Bobby from Boston
E-Commerce platform for a vintage clothing shop designed into the current website
Bobby from Boston
Fitting E-Commerce on the Current Site
Bobby from Boston is a local vintage clothing store that currently does not have an e-commerce platform. My goal was to mock up one for them, looking deeper into not just what it takes for consumers to purchase items from a Bobby site, but what they are looking for and what would make a good experience when dealing with specifically vintage shopping, and specifcally online. Timeline: 2 weeks
Axure for digital prototype
Keynote for presentation
End-to-end, the whole process
What about Etsy? Or Instagram? or somewhere else?
Bobby from Boston has a global reputation, but it is still a small vintage shop. There isn't a design or development team maintaining their site. They set up their site on SquareSpace to have a web presence, and that's it. Incorporating an e-commerce platform would take some more resources to maintain inventory, learn the CMS, etc.
With sites and apps like Etsy or even now Instagram, the benefits are undeniable:
- Exposure. The likelihood of someone unfamiliar with the shop stumbling upon it without a platform like Etsy is low. It's faster and easier to reach potential customers, especially first time customers.
- Ease. No one has to be a web designer or developer to build and maintain the online shop.
- Trust. Customers are already on these platforms, know them well, and trust them. It's easier to inherit that trust, rather than have to build it.
But, Bobby's legacy is central to the brand. He passed away a few years ago, and his spirit can be felt all throughout the store. Bobby's spirit needs to shine in the store and in their digital presence. Etsy can't give that.
Vintage Shopping =/= Typical Online Shopping
They are similar, yes, because e-commerce has standards that transcend niche. But vintage shoppers have different concerns, habits, and needs. Historically, it can be notoriously difficult to shop for vintage online due to the scarcity and limited nature of the items, the sizing of different decades, and need to judge condition and wear. These needs are hard to address digitally, especially in a digital landscape where more and more people are shopping online for clothes.
It's the Little Things
As I said, e-commerce has similar overall flow. You find an item in some way (e.g., Google, search bar, navigation, etc.), you put the item in your cart, you purchase that item, you wait for it to be delivered.
Through synthesizing the data gathered from many interviews and competitive analysis, I found what current vintage shops lack and what the users needed. Then, I translated them into feature solutions:
Exact measurements per item
Multiple different models wearing the same item with a description of their usual size and height
A history of each item and details about it, such as material, year or decade made, cool facts, review from the seller, etc.
there are thousands of different items. card sort, anyone?
I conducted 4 card sorts, and they all validated what I thought--this was going to be really difficult to organize. Bobby from Boston has hundreds of items, and each sorter organized them in different ways. Structuring the inventory into browsable categories would take a lot of careful thought and one hell of a mega menu.
I did it anyway, starting with documenting their current sitemap and then restructuring it (see right). From there I could see how to build in all the necessary details and a mega menu.
It was during this stage that I realized Bobby from Boston would not be able to simply put up a most or even half of their inventory right away. Due to the features that were prioritized as high based on user research, it would take a lot of work to document and put up all the pieces.
My suggestion was simple: incremental sales. By putting up items 20 or 30 pieces at a time, the shop could start their e-commerce part of the business in a quick and manageable way.
Expectations, Know When to Keep Them
I ran guerrilla user tests. I completed a task analysis using objective and subjective metrics. or the objective metrics--task completion, number of errors, and adherence to instructions--I analyzed them through observation. For the subjective metrics--imagined use in the future, unnecessary complexity, and confusion level--I collected them through a post-test survey.
There were different changes I made, but there was one aspect of my design that every user struggled with: my main menu and navigation. I wanted to try something visually and stylistically new. That was a mistake.
Keep it on the Lo
The assignment was to create something lo-fi. Right now, it is prettttty lo-fi. However, it fits with the site's template as is; you can see that here.
My original design for the navigation was the big deviation from the norm that I tried to incorporate. It didn't test well with users and actually negatively affected their experience navigating, so I changed it. Simple as that.
Play with the lo-fi prototype I created on Axure. The password is Bobby. There are still some issues with it, as it is still in progress.
Look at the progression below from my sketch, to paper prototype, to the digitized lo-fi prototype v.1, to the lo-fi prototypes v1.1 and v.1.2.
What I Learned
Be willing to let go of your darlings.
My very first tester on my paper prototype recommended I change the navigation to be more standard, namely move the shop bar to the top, and I didn’t do it. I should have, because it caused a lot of problems in my later usability tests and was a pain to re-do.
Don't mess with expectations too much
My first version was inconsistent, confusing, and not helpful to the user. Too many things took them by surprise, and I discovered that I shouldn’t try to be fancy. I can be fancy with little features that are offered, but I shouldn’t be fancy with the IA, navigation, or layout. Messing with users’ expectations had a result of high errors, delayed task completion, and frustration.
Don’t assume you don’t have a target user--It's e-commerce!
... or that your representative users are broader than they are. I assumed that because vintage shopping is technically shopping for clothes, anyone who has ever shopped online would be a good representative user. Though I received valuable feedback from people who don’t vintage shop, there were a few suggestions that they made because they didn’t have specific experience with vintage shopping.