One Week of UX Design in Paris

Three Americans help redesign tourism in the Parisian theatre market

In June of 2016, I landed in Paris to reimagine the user experience of a startup called Theatre in Paris. The service gives English speakers access to French theatre by projecting English subtitles above stages during live plays. I was joined by two marketing and growth strategists from the U.S., Angela Matthews and Timothy Masek, to uncover the potential of Parisian theatre for English Speakers.

Throughout the week, we user-tested the existing site, adjusted the business strategy, and conceptualized a new website to better explain the experience.

Process Overview

5 days

  1. Brand Research: Learning about the Theatre in Paris brand through data.
  2. Stakeholder Interviews: Understanding the stakeholder’s goals.
  3. Contextual Inquiry: Attending a Theatre in Paris show and analyzing the product.
  4. User Testing: Heading to the Louvre, one of the largest tourist sites in Paris, and finding native English speakers to test the existing site.
  5. Wireframing: Creating sketches through a design studio process and drafting up medium-fidelity wireframes.
  6. Next Steps: Our final recommendations for the brand and looking to the future.

Brand Research

We started the week with a series of presentations from the Theatre in Paris (TiP) staff, during which we learned about the goals of the stakeholders as well as customer demographics.

Company Background

The company was started by three Parisians who dreamed of giving English speakers an exclusive and authentic look into French theatre. I say “exclusive” because they are the only company focused on offering this service, and there are only a handful of seats reserved for English speakers during each show — the rest of the crowd is truly made up of French locals.


During the analytics readout, we learned helpful statistics about TiP’s user base and sales projections.

The majority of buyers are women, and the average age of buyers is about 43. Women in this age range spend about 3.5x longer on the website than other users (about 7 minutes total). This taught us that individuals in this demographic are particularly engaged with the site and interested in learning what TiP has to offer. It also suggested that we could help TiP reach more diverse demographics, since French theatre can be enjoyed by everyone.

We also discovered that tickets are typically bought 16–21 days in advance. From this, we could infer that customers often planned their trip well before they arrived in Paris.

In 2015, TiP had buyers from 43 countries, indicating that English speakers from all over the world are interested in the product. Therefore, marketing the product might not be as simple as just looking at the American market.

Our team white boarding the brand’s market and goals.

Stakeholder Interviews

As we got to know each member of the team (the founders, sales, marketers, and designers), clear stakeholder pain points started to emerge:

  1. It’s hard to compete with extremely well-known tourist experiences. When tourists visit Paris, the Eiffel Tower and the Moulin Rouge are at the top of the list — how do we get Theatre in Paris on the list of must-sees?
  2. Tourists come to Paris for a limited time. Because tourists are drawn more to the main attractions, they have less time to explore attractions “off the beaten path”.
  3. Who are our users? Paris is one of the most visited places in the world, and with a wide range of tourists coming to the city, almost anyone could be a potential user.

Contextual Inquiry

Contextual inquiry is the process of gathering qualitative information through immersion in an experience. So, on the evening of day two, we observed the Theatre in Paris product by attending an actual show.

Our goal was to get a better understanding of the value proposition and learn how it compares to other tourist experiences.

As “users” who had never seen a French play, we wrote down all of our thoughts about the evening. It was extremely important to note our opinions about the service both before and after experiencing it, since we would become biased as we learned more about it.

We were excited to get the full experience — be greeted by a TiP host, get a program in English, get a short tour of the venue, and be led to our seats.

Theatre in Paris delivered on its promises. The venue was a beautiful and historic landmark; we were truly in a crowd of 95% French locals, and our seats had just the right view of the subtitles.

We used these findings, paired with our user testing findings, to help guide the hierarchy of content for the new Theatre in Paris website.

User Testing

On day three, we made our way over to the Louvre and set up shop at Starbucks to user test the existing TiP website.

Heading into the Louvre.

We chose Starbucks for three reasons:

  1. It’s housed in the Louvre, meaning the foot traffic would be primarily made up of international tourists.
  2. It has the potential to draw more English speaking customers since it’s an American brand.
  3. People who are sitting down are less likely to be in a rush and more likely to have time to help us.

