website:

  • There is no clear category for test preparation books making it difficult for some users to source for the Mathematics study guide
  • The use of similar terms “Children’s Books” (on the global navigation) and “Children & Young Adult” (on the side navigation) may cause confusion
Use of similar terms — “Children & Young Adult” and “Children’s Books” — may cause confusion
  • Useful categorisation of books (i.e. by age group) of children’s books is located at the bottom of the page making it difficult to spot
Useful categorisation (e.g. by Age) of books are located at the bottom of the page
  • The images of some products are missing and book titles may not be displayed in full in the product listing page making it difficult for some users to discover and source for books
Missing images and incomplete titles
  • The only way to access the full list of book categories is by going back to the home page rather than from the global navigation bar
  • Books may be poorly categorised — for instance, books relating to teaching and pedagogy are found in “Children & Young Adult”

With that, we concluded that there was certainly scope to improve the navigation flow of the website to enhance book searching and discoverability.

Meet Jessica!

In order to determine whether POPULAR Online is relevant, we need to first understand who POPULAR’s key customers are and where/ how POPULAR Online fits into their customer journey.

Through interviews with our friends who frequent POPULAR as well as with people we met outside the POPULAR store, we uncovered a user persona who we believe is one of POPULAR’s key customers.

Introducing Jessica…

Jessica is one of POPULAR’s key customers

And this is a journey that she typically takes…

Jessica’s typical journey

Notice that POPULAR Online does not feature at all in Jessica’s customer journey. This is because, POPULAR’s large retail network makes buying in-store convenient and Jessica would much rather visit a nearby store than pay for shipping and wait for the long delivery time.

How then can we enhance the relevance of POPULAR Online given the convenience of buying in-store?

Our redesign

Improving book searching & discoverability on POPULAR Online

In order to enhance book searching and discoverability on POPULAR Online, we felt that it would be necessary to develop a refreshed information architecture (IA) for the website. However given the scope of the project (it’s a pitch!) and the limited time, we decided to deprioritise the IA development and chose instead to redesign the website based on our initial evaluation of the existing website and of competitors’ websites.

Firstly, we wanted to provide clear and familiar book categories that are aligned with the way books are sorted in-store. This is because we found that people who visited POPULAR online are likely to be frequent shoppers at the POPULAR store and are familiar with the way POPULAR categorises their books in-store. Standardising the way POPULAR categorises books in-store and on POPULAR Online will therefore make it easier for users to navigate POPULAR Online.

During our visits to the POPULAR store, we found that POPULAR sorts their books broadly into 1) Text & Assessment (which is further segmented by education level) 2) Children’s Books (which is further segmented into types of books and age groups) 3) English Books (which is further segmented into non-fiction, adult fiction, young adult fiction followed by genre/ topic) and 4) Chinese Books

In our initial prototype of our redesign, we created the categories — Text & Assessment”, “Children’s Books”, “Adult Fiction”, “Young Adult Fiction” and “More Categories” (for non-fiction books) — to mirror how POPULAR categorises their books in store.

At the store and on our initial prototype, pre-school practice books can be found under the “Text & Assessment” section. We wanted to test this further as we thought that some users might expect to find pre-school practice books under “Children’s Books”. However, we found that all our users had no issues finding them under “Text & Assessment”.

We then proceeded to build the hi-fi prototype and asked users to find a practice book for a 5-year old child. However, this time, we found that most expected to find pre-school practice books under “Children’s books”.

In our final iteration, we decided to place such books under “Children’s Books” > “Early Learning (0–6)” recognising that more user testing will be required to determine whether pre-school practice books should be placed under “Children’s Books”.

Final iteration with pre-school practice books grouped under “Children’s Books” > “Early Learning (0–6)”

Secondly, we introduced relevant filters (e.g. by age group, subject) for each book type (e.g. Text & Assessment) to help users easily source for and compare books for a specific age group and/or subject.

Users are given options to filter books by age group, subject, availability and keyword for pre-school practice books

We also introduced a “Customers who bought this also bought” section in the Product page to enhance book discoverability.

And created a “Look Inside” feature that helps users to browse through a book so that they can make more informed decisions.

“Look Inside” feature that helps users to browse through selected pages within a book

Enhancing the relevance of POPULAR Online for Jessica

As seen earlier, POPULAR Online does not currently feature at all in Jessica’s journey. However, we feel that there are many ways in which POPULAR Online can make Jessica’s journey more delightful through better online-offline integration.

This is how we think POPULAR Online can be incorporated into Jessica’s journey:

Jessica can now search for, check availability and purchase/ reserve books online without needing to go down to the store or talk to a shop assistant

As shown in Jessica’s new customer journey map, our redesign allows Jessica to search for and browse through sample pages of the book to determine its suitability without having to go down to the store.

Moreover, using the “Find in store” feature, Jessica can check whether the book is available at the nearby store and thus avoid making wasted trips. Once she has found a suitable book, she can choose to reserve/ purchase it and have it delivered to the store of her choice.

User flow for searching, checking availability and reserving a book on POPULAR Online (desktop view)

Once Jessica has reserved the book, her primary goal of collecting and purchasing the book in-store can be achieved quickly. This leaves her more time (and in a better mood) to shop at the POPULAR store with her kids which in turn increases her propensity to spend on other items.

Now, suppose that Jessica receives a call from her husband to purchase the “Think and Grow Rich” book while she is at the store. Using the mobile site, she can easily check whether the book is available at the store and where it can be found. If the book isn’t available, she can choose to purchase it on her mobile and request to collect it in-store or have it delivered to her house.

While at the store, Jessica can easily purchase the book (on her mobile) that her husband wants if it is not available in the store

As illustrated, our redesign of the website coupled with improved online-offline integration aims to enhance the relevance of POPULAR Online and to create a seamless omni-channel experience for Jessica.

Next steps

To recap, our redesign aims to improve the navigation flow of POPULAR Online and to provide a seamless omni-channel experience for consumers through better online-offline integration.

If we were to take this project further, we hope to conduct more user interviews to uncover more user personas and understand what their needs are. We will also need to conduct a full content audit and inventory (both online and offline) and build a refreshed information architecture to improve the navigation flow of POPULAR Online. In addition, to enhance it’s relevance, we will need to develop a content strategy and a new service blueprint that enables the various services mentioned above.

We also hope to explore other the feasibility and desirability of other ideas:

  1. Installing in-store tablets to help users locate books in the store, check availability of books and make purchases/ reservations
  2. Incorporating gamification elements in the loyalty program for improved engagement with POPULAR members
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