Case studies

Creating a customer focused ecommerce experience

CaskWidge is the original manufacturer of a device to dispense ale from an upright barrel. While a leader in the market, they were embarrassed by their 16 year old ecommerce website. It did not work on a mobile, and they knew parts of the website were frustrating for customers.

The results

Simpler customer journey

With easy to find products and checkout.

Removed a major bottleneck

76% of customers now use guest checkout.

New sales channel

33% of sales from mobile devices when previously there were none.

Reduced errors

By integrating postcode lookup service into the checkout process.

The full story

To get the most out of the project we knew from the initial meeting it wasn't enough to simply make a pretty version of what they had. Instead I pitched for discovery and research to dig deeper into the problems that CaskWidge faced.

I lead the project through all phases performing numerours research activities including:

  • stakeholder interviews
  • card sorting
  • SWOT competitor analysis
  • structural website audit

We audited the current website to gather information about the content, structure and performance. What are the main navigation options? Is it mobile friendly? What are the product categories? Is the website fast?

The sitemap was found to be large and complex with many sections that had no content.

The project was thorough mapping and reviewing processes end to end. We used and reviewed each feature of the website, creating test orders and customer accounts.

At the end of the discovery phase we created a roadmap – a list of ideas – to determine what to develop now, and what to develop in the future. This enabled us to use the project budget to focus on developing core features that had the most impact.

Making products easy to find

The core of any ecommerce system are the products and how they are organised. From our research, we realised the design of the listing pages was particularly complex and confusing to customers.

The listing page design featured a bewildering number of options which often repeated the same set of results. On the CaskWidge System there were only 10 products, but these were shown in four separate lists.

We realised many product options were for the same item. For example, the Float is available in three sizes, so there were three products, one for each size.

A problem with this is that it puts cognitive strain on customers. To determine the specific version of a product they need requires significant effort to review and compare several items. A common outcome being the customer orders the wrong item. This in turn leads to a frustrating experience and additional admin for the business.

Other aspects of the design compounded the problem, such as small product photos and labels that were long and confusing.

We came up with a concept for a “product variants” feature where items would be consolidated into a single product. The customer would choose the right version using controls on the product page.

We created a code prototype in HTML and CSS, so we could share our thinking and review with CaskWidge before committing to development.

The original concept also included filter controls on the listing pages. This was removed as we realised the filters would only toggle one or two products, so made little difference to the results.

Improving the navigation

As well as changing the design of the product listing and product pages, we also revised the navigation to make products easier to find. The original website grouped three listing pages under a “Shop” drop down menu:

  • CaskWidge System
  • Spares & Accessories
  • Introductory Kits

We analysed the research we had gathered during the discovery project, looking at the sales volume for each category over the past 16 years.

The data showed that at 0.3% of sales “Introductory Kits” did not merit its own category. It was also clear that “Spares & Accessories” should be split into separate listing pages.

As well as revise the menu options, we made the links top-level items. Customers could then immediately see the options without having to interact with a drop down menu.

Designing a better checkout experience

From our research we found the checkout experience a significant cause of frustration. CaskWidge assumed the problem was that the password reset did not work. From our research we found the real reason was a combination of two things:

  1. To place an order you had to have an account
  2. The account password had to be changed every 3 months

Both act as barriers, but changing the password in particular was the trigger for support calls. The design of the sign in page also did not help. It was incredibly cluttered and combined several tasks:

  • sign in
  • entering contact details
  • entering a billing address
  • creating an account/password
  • subscribing to a newsletter
With such a cluttered interface when customers failed to sign in, they simply did not notice the forgot your password link.

The key solution to these problems was to adopt a one thing per page pattern. This means separating the tasks into their own dedicated pages. This allows the customer to focus on the task in hand and dramatically reduces errors.

With one thing per page patterns it is clear what the customer needs to do hence easy to use.

We applied this design pattern throughout the website and the checkout in particular. The pattern is also known to be better for mobile users where screen size is at a premium.

While the previous checkout was broken down into steps, it was designed with long forms.
By contrast, the new checkout is visibly simpler. It is designed to allow the customer to focus on the task in hand.