To incentivize people, we offered a Starbucks gift card in exchange for their help. We requested permission to record the computer screen and audio while they were browsing through the website.

Our team setting up at Starbucks.
Starbucks inside the Louvre in Paris.

After interviewing three different pairs of people from all over the world, we learned not only about the confusing areas of the website, but also about how they planned their time in Paris.

Our user interviews were based on the following questions:

Part Un

Give me your impressions of the homepage.

What do you think this service does?

Part Deux

Purchase a ticket for and your friend for this weekend.

What do you think is included in the service?

In what language will the show be?

Part Trois

What do you have planned while you’re in Paris?

How did you make those plans?

Describe any positive or negative experiences you’ve had as a tourist in Paris.

User Testing Findings:

  1. Based on the current messaging, users thought that the product was a French play that was performed in English.
  2. The website was too focused on the technology of the subtitles, leaving users wondering what their evening would entail.
“What am I actually getting for my ticket?”
— User 2

3. Users had the false impression that there was only one venue.

4. The benefits of the TiP experience were lost in dense text.

General pain points for tourists in Paris:

  1. I can’t find non-­touristy things.
  2. Is a new experience worth my time?
  3. I have too many options to choose from.
  4. I feel anxious in new territory (Language + Culture).
  5. I feel like I don’t fit in.
  6. Is this tourist attraction a trap?
Presenting our user testing findings to the TiP staff.

We presented our data to the stakeholders to help them learn what’s working and what’s not on the current website, and explained some of the fears and anxieties of English speaking tourists in Paris. It’s incredibly important that the brand understand its users in a deeper context; this way, TiP can frame the experience on its website in a way that relaxes and gives confidence to potential customers.

In addition to user testing, I presented a heuristic analysis of the current website. Here, I studied every screen on the website and gave an informal evaluation of my first impressions. You can see the example below:

Quick and dirty first impressions of the current homepage.


Design Studio

After presenting our user testing findings and a heuristic analysis, I sat down with Romain, cofounder and designer of the website, and Ellen, a marketing intern, for a design studio session. Knowing what we needed to improve, each of us separately designed our ideas for the homepage in time-boxed sprints. Afterwards, we shared our designs and gave feedback.

Sketches from our design studio session.

Once we had gone through several iterations, I combined the best ideas from all of our sketches and created medium-fidelity wireframes. I took these back to my team and consulted on the copy — we wanted to simplify the way the experience was described and remove any confusion we saw during user testing. We gave a few options for the headline, and suggested an exciting gif of the TiP experience to appear right when you enter the site. Below you can see a side by side comparison of the current website and our proposal:

Current and proposed homepage.
Current and proposed play descriptions.

Next Steps

On our final day, we condensed our findings and gave a presentation to the staff at TiP. We wanted to touch on all the stakeholder goals that were given to us at the beginning of the week, as well as reveal the wireframes to the team.

Presenting wireframes for the new proposed website on the final day.
Since our time with TiP was only 5 days long, we aimed to equip the team with clear results that they could build on moving forward.

In addition to a research report, wireframes, and marketing suggestions, we delivered a list of selling points that the TiP brand should focus on, in order of importance to their customers:

  1. We’ve created an awesome experience.
    French Theatre is the best activity to do in Paris.
  2. We give you exclusive access.
    We are the only place that offers English subtitles enabling you to experience French theatre.
  3. We make our guests comfortable.
    We have an English speaking guest that greets you at every show.
  4. We take you undercover.
    We’ll walk you inside the theatre and seat you among the Parisian crowd to experience the play like everybody else.
  5. We have the most popular French shows.
    The shows we provide are some of the most iconic in French theatre.
  6. We have the best translators and technology.
    Our technology enables you to view subtitles above a live play, translating from French into English. The translation work is composed by fluent French-English Theatre thought-leaders ensuring that every single French wink gets across.

The next steps for TiP are to continue designing out the website and convey the best and clearest version of their product to tourists in Paris.