A Streamlined Shopping Experience
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, is a non-profit organization in Amherst, MA. It was founded by Eric Carle, author and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, who’s mission is to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books. The Carle has become a leading advocate in the fields of education and picture book illustration, offering educational programs for educators, adults, and children that provide a foundation for arts integration and literacy.
I took the lead in ideation - weeks 3 & 4
Our team began by speaking with stakeholders from several departments of the museum in an attempt to understand their goals. We learned that they saw the current website to be too text-heavy, lacking a minimalist streamlined design, and to prioritize what we discover after speaking to our users.
What they needed from our team included:
Next, our team conducted domain research to gain a better understanding of the museum industry at large. We looked at different sources and learned that:
Heuristic Evaluation & Content Audit
Considering that our stakeholders were looking for a high-level redesign, we familiarized ourselves with the site by conducting a Heuristic Evaluation. The main heuristic issue that is present across the current site is aesthetic and minimal design. The pages are very busy and text heavy causing cognitive overload, so we wanted to simplify and streamline moving forward.
Another heuristic violation that is present is affordance. There isn’t clear text hierarchy, including the top navigation, and the lack of distinction between links and text confuse users, making it difficult to reach or prolong task completion. We also intended to clarify all of the labeling and hierarchy as we approached the redesign.
Next, our team proceeded to talk to our respective user base provided by the Carle including 4 parents, 2 of them teachers, 1 librarian, 1 pediatrician, and 1 IT specialist ranging between 26-76 years old. All of our users had visited the museum in person, most of them were tech savvy and frequent users of the museum site and a few were tech illiterate.
Our initial collective feedback from this diverse user group resulted in varied opinions. After affinity mapping our insights and thorough team deliberation, we decided to focus on parents because they represented the largest percentage of our users and had the most compelling pain points.
Defining Our User
After hypothesizing different archetypes, I narrowed down our synthesized research into our primary persona Sandy. I prioritized the next few phases of the project by referring to her goals, motivations and frustrations to ensure that all design decisions were user-focused:
In order to further understand what Sandy’s journey might look like and where we can identify opportunities to solve for her pain points, I created a journey map.
Defining the Problem
The result of this map allowed me and my team to brainstorm ideas that we could later use for concepting. From a holistic standpoint, we were able to frame the challenge around this specific issue:
To guide our design, we strategized to include the following design principles to ultimately lower the time inefficiencies and cognitive overload, gathered from the quantitative data:
1. Access thorough and viable information of interest related to the industry.
2. Allow users to feel like their shopping experience was created for them.
3. Provide users a space to gather and browse through products of interest.
We revisited the competitive analysis that our team did before our user research where we initially aimed to understand what other illustration museums were doing well and to identify industry standards.
Once we decided to look through the lens of the art enthusiast parent who finds it frustrating to use a system that doesn’t align with their artistic and educational interests, we narrowed the competitive landscape to organizations that were the most pertinent to our group of parents. This included organizations that are dedicated to encouraging children’s artistic abilities and literacy and major booksellers that contribute to the craft of artistic memorabilia. This was an opportunity for the Carle to differentiate itself as a site where parents have a personalized community of resources for educational and artistic matters by:
Ideation and Concept Testing
I led ideation for my team by using different methods to ideate including mash-up, 6-8-5 sketching, and brute think. We narrowed it down to three divergent concepts in an attempt to solve for our users pain points, and conducted concept testing with five users for feedback. We wanted to explore the following:
How do we create curated shopping content that is particularly tailored to each user’s interests?
How do we provide a bank of industry information for shopping purposes?
How do we keep our user’s shopping items organized?
User Feedback and Iteration I - Issues with Content & Flow
For the onboarding concept, 5/5 of the users we tested with liked the idea of having a customized account with items that pertained to their liking.
THE ARTIST PROFILE
Users preferred to learn about artists first and then checkout their items for purchase.
Content Hierarchy: We changed the hierarchy of the content to clearly communicate that the artist biography and work is prioritized over their products
THE CARLE WISHLIST
For concept 3, users also felt they had little information needed to identify where they were under the shopping tab and how to differentiate editing and creating a wishlist. They also cared more about seeing recommended shopping items aside from their own wish lists instead of how choosing the a layout to view their content.
Clear communication flow: I added breadcrumbs at the top left of the page to improve the user’s recognition of their location on the website’s section and pages.
Control: I also changed the 2 CTA buttons on the page to provoke an immediate user response between viewing their wishlists and viewing recommended items. I also added context to the “Edit” and “Create New List” buttons.
A responsive website that provides the art enthusiast with in-depth information about artists and picture book art, a wishlist where they can save all of the items they are interested in purchasing and curated recommendations for browsing.
Here is the walkthrough of the interactive mid-fi prototype we created on Axure, backed by user feedback, to conduct usability testing with 4 users:
To explore our entire interactive prototype in your browser,
Our prototype received a 4/5 rating on usability across 4 test participants. The following recommendations are for further testing with the wishlist feature, overall content and mobile view of the site:
Test the steps taken to create a wishlist
Consider testing different designs on how the user can create a wishlist. Our users liked the idea of browsing their wishlist but were confused on how they would create it.
Update the the artist profile and wishlist with appropriate copy
A copywriter or content strategist could provide friendly and correct copy throughout the prototype. During testing our users were confused about what action they could take after reading the verbiage under the wishlist feature and while checking out items in the artist profile.
Test an interactive mobile profile
We did not have time to create an interactive, mobile prototype for the Carle but our research showed that users also wanted to browse the site on their phones.
Develop UI elements and branding system
The scope of our design was limited to a mid-fidelity prototype, however, we uncovered information from users that emphasized the value of a friendly and approachable tone throughout our solution. We did our best to address this from the UX perspective. However, color, illustration and UI elements can accomplish more in emphasizing this value.
Over the course of this 4 week sprint, I learned to focus on a specific problem and not to jump to a solution before thoroughly synthesizing the user research data. We had a varied user group and were able to identify multiple problems that could have steered the direction of the redesign in avenues.
Potentially, our team had 2 different personas, and sometimes this led us to ideate solutions with different people in mind, which would enlarge our user focus. While personas are great for empathizing with our users when it comes to their pain points, I found personas to be a useful tool for me when I was brainstorming ideas of opportunity during the iteration phase and explaining my thought process to my team or creative director, but I didn't see it as a crucial deliverable to the design process. I think that focusing on real customers, their reactions, feelings, and their needs is more productive when making design decisions because they are going to use the product, instead of focusing on generalized observations encompassed by personas.
After this four week sprint, I recognized that the five phases in design thinking process are not always sequential and can occur in parallel or be repeated iteratively. Going through the phases of my bootcamp, I worked on 2 different projects prior to working with the Carle and I saw the design process through these five different phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. Working on the Carle website redesign taught me that this kind of thinking is just an approach and that every project will involve activities specific to the product under development, but the central idea behind each stage remains the same.
Furthermore, I learned what it was like working with stakeholders, real users and a reputable business with constraints in an agile environment for the first time. From the beginning it as clear that communication with everyone on my team, my creative director, our client and our users was crucial to understand business requirements, technical limitations, users needs of the website redesign and to stay on top or our game in the short timeframe. It also helped reduce the misunderstandings amongst my teammates and increased efficiency. I learned to deal with ambiguity and the uncertainty about the direction our project will take and I learned to trust in my teammates judgments because at times, within this 4 week timeframe, we had to split up work and make decisions to meet deadlines.
TL;DR: Overall, this project resulted in a lot of personal and professional growth.
If you’d like to see more of my UX design work with The Carle Museum, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.