Deep Dive: E-Commerce Redesign for Luxury Retailers

As a freelance UX Designer for Publicis Sapient, I worked with a small team to redesign the e-commerce website of a luxury retail client.

Summary

The goal of this project was to redesign e-commerce sites for Tapestry, Inc, starting with Stuart Weitzman. The sites would be migrating to a new backend platform.

  • Role: UX Research and Design (Experience Lead)
  • Client: Tapestry (Stuart Weitzman, Coach, Kate Spade)
  • Design Tools: Sketch, InVision, Keynote
  • Collaboration Tools: Skype, Microsoft Teams, Box; Zoom (client)

Challenge: The challenge for the design team was that two other Tapestry brands, Coach and Kate Spade, would also be migrating. Solutions needed to work for all three. And they needed to be mobile first.

Team: I reported to the Associate Creative Director (UX). Other team members included the Design Director (Visual design), and two art directors. The project manager was the final core member of our team.

Phases of Work: Our work was completed in 2 phases. In phase 1, we focused on identifying best practices. In phase 2, we focused on completing the design.

Publicis Sapient calls itself a "digital business transformation company". Its headquarters are in Boston, MA.

Phase 1: Best Practices

The early UX phases of the project centered on finding examples and best practices for e-commerce websites, to present our findings to the clients for the different sections of their website. I found most of the best practices from the Baymard Institute, as well as other expert sites like Nielsen Norman Group (NNG.com).

Screen capture of baymard.com
Home page for Baymard.com

The recommendations were organized by page or section, including home page, product detail pages (PDP), category listing pages (CLP), cart, and checkout.

For each section, best practices were presented along with screenshots of example sites, the current sites, and “out of the box functionality” for the backend platform.

Although I had not worked on luxury brands before, I discovered that the best practices I found for e-commerce sites applied just the same for luxury as they did for mass market.


Surprising Finding About Quick View: Don’t Use It

One best practice that surprised me, which was included in our findings, involved the use of Quick View. Baymard Institute identified that around 48% of websites utilize Quick View on product listing pages. However, their research concluded that “Quick Views are often symptom treatments for poor product list designs.” Therefore, the priority would be to create strong designs for the product list pages rather than create a new design for Quick View.

Screenshot from baymard.com
Baymard Institute recommends avoiding ‘Quick View’ overlays and advises focusing on building better product list pages.

Learn more about this finding: https://baymard.com/blog/ecommerce-quick-views


Early UX Collaborations with Visual Design in Phase 1

Starting out, the visual design team concentrated on UI foundations, like building a pattern library, exploring typography, and high-level layouts, etc. We collaborated in a few of the following ways:

Shopping Journeys: As a team, we also discussed various shopping journeys to plan how we would address specific concerns from the client.

Information Architecture: We also discussed the information architecture of Stuart Weitzman and iterated on multiple sitemap options after exploring prior versions (on archive.org), similar sites, and consulting with the tech team.

Phase 1 Conclusion

Phase 1 concluded with a focus on specific PDP requests, shopping journeys, and presenting best practices. The design explorations and UX research were synthesized into a single client presentation. We did not make design recommendations at this time, other than surfacing these best practices.


Phase 2: Design Sprints

Our goal going into Phase 2 was to complete several rounds of 2-week sprints. The work would include most of the site, starting with PDP. A few highlights from the start of Phase 2:

Design-Pairing: In the first month, I closely collaborated with one of the art directors on an early design of PDP. We discussed various options for product descriptions, reviews, and selectors (such as for size, color, etc). I gave feedback on functionality; she focused on look and feel.

Annotations: I also supported the visual design team that first month by creating annotations for visual designs to upload for Confluence, following the terminology and guidelines in the reference architecture for the backend system.

Responsiveness: Throughout the project, I worked with the development team on understanding functional limitations and keeping a layout responsive.

Mid-Project Changes

As with many projects, plans changed.

Refocus in scope: Due to a client request, we were asked to redirect our efforts towards the global navigation and user profiles, and not start with PDP. The work would include headers, footers, country selector, sign in, account creation, favorites, purchase history, change password, etc.

New team members: A new UX team lead joined on the client side. The team member was focused on the longer-term goals of building an internal UX team, as well as a design framework for all three brands to use.

