UX Case Study — ‘All That Glitters’ online Party Shop

MY ROLES: Researcher, flow-designer, prototype-designer, illustrator

Overview

When I say “online shopping”, you probably think of clothes, books, takeaway food… even actual shopping (you know, carrots and stuff). But what about a pirate hat? Or a ton of bunting? How about 12 animal masks? These are total one offs that you may buy once in a lifetime but are make-or-break elements for throwing a party, so it’s no surprise people get stressed looking for this stuff online; That’s where we began.

The idea behind this concept project was a two-week design sprint to build a smooth and engaging User Experience for a fictional party shop called All That Glitters.

Our team of 5 was initially given a brief, personas and a set of scenarios. The final product was a mid-fidelity, clickable prototype. We realised that having an overall idea of the site was important, but so was nailing one or two areas in-depth.

Challenges

We defined some initial challenges, most of which can be cited as:

  • The quest for an intuitive user flow with findable product categories — visitors are likely to be seeing the site for the first time (they would later reinforce this by telling us that they hunt for particular things, not sites).
  • Clear orientation as many users will land on a product or category page, courtesy of Google.
  • Fulfilling the brief: maintain the small shop feel and express a strong customer service element, both of which were important to the client.

Process

We would research by way of user interviews, contextual inquiry, card-sorting and usability tests on 3 prototypes by the end of the project. But let’s start at the beginning.

User interviews raised some very interesting initial patterns:

  • There is anxiety about the perceived illegitimacy of smaller online shops compared to Amazon.
  • Inspiration and shopping are the same process, according to users — they look online at images and want to buy that exact product which inspired them.
  • Online is perceived as the cheap alternative (no surprises there, but still good to keep in mind)

We realised that while useful, these and the brief did not provide enough direction to begin sculpting a User Experience. From the materials provided, we then identified a primary persona, “Dean”, with a problem we could go about solving: He is throwing his daughter a birthday party but has no idea what he is doing.

Information Architecture

So with some initial user pain points, a user and a problem in hand, we began scouting the territory — how best to structure the content on our site. Based on competitive analysis and some user research in the form of card sorts, we learnt that “Party Bag” is a great capture-all term for small items at children’s parties. Useful also was the emergence of certain large categories which users found their way to intuitively, like “tableware”.

We performed 2 open card sorts from users, building on the results to lay out a set of categories which we then tested with a closed card sort. From this, we developed our information architecture.

Prototyping

So we began building prototypes with the aim being to test the content hierarchies from the previous test and craft a user flow that was intuitive, while making the features apparent and smooth. We had not forgotten about Dean, but we needed to have a site to begin with. As you can probably tell, surface design was not top of our list of priorities at this point.

By now we had been thinking about this stuff for a week and this was our first opportunity to present a user with something we had created, so obviously we were pretty excited to harvest some data. From these basic paper prototypes we prioritised several lessons moving on:

  • Large dropdown menus from the main navigation are overwhelming and not appreciated by first-time site visitors.
  • Users do not consider search bars an option for use on smaller sites.
  • Inspiration features are not massively appreciated or expected.
  • Surprisingly, users seemed to want more filtration layers within categories to narrow the final browsing list they ended up with.
  • The last narrowing element for users was to hit “sort by price”.

But after grabbing such valuable data, the first thing on our minds was to continue sculpting: Implementing these findings into some rough wireframes and a low-fidelity, clickable prototype was next:

We tested these with 5 users, who reported that the flow was intuitive and easy (good to know we were barking up the right tree at this point) but some useful ‘could be better’ points were that:

  • Large “related items” categories and carousels of sale items or images at the tops of pages were not appreciated and considered intrusive.
  • People were not fussed about membership.
  • Delivery options were too small/not visible enough. Users even reported wanting to see selectable delivery options on the product page.

These lessons were super handy and the theme we identified running through all the testing sessions was that clarity and minimal clutter were highly valued qualities for a smooth User Experience. Relating back to Dean and his stressed-out party planning experience, this all seemed particularly relevant.

Solution

So at the point we have the skeleton of a usable site, a ton of user insights and only a few days to go till the deadline. We took all the lessons from the last 10 days and designed an ideal user-flow for Dean which we would use to inform the site. He hates stress. He is not time-rich. We know that users dislike a bloated website with needless features. So we concentrated on one, “packages”, and kept everything else as simple as possible (but no simpler).

Results

Our approach to this whole problem was to demonstrate that planning a party can be made easy by an online site. Considering Dean’s experience, our intention was that he deftly navigate through an easy-on-the-eye, stripped back route to obtaining a party package that was tailored to his daughter’s requirements. Our thinking was that one avenue to gather all the materials in 5 clicks or less would be a highly-valued and memorable UX, particularly as competitors package sections appear bloated and complicated for the most part. We kept an eye on the brief throughout, which manifests in the form of an “us” section to relate the local heritage of the shop. Contact and customer service options are present, but we tried to strike the balance between “present” and “in your face”. Here’s how our’s turned out:

Takeaways

I learnt during this process that testing what you have at every stage of the way is the key to progress. If I had more time, I would certainly have performed more usability tests on the prototypes and dug a little deeper into what my test subjects were thinking. Many surprising insights were revealed in 2 weeks, which I’m sure will stay with me for much longer, so I expect to always be surprised by users and their behaviours. My team was great — we communicated and figured it out and even though we were total strangers on day 1, I would certainly go back into the fray with any and all of them!

If you like what you see, please feel free to drop me a line at any time:
NickBlack321@gmail.com