NYC Design
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NYC Design

Redesigning The Target Site — The IA of Tar-jay

Why don’t vampires ever get into User Experience Design?

Too many stakeholders.

Maybe also the emotional instability.

The stakes were high for our third project in the User Experience Design Immersive at General Assembly New York, as our cohort approached the problem of redesigning an existing site with a focus on information architecture and responsive design.

For the first half of the project, we were split into teams of four. Our team’s client was Target and we were tasked with a redesign of their desktop and mobile sites. There is a lot of information on the internet about Target’s business model and their breakdown of sales, so we used this information, in addition to our own analyses and testing, to determine the best place to start. — Current desktop site

We found that the Target mobile and desktop websites are generally robust, easily navigable, and functional, though there are some growth opportunities that could be explored to increase the usefulness and credibility of the site.

An example of in-store informational architecture

We used contextual inquiries to evaluate the reasons why consumers choose to shop at Target’s physical store locations over other stores. Contextual inquiry is a form of analysis in which the researcher watches a shopper’s behavior and asks occasional questions to illuminate their motivation for that behavior.

Our team found that shoppers love the clean and open aesthetic of the stores, a look that is replicated on the online site and mobile app. They also appreciate the availability and capability of the employees, and the range of price points of items. Some of their complaints involved higher prices in comparison to quality of goods, an aversion to carrying items home from the store, and a desire for a more streamlined checkout process.

We used surveys to find a representative demographic pool from which to pull users to test the current mobile and desktop sites, as well as to gain a few insights en masse. Our survey returned 22 responses, all of which had used mobile or desktop sites to make purchases online in the past year, with a varying range of comfortability with mobile shopping applications.

The team also used heuristic analysis, a method for quantifying the more subjective aspects of a site, to determine what aspects of the site had the most room for growth. We discovered that findability both internally (search bar) and externally (traditional search engines) was high for products offered. Filters are robust and predictive suggestions appear in line with search bar.

Additionally, the results page shows related products below the displayed search results. Advanced filtering integrates with local store inventory system for “in­-stock” status.

Competitive and Comparative Feature Analysis were used to gauge the market climate and determine what the other players offered.

Accessibility and communication are clear within the site, implementing breadcrumbs, clear calls to action, and consistent global navigation. Visual contrast is high, utilizing a monochromatic color scheme with the recognizable Target red prominent throughout. Alt tags restate the names of items, but do not explain further details.

Learnability and controllability on the sites were high, implementing repeating patterns and familiar design elements such as profile image, shopping cart, and masthead navigation. The system provides a quick way for users to bookmark certain products to revisit at another time.

Heuristic analysis can quickly reveal which aspects of a site have the most opportunity for improvement

In terms of usability, the users we tested had difficulty completing secondary tasks not associated with finding products and checking out, such as filtering items based on store location. Users were able to select a local store, but it was unclear at first glance when examining a product if that product was available at the store. There were also issues with users selecting a store and trying to figure out if an item was in stock there; the information is on the site and accessible, however it is not entirely clear how to filter product results to only show items in stock at the individual store.

In addition, searching for and using coupons through both the desktop and mobile sites proved extremely difficult, forcing all users to abandon the task before completion. It seems this is due to several factors, including

a) the “Deals” section being broken up into several subsections with overlapping functionality, and a store­-specific coupon list called “Weekly Ad”. Some stores did not list any applicable coupons at all, and the ones that did were not comprehensive.

b) a lack of communication regarding coupons and deals being available in­store or online-only.

c) a separate coupon site, “Cartwheel”, that only functioned within the Target mobile application when on a mobile device and required physically printing the coupons at home when on desktop.

Another issue our team discovered was in the realm of credibility. On most product detail pages and in the “Deals” category pages, sponsored links are prominent and take users outside, in some cases to direct competitors. Several even looked like coupons in the area that would normally contain Target coupons, confusing and frustrating users.

360° room tours, a hidden feature of the desktop site

Value and delight metrics were high for our tested users on the site. Information was provided about an item’s aisle location in the local store and the options for delivery or in­-store pickup were clear. Delightful features included 360­° room tours with clickable item links and an ability to take a photo of your home space and input a piece of furniture using augmented reality.