On-Going…

In one sprint following these changes, the UX and Visual design teams did a remarkable job collaborating on establishing a base for the design framework.  I used my experience with Basecamp, Foundation (Zurb), and Tachyons to advise the visual design team on UI components.

Eventually the UI and UX teams split into two, so the visual team could support the design framework and the UX team continued the product design.


Outcome

The UX team continued with the product design, as planned. We focused on screens associated with user profiles, including purchase history, favorites, communications, user registration, address book, etc. We spent a lot of time iterating on form design and mobile layouts.


Screenshot references

Newsletter sign up for Dune London, a UK based retailer.

My Week Note blog posts document some of the tasks I completed in Phase 2. They can be found for March, April, and May. A few highlights are below:

  • Created wireframe desktop layout options for account profile dashboards in Sketch
  • Created workflows to map proposed account profile functionality, including update address from account profile and checkout, communication preferences, and expired cards/payment methods
  • Worked with the visual design lead and UX associate director to prep for a client presentation on wireframes and visual design of requirements
  • Included a table within the wireframes to map processes between systems, for better messaging for the customer

If you visited this blog post from my website, you can jump back here.


Sidenote

As ridiculous as it sounds to say, in the middle of this project a new and deadly virus spread across the United States. A global pandemic was declared. The city of New York became the hardest hit locality in the United States. In the early weeks of March, we stopped travel to the client’s location and the main office. For 2-3 months, all work became remote.

However, back in 2017, I wrote this blog post with tips for better conference calls. The remote work affected some members of the team more than others, but we were able to find new ways to collaborate using online tools and lots of patience.

“Month” notes: March 2020

Written documentation of a week’s activities.

Just finished reading about “week notes”, here and here. It looks like a really helpful productivity and project retrospective tool, so I figured I’d give it a shot. The examples I’ve seen are based on weeks, but this is my first time and March recently ended so I’m going to write my first “week” note for an entire month. Please forgive if there are any inaccuracies, or if it’s super long. 🙂

A note: If for some reason you’re not aware of current events, March 2020 has been one of the most volatile periods of time since WWII, or the civil movements of the 1960s. For most people, anywhere in the world, there’s been a lot going on. These are my small notes, on the work I’ve been doing, in my own little corner of the world.

Context

I am currently engaged on an e-commerce redesign and platforming project for a retail client. The client and internal teams are based in NYC and NJ, with a tech team in India. I work closely with an experience associate manager, a visual design lead, two visual designers, and project manager. I work semi-closely with the client (product) team. And the executive director of experience remains involved, here and there.

Work

  • Created wireframe desktop layout options for account profile dashboards in Sketch
  • Followed e-commerce project’s shift from wireframes to workflows – due to the UX team getting ahead of the requirements
  • Created workflows to map potential e-commerce interactions for  requirements for track order and favorites lists
  • Created workflows that mapped product requirements, written in Confluence, for reset password as a guest/non-credentialed user and from account profile
  • Created workflows to map proposed account profile functionality, including update address from account profile and checkout, communication preferences, and expired cards/payment methods
  • Attended a product requirements meeting, to review proposed requirements from the product team (client)
  • Attended at least 2 product meetings to discuss requirements for account profile pages
  • Discussed workflows on track order and favorites/wishlist with a tech lead, before presenting to the client
  • Presented workflows on track order and favorites/wishlist to client
  • Attended an informal session with the visual design team on their progress on a design system
  • Worked with the visual design lead and UX associate director to prep for a client presentation on wireframes and visual design of requirements
  • Revisited the requirements for account profile requirements, to make sure they were reflected in the wireframes
  • Uploaded screenshot examples of account profile pages for e-commerce sites for desktop and mobile, to help the “CRUX” design teams make decisions on the UI
  • Attended a global experience townhall (on Zoom)
  • Had a virtual check-in with the larger experience teams
  • Attended daily morning check-ins with the internal project team
  • Finally got Acrobat Pro installed on my work computer
  • Had several collaborative sessions with colleagues using InVision’s Freehand
  • Attended an online presentation of an internal collaborative tool
  • Checked out a website on design system repositories

 

Personal

I think this is a good practice. Let’s see where it goes.


