A brick-and-mortar toy store named Jim & Cindy’s was looking to build their first-ever web store. It was important that their new web store be congruent with their existing personality.
Site map, Wireframes, prototype.
As the only designer, I conducted the research, built wireframes, moderated testing, and developed the prototype. I used methods such as Competitive analysis, comparative analysis, user research, persona creation, card sorting, site mapping, wireframing, prototyping, and user testing.
Disclaimer: This project was part of General Assembly's User Experience Design Immersive.
My final design provided a pleasant web experience that incorporated 4 means of product discovery. To read more about the exercises and insights that lead to these solutions, please read the Research Section.
Traditional Categorical Exploration- Research informed my categories ensuring that products were easy to find.
Top Rated Products- Interviews with shoppers revealed that there is great value and comfort in knowing a product’s user rating.
Featured Collection- This is a category found on the homepage to be curated seasonally by the owners, or for special holidays.
The Gift Guru- This is a unique exploration method that allows the shopper to find a special gift based on qualities of the recipient.
Jim & Cindy's Toy Store
It was important to know the personality of the existing store in order to build a consistent web presence.
Attentive- In store, they take the time to find the right toy for every customer.
Curated- Their products are chosen very deliberately.
- Inclusive- Jim and Cindy’s is a place for customers young or old, looking for gender neutral toys, new or vintage.
Our persona, Jenny, offers insight to what a likely customer is looking for from Jim and Cindy’s.
- Clear Categories
Shopping for others- primarily her grandson
Loyal customer- likely to return if experience is good.
Orders well ahead of when she needs gift.
Overwhelmed by choice
Finding toys with unfamiliar names
Not being able to talk to someone
After researching competitors, I found that toy stores generally fell into 4 categories: Modern, Hip, Mom & Pop, and big box stores. Below I have highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of each type, and given an archetypal example of each.
Mom & Pop
- Focused demographic
- Great web experience
- Very distinct brand
- Highly curated
- Great web experience
- Highly curated
- Wide chronological focus
- Something for everyone
- Can find anything
- "Related Products"
- Purchase/ delivery exp.
- Narrow selection
- No exploration
- Meant to be desired
- Limited selection
- Minimal "wonder"
- Poor/ nonexistent web stores
- No trust build via web
- Very impersonal
- No brand
- No "wonder"
There is a need in the market for a toy store with the curatorial care of a Mom and Pop store with the pleasurable web experience usually associated with a more modern site.
After considering our place in the market and overlaying corporate goals with user needs, I was able to distill the following design directions.
Build a relationship and trust with all users
Clear, fast access to specific toys
Shopping for a toy should be simple and pleasant
Users should leave with a toy they love, whether they originally came looking for that toy or not.
Every decision from this point forward would be compared against these objectives.
To make shopping “simple and pleasant” and offer “clear fast access to specific toys,” I used a card sorting exercise to divide Jim and Cindy’s products into logical categories. This exercise was conducted by 6 participants.
Additional Exploration Methods
With intuitive categories and a logical site map in place, I started thinking of other information or means of product exploration that could help someone “leave with a toy they love, whether they originally came looking for that toy or not.”
“Hot/ Tending” category- Could give users insights to what’s cool, but does not offer a very personal shopping experience.
“Highest Rated” Category- Would help a user find a guaranteed hit, but might introducing a rating system deviate too much from the simplicity that our users need?
“Reviews,” would allow users to make very informed decisions, but does that get too hard for a small toy shop to mediate and manage?
- “Curated by Experts,” Category- In line with what Jim & Cindy have done historically, but does a first time user trust Jim and Cindy’s ‘expert’ advice?
In order to reflect their painstaking curation, and keep content on the site dynamic, a “Featured” or “Recommended by Jim and Cindy” section was deemed necessary.
To ensure simplicity, I wanted to choose one of the remaining exploration methods. After a small survey (n=21), I found that 71% of people find ratings to be the most helpful information in making an online purchasing decision.
“Ratings” also had the added benefit of being a quantitative measure that results on any page could be sorted by.
The Gift Guru
After defining categories that adequately described the toys, I was left feeling underwhelmed. Jim and Cindy have prided themselves on fostering relationships with customers and finding them just the right toy, even if they didn’t know what they were looking for when they walked in. They would ask things like “What’s her favorite subject in school,” or “Does he ever draw?” This personal touch has been central to their business since they opened 30 years ago.
I realized that the site architecture and exploration methods were all defined by characteristics of the toys, which oftentimes the customer isn’t familiar with when they walk in (or arrive at the site). It’s like trying to follow directions to a location that are relative to the destination. With this in mind I hit the whiteboard again with the goal of making the exploration process more about the recipient than the toy.
In searching for a more personal exploration method, I found many sites that start with questions about a person before making recommendations. A few of those websites are shown below.
I took another pass at the list of top 50 toys and this time thought about what kind of person would enjoy each toy. What resulted was a list of human adjectives like “Imaginative,” “Quirky,” and “Hands on,” that would lead a user to a list of toys that type of person would enjoy. This organization method would allow more cross-categorical recommendations and hopefully, more interesting gift giving.
The client, and a set of five user interviews validated the idea, but it needed to be done unobtrusively. Below you will see some iterations.
Over-eager to introduce the feature, I first placed it in the left-most position in the site navigation, then in a chat like pop-up in the bottom right. Bad. Very very bad. Knowing that this was a relatively new exploration method for most users, and they may not be inclined to use it, my initial solution was to simply shove it in user’s face. Again, bad. Very very bad.
User testing drew out comments like “This isn’t what I was expecting…” and “This just looks like an obnoxious pop-up,” and I realized that I’d been so caught up in how “cool” this feature was that I had completely forgotten the user. A very valuable lesson that I will never forget.
This was one of my first UX projects and I learned a tremendous amount from it. From tangibles like the ins and outs of various testing methods, to concepts more amorphous like “don’t get carried away with untested features.”
This concludes my case study.
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