Finally, our team used card sorting, a technique in which users sort representational items into categories to determine if the categories that Target has on its site are ideal for their customers. Users were more granular with their categories than Target itself and had a hard time differentiating between which products belonged in “Home”, “Household Essentials”, or “Furniture”.

From here, we submitted a research summary of our findings and split up to begin working on individual designs to solve the growth opportunities we discovered.

I took the personas that were provided, fictional representations of users based on research, and tweaked one of them to represent our new insights. The new persona’s needs from were clear availability of items in their nearby brick-and-mortar store, fast shipping and easy in-store pickup, and a subscription service with a discount for frequently-purchased items.

A detail of a persona built based on our research on

These schema provided the basis for a problem statement that would guide the rest of the design:

The Gregory Family is perpetually on the move. Between school, sports, and work, everyone is always running somewhere and time is at a premium. Shopping for the home’s essentials takes too much time from Sarah and Alexi that they would rather be spending together or with the kids.

How might we streamline the online shopping process to increase overall convenience, findability of products, and clarity of purchasing options?

I created a journey map as a model to represent how our persona family currently interacts with the desktop and mobile sites in conjunction with the physical store. The journey map represents the channels through which users interact with a brand and, most importantly, the thoughts and emotions that result from those interactions.

The journey map diagrams feelings, thoughts, and opportunities between the user and a brand.

I hand-sketched designs as a way to ideate solutions to some of the more pressing opportunities, such as how to implement a more robust subscription system and how to display more clearly which items were in stock at the user’s home store. From there, I used Sketch to begin designing mid-fidelity wireframes to test how those solutions might work.

My early tests showed that my attempts at clarity were not quite adequate, so I shifted some interface elements around, enlarging some items and moving others. I added redundant filters on the product listings page that allowed users an additional access point to screen the results for items that were in stock locally. I also added a dropdown button under the “Add to Cart” call to action button that allowed users to select, before they began the checkout process, if they wanted the item delivered or to pick it up in-store.

I also used the card sorting data and information from Target’s annual earnings report on their most lucrative product categories to redesign their main categories menu. The top six categories earned Target 82% of their total revenue, so I added these to a “Top Categories” section, reorganized the menu alphabetically, and updated the site map to reflect the new structure.

Finally, I added a less cumbersome checkout flow for the Subscription process. Currently, Target offers an option to subscribe to an item for regular delivery as well as the “Target restock” program similar to Amazon’s “Prime Pantry”. “Target restock” exists at a separate address under and does not play well with the main site’s shopping cart. I merged these two programs in my redesign as a result of this and users’ confusion at the existence of two services that seemed to do the same thing.

Building out the subscription flow

The sheer volume of work for this project really stretched my time-management muscles. I attempted to block out how much time each deliverable would take to complete and built a schedule around these time blocks. However, in my educational and professional life, I’ve learned that I fight going to the next phase of anything if I don’t think the previous phase is complete and will continue toiling at a piece of the project even if it rolls over into the next block. This tendency was an Achilles heel for this project, as the volume of work should have forced me to triage pieces that I deemed were less valuable to spend time on. I got focused on completing a fully fleshed-out sitemap and user flow when the deadline loomed and I still had not finished building or practiced the presentation.

A schedule is only as good as the eyes upon it..

No stranger to late nights on set or editing documentary footage in my previous life, I tried to squeeze the time left to complete everything. As a result, my presentation suffered and I missed the opportunity to confidently present to my cohort and instructors the immense amount of work that went into the site redesign. I finished the project feeling exhausted, disappointed, and unable to enjoy the relief of completion, knowing I could have managed my time differently.

Despite this disappointing setback, the site redesign gave me a ton more confidence and wireframing skills in Sketch and InVision, as well as doubling down on many of the tools that I learned in the first half of the course. I expanded my research abilities to include new methods of gaining insights from users.

I also found myself beginning to understand the greater UX landscape to the point where I can see how my background, skills, and interests might fit in and help shape this burgeoning field to the benefit of users. I’m looking forward to being a useful conduit between users and business stakeholders. Who knows, UX might even get vampires and stakeholders together at the same table someday. Maybe.



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