Image credit: Old, Bearded Man Writing, Rembrandt van Rijn (school of), c. 1640 – c. 1650, pen and brown ink; framing line in brown ink, h 88mm × w 80mm – View on Rijksmuseum.nl

Black Hair Tutorials — In the Style of Famous Movie Directors and Their Films

Alfred Hitchcock Presents
The famous statue of Dinard in tribute to Alfred Hitchcock and his movie “The Birds”, erected on the occasion of the “Festival du Film Britannique”. Photo by Thibaut Démare.

Like so many other people, I too watch hair and makeup tutorials on YouTube. I’ve found that the majority of videographers film their hair tutorials from the front. Or from the back, like from the perspective of a hair stylist. Well, I came across some pretty unique hair tutorials sometime in 2019. The videographers/hair stylists filmed their tutorials completely different. They chose to film their tutorials in the style of famous movie directors and their movies.

My series of tiny home posts shows that many YouTubers create high-quality videos. The videos below are no different. The videos below, are extra special: they were filmed on a sound stage, with props and special effects. Both entertaining and educational!

Overview

What you’ll see below, where possible, is a short background on the movie and/or director, a preview of the original film or an excerpt, and then the tutorial. Thankfully, IMBD has some nice overview videos of famous directors. (Thanks, IMDB!)

The directors/movies are:

  • Stanley Kubrick/The Shining
  • Spike Lee/Do The Right Thing
  • Wes Anderson/Moonrise Kingdom
  • Alfred Hitchcock
  • Stan Lee & Brian Cooglar / Black Panther

I am very excited to share this post. I wrote it way back in 2019, and have been saving and adding to it, while sharing other posts. Now it’s finally time to share. So with probably my longest blog post title yet, enjoy!


1. Stanley Kubrick, “The Shining”

The Shining is a movie adaptation of the book of the same name, written by mystery/thriller writer extraordinaire, Stephen King. The book was published in 1977. The movie was directed by Stanley Kubrick and released in 1980.

Stanley Kubrick didn’t just make thrillers, but his movies did have a psychologically subversive twist to them. Kubrick was pretty influential in film making. Here’s a summary of his style, by IMDB.

The Shining

The Shining is about a man who takes his family to live in an isolated mountain retreat as the winter caretakers. He…succumbs to the isolation.

Twist Out Tutorial In The Style Of “The Shining”


2. Spike Lee, “Do the Right Thing”

Do The Right Thing was released in 1989 and directed by Spike Lee. Many of his films, or joints, are set in New York City, and especially the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Crown Heights or Bed Stuy. Many of his films’ themes center around race and society. He has some distinctive film making cues that this IMDB video showcases.

Do The Right Thing is about the day to day life for residents in a predominately black Brooklyn neighborhood during a hot summer. The tutorial picks up style and scene elements from this movie, some of which are seen in this trailer.

Wash and Go, in the style of Spike Lee (with Do The Right Thing references)


3. Wes Anderson, “Moonrise Kingdom”

Hair Puff Tutorial, in the style of Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)

 


4. Alfred Hitchcock

Another dominating name in film making. Unlike Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock specialized in thrillers and psychological thrillers, only. Pretty much all of his movies and Alfred Hitchcock Presents shorts have a very similar style. Check out the guide below and the tutorial following.


5. Stan Lee/Ryan Cooglar, “Black Panther”

Black Panther is based on a comic by Marvel, heavily influenced by legendary comic book artist Stan Lee. The movie, released in 2018, immediately became a cultural phenomenon. This scene below is when the main character, T’chala, goes into the underground science lair to check out some new tools and suit. The director, Ryan Cooglar, has completed other movies, but not really enough to have a distinctive style.

Scene from Black Panther

Bantu knots tutorial, in the style of Black Panther

Greatly mimics the scene above.

 


Learn More

What I liked about these tutorials were was not just the reference to pop culture — they also reflected the booming business of Black hair and the natural hair movement and acceptance within the African American community.

The business of Black hair is a big business and natural hair video tutorials are a popular sub-genre of beauty “vlogs” which are themselves very popular on YouTube. CNBC did a good job of summarizing the business of Black hair, in their video below, if you’re curious to learn more.

