Creating a community for the outdoorsy!

An alternative view for REI’s desktop site


Whether it be hiking in Appalachians or skiing in the French Alps, outdoor trips and activities have long been a large part of our lives as adventurers or explorers of our planet. As those of us who are hardened veterans to the outdoors know, having the right equipment can make a huge difference to your ability to appreciate the greens and blues. REI has been the stop for the outdoorsy and those who wish to venture for decades. Having researched REI’s website many times, we noticed that there were a few areas for potential improvement to make the experience as seamless and smooth as possible.

The Research Phase

Initial Problem Statement

How might we provide an efficient method for people to find their outdoors equipment of choice?

Contextual Inquiries

We started out analyzing REI and it’s most direct competition, such as EMS, to see what their websites have in common and, if anything, what was different. While going through the analyses, we noticed that both websites were mostly very logical, having a largely activity based organization. Having completed a heuristic analysis on both REI’s and EMS’s websites, we moved on to gather information from contextual inquiries.

Takeaways from our contextual inquiries at REI

A lot of the information we gathered lead to the idea that many of the people who shop at REI knew at least one item they wanted, and then enjoyed taking their time browsing.

Card Sorting

We gathered a list of 100 items from REI’s website in order to do a card sorting test. We went through both open and closed card sorting, both of which yielded similar outcomes.

The card sorting showed that a large portion of our user base wanted to sort items based not on the activity for which these items were intended, but by the type of item that it was. For example, shoes wouldn’t be split up into running and hiking, but instead would occupy their own space as shoes. This gave us our first real idea of a possible improvement to REI’s existing website.

User Interviews

Additionally, we conducted five user interviews to figure out how people were currently using REI’s website. Key elements we noticed were that people enjoyed using filters to narrow down the vast selection of items that REI provided. Another observation included that people didn’t know which activity group their intended excursion fell under. Users tended to go for the “Men,” “Women,” and “Children” categories frequently, reinforcing our idea from card-sorting that users want to group items by the type of item, not necessarily by the type of activity for which that item was intended.


With the knowledge that we had now gathered from card sorting, contextual inquiries, and user interviews, we had to update our existing user personas (the originals of which were provided to us by our clients).

Having now added in the key elements and observations from our research phase to the above personas, we chose persona 1, Angelica Ardvark, as our focus-persona. We revised and focused our initial problem statement to the following:

Revised Problem Statement

How might we provide users with an efficient method to find activity and climate appropriate clothing?

The Design Phase

Task Flows and Wireframes

We synthesized our research into particular features and aspects we could add into the existing REI website.

Having made task flows for REI’s desktop site, we now created a new iteration with the shown features in mind. We were able to keep the task flow to approximately the same length while still providing more of what the users wanted, a temperature range filter in this case.

In the above diagram, the red blocks indicate where the task flow was modified. As you can see from the side-by-side comparison, the new task flow is simply a single step longer while providing a much greater degree of specificity for finding a particular item. This change can be seen being introduced in the wireframe shown below. The wireframe is of REI’s product filter for Women’s Jackets.

In addition, we also reorganized the global navigation for the desktop site. The sitemap changed as shown below.

The changes in the sitemap above can be more clearly illustrated by the wireframe shown below:

The changes made to the Desktop navigation can be seen below here:


After creating these wireframes, we went on to make a high fidelity prototype incorporating the features shown above.

User Testing

We tested the prototype on five users. Our tests were overall positive, with 5 of 5 users finding the new task flow easy to follow, and 4 of 5 users finding the new global navigation more friendly. A summary of the user tests is shown below.

Next Steps

Moving forward, we plan to move the filters higher up on the page so they can be more easily accessed, and to show more weather specific information under each jacket so that users may browse without having to stick to the filters too often.

Our next steps would be to continue to improve the efficiency of the website and reorganize and change some of the headings available from the global menu. These iterations would all be made with the intention of a seamless user experience in mind.

Closing Thoughts

REI is all about creating a community for the outdoorsy. It’s about bringing people together, and venturing out into the wilderness as we once did thousands of years ago, and as we still enjoy to do today. We stand with REI to aid in this endeavor.