SOLVING THE ONLINE RETAIL EXPEREINCE
I was lucky to recently work as a UX Researcher for a large UK retailer. I was brought in to conduct research and testing in order to find out how the website could be improved from both a usability and brand perspective.
Defining the Objectives
Upon gathering research already conducted by the company and compiling requirements from stakeholders across the marketing, design and development teams, I set out to define the research I needed to undertake. It quickly became clear that previous design decisions across desktop and mobile had not been made based on user needs or with the company's brand values in mind. From my perspective, the website appeared to be a mismatch with the in-store experience.
To discover how the website could be improved, I needed to investigate how effective the current UI and layout was. Where did the users encounter barriers? Where did we lose their engagment and what was their general impression of the site?
Moderated Lab Testing
To conduct this research I engaged 6 participants that matched the company’s audience profile. Through scripted, moderated lab testing I asked them to complete tasks based on scenarios. These consisted of adding products to their shopping cart, checking out and navigating to particular sections of the site while verbalising their thoughts. The sessions were recorded on video.
When analysed and findings synthesised, I discovered that:
- The customer journeys were familiar to the users and most of the tasks were completed successfully.
- When looking for a particular category, users mainly navigated the site through the left-hand side navigation resulting in CTA’s, promotions and categories largely being ignored.
- Some participants struggled to effectively define click-areas for some CTA buttons.
- On those rare occasions when price points were displayed, participants found it useful.
- When clear imagery was used, it helped capture participants’ interest and assisted in discovering categories.
As I presented my main findings to the teams alongside suggested solutions I found that, although open to improving navigation elements, they were less inclined to make other changes. The marketing team were concerned that displaying price points, adding clearer category imagery and assets which better align with customer expectation could harm the perception of the brand. One team member said:
I think it looks better the way it is now. I’m afraid we would make it look cheap.
Because of these concerns, I suggested conducting unmoderated, remote testing to further validate my findings and clarify the impact of making the proposed changes.
Remote Usability Testing
To ensure I had buy-in from all stakeholders, I conducted a workshop to define the next round of testing and gain consensus. We concluded that it was needed to evaluate multiple variations of the homepage and landing pages against each other. Through small changes between a control version and variants we’d be able to understand how each impacted on usability and brand perception. My focus turned to the following key questions:
- How does displaying price point impact on brand value?
- Does clear product imagery improve click-through rates?
- Will more vibrant/cheerful imagery featuring models representing the customer align better with brand perception?
I set up 18 unmoderated tests on Usabilityhub which included first-click, reaction, attribute, impression and preference tests. Each test incorporated additional survey questions to provide context. I procured 600 participants from the target demographic through an agency. The tests were completed across 3 days.
I summarised and presented the findings to my stakeholders. Key discoveries were:
- The users liked the clean, clear and simple layout. This validated the moderated lab testing.
- The inclusion of price points not only aligned with brand perception but also increased click-through rate. It spoke directly to the brand’s core pillar of offering good value.
- First-click tests validated that users used the CTA buttons (rather than imagery or copy) to access categories and there was a clear evidence that making improvements to the layout in this area enhanced discoverability.
- Clearer and less 'artistic' imagery for category sections clearly helped the user navigate the site while setting appopriate expectations.
- I was surprise to discover that certain terminology didn’t resonate with the participants. Several terms which generally are associated with brands appealing to a different consumer was perceived as confusing or patronising.
I relished the opportunity to work on this project as it was clear that my findings would have a clear impact on the way forward for the retailer. Although I was met with some resistance to change I found that running a workshop and including the stakeholders in the process helped getting everyone onboard.
The website has since gone through a re-design and just been re-launched. It now incorporates improvements to the navigational elements, imagery, price points and copy.
Please note that I have chosen to exclude or adapt the brand, information and imagery in the above study to ensure client confidentiality.