 


Image credit: Ceremonie van volwassen worden, Totoya Hokkei, c. 1822, colour woodcut, h 204mm × w 178mm – View original at Rijksmuseum.nl

Tiny Homes: More Features and My Favorite Ideas

More Features and My Favorite Ideas

Beautiful example of hidden, under-rail lighting from “Beautiful Tiny Home Built To Look Like Earthen Cottage”.

There are many other videos I’ve seen, on the Living Big in a Tiny Home YouTube channel and others I’ve seen on YouTube about making the best use of a small space.

The videos I highlighted in my other post stand out for the cleverness of their designs and features that seem to make it easier to transition and thrive in a tiny house.

Additional Tips

Some of the other features and tips I saw include:

  • Using hidden lighting (see image above)
  • Spend money on what you cannot see, like the frame, the electrical wiring
  • Make sure there are enough fire exits
  • 12 volt energy use

The Question of Land Use

Aside from not too many videos from long-time tiny home owners, one of the biggest unresolved issues about tiny home living is the question about land: where to park the home. Many tiny home owners have been able to set up on land owned by friends or family. One guy owned a home which he rented out, and lived in a tiny home in his own driveway/backyard.
Some people live in the middle of a city and some live way out in the country. Depending on where you live, it may be possible to connect into existing septic systems and electrical grids. Some home owners have a goal of going fully off-grid.

My Ideal Setup

My ideal setup would be a combo of staying connected, but a focus on reducing grid use by supplementing or fully relying on solar panels, as well as a focus on water conservation and reuse.

The Jamestown Net-Zero season of This Old House proves that it’s possible to design and build an energy efficient home, so I’d like that to be a focus too.

Based on the videos I’ve seen, if I were able to build a tiny home, here are features I would ideally be able to include:

  • Cat run
  • Large porch, ideally closed and covered
  • Stand-up bedroom
  • Side entry, with a ramp option
  • Main home plus guest-home or addition
  • Large windows or garage opening
  • Smart storage
  • Thoughtfully designed room separation
  • Hidden lighting
  • Soft-touch openings
  • Single-floor or stairs with secure railings
  • Future proof

Tiny Homes: My Favorite Episodes

LBTH Logo
Intro for Living Big in a Tiny House

A Review of Eight Tiny Homes

My last post on the topic of tiny homes introduced the concept of tiny homes and why I think they’ve become so popular.

This first post of 2020 includes 8 of my favorite episodes from the YouTube series, Living Big in a Tiny House.

 


1. Disability / Mobility / Elderly Friendly: A home to grow old in.

I’m really glad this home was included. It shows that tiny homes can be for everyone and can be an option for people as they grow older or people who have or develop mobility difficulties. My favorite features of this home are the single-level floor plan, the wide hallways, the screened in and open porch-like front room (veranda), and the ramp. It also features non-slip floors, soft-touch openings, and an induction stove which is a little safer than gas.

This home consists of a tiny home which essentially has a heavily outfitted covered porch in front, which they call a veranda. The bed is on a motor that comes up and down. I think the bed is clever, but I suspect that makes a bit heavy on the budget. I’d probably prefer an analog mechanical solution, rather than digital. The tiny home cost about $85,000, the veranda cost about $15,000, and the high-end blinds cost about $6,000-7,000.

The elderly homeowner is also so charming and pleasant. It’s clear this home means so much to her. She even manages to out-charm Bryce!

2. Clever Space-Saving and Room Separated Flat

This couple live together in a converted flat. The building used to be some kind of warehouse or work house, which is why the ceilings are so high. They used that feature in their design. In their home design, they created kind of a tunnel effect, with a foyer/desk area, a white and almost Space Odyssey: 2001 center storage area, and then an very open kitchen and living area. The cleverness of this tunnel effect is a separation between the different areas of the apartment, and that feeling of being welcomed into the living area. The storage in the white closet-tunnel is pretty impressive, so that’s why I’m including it.

The downside of this build is that the bedroom is in a hidden loft and there are some I-beams going across that I know I would hit my head pretty frequently. I am also not sure how fire safe that bedroom is, either. Aside from that, I think it’s a pretty clever design. Their interior design tastes are pretty fancy.

3. Minimalist, Small-Space Philosophy

This home was designed by the owner, an architect. He imbued a lot of ideas from minimalism, and ideas about transitioning in space. He also lives in a city, similar to the two guys in the video from above.

He had some interesting design ideas about contrasts: dark vs light, contrasting textures, small vs large sizes. His red grout + black tiled bathroom looks very cool, almost Tron-like. I also took note of some of his book titles! 🙂

4. Clever Sun Cover, Massive Cat Run and Exquisite Craftsmanship

A cat run is one of my top requirements given my cats are very important to me. This home also features hidden under-lighting on the stairs, a lovely feature. In addition, this is also one of the few tiny homes with a strong railing for the stairs and loft area, so it seems a lot safer going up and down.

I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but I’m not sure I would choose this home for myself. Maybe it’s just because it seems so masculine, ha!

Regardless of style and trimmings, this home has so many wonderful features. I do love the cat run, the hidden lighting, the semi-covered porch. The loft area design runs front to back and allows you to fully stand up, though I would also prefer more horizontal railings on the loft itself, to avoid accidentally slipping through.

Beautiful craftsmanship on flooring

The male homeowner builds bathrooms for a living so the craftsmanship throughout the home is exceptional. For instance, around 10:58, the homeowners discuss the transition between the kitchen and bathroom, using a beautiful tiling pattern. Needless to say, the bathroom in this home is spectacular.

5. Garage Doors with Porch and Trailer Home

This home has really tall ceilings and a bedroom that isn’t in a loft. The garage doors are a great idea to bring in a lot of light and open up the space, especially with that big porch.

Cost would be the big downside for most people for this home. As a successful musician with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, she probably has more income available for building than many other people. Having said that, her home looks so quaint and I love the traveling micro- music studio and the fantastic porch.

6. Double Train Car Home

It’s really hard to beat the charm of these old railcars turn into tiny homes. This is such a clever idea, and the fact that she has 2 of them, with one as a guest house/room, is even better.

She estimated $50,000 as a total cost, but I think that is a very generous guess for this home, because she’s spent over 5 years building it. In addition, at the time of the video she wasn’t living there full-time so it’s hard to say how well it works as a primary living space. The other downside is she’s very remote so (internet and phone) connectivity is spotty.

7. Full-Bath and Standing Room Bed, with Greenhouse Complex

Aside from the home for a resident with mobility issues, this home is also one of my favorite-favorites! I love the full-size bathtub and the beautiful tiles she installed. I especially like her layout which allows her to use a small staircase to enter her bedroom, which has a ceiling that allows her to stand up.

Many tiny homes have lofts and a half-height ceiling. So there’s a lot of bending. I also a fear of slipping or falling, because many tiny homes do not have full or secure railing. She does have a loft in her living room, but it’s not meant for sleeping.

She says her home cost between $90,000 to $100,000, not including the domes. The enormous greenhouses are also interesting, although that’s kind of outside the scope of my interests at this point.

8. Micro Home in Japan

Finally the smallest, but not the least, is the smallest home I’ve seen featured. The storage, modularity, and multi-use aspects of this home make it worth checking out. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly one feature that makes this home ideal. One of the design inspirations was remaining connected to nature, which is also an inspiration in traditional Japanese architecture. All of the storage and configurations available make this seem like a home that folds in on itself. One smart feature is the use of hollowed out wood panels, for the table and seating, which helps keep the all-cedar home very light. I think a lot of these tricks could be used in many tiny homes.

One major downside: This home does not have a bathroom! For my needs, it wouldn’t work as a full-time residence — at least not in the United States. It works for these two, and one reason for that is those famous Japanese hot springs (onsens) and public baths (sento). For them, there is relatively easy access to bathing, although not on demand. For using the toilet, they use a portable toilet with a biodegradable bag and a powder. They also said there are many places in Japan that accommodate travelers.

The owners said this home cost about $30,000 US.

To clarify, there are 2 videos for this home. One is a tour with the homeowners and the other is a tour with the craftsman. I recommend checking out both, because the craftsman discusses his design inspiration and the homeowners show how they live. Based on the finish of the outside panels, it looks like the craftsman walkthrough comes later.

Walkthrough with Craftsman


My final post will have a few more tips, plus a summary of features for my ideal setup.