Spend the season testing not guessing.
11 min read
Role | UX/UI Designer and Researcher
Duration | 6 Weeks
Tools Used | Figma, Photoshop, Webflow
Focus | Research, Ideation, Branding, UI
Research, ideate, brand, wireframe, and design an e-commerce based site for a seasonal gift wrapping company. Create and brand the entire site from scratch. There was no existing UI or website for this company. It was a major undertaking for just 80 hours, but I felt confident that I could get it done.
The Big Tease
Christmas is already one of the most branded themes out there. How do I make this brand unique without loosing the holiday flair? I would come to realize that this particular e-commerce set up was not exactly what I thought it would be, and discovering the solution would require trusting the testing process more than ever.
In choosing my first project as a UX designer I wanted to work on something that would fit into my wheelhouse as a former theatrical designer. Speaking with my network and looking for potential problems to solve amongst my friends' business ventures was a great way to start building a database of potential clients. Some friends of mine, who were also in the process of a career pivot, had started a whimsical holiday gift wrapping company. I was immediately drawn to the idea by its fun attitude and flair for reaching people. It struck me as a service that could provide a convenience in the marketplace where one didn’t really already exist. The seasonal holiday feeling also grabbed me as a way to express some flare in the design. Having the ability to add value to a design with whimsical touches is a big strength of mine and pairing up with this company seemed like a match made in heaven.
Wrap Queens is a seasonal gift wrapping service company. Founded in November 2020 by two out of work theatre professionals. What started as a side hustle, expecting to mostly profit on person to person services, was quickly replaced by the demand the business found which was business to business or pop up services. Over the course of booking the short holiday season, Wrap Queens mainly profited from single day pop up events located at a local business.
The great story of this venture is that it has proven itself to be a winning idea in an underserved market. Looking to the 2021 season, Wrap Queens needed to create an online advertising and booking platform in order to spread the word about their amazing service. In doing this they hoped to book all upcoming events through this platform and be able to use it as a method for billing and pick up reservation services as well.
Finding the Solution
In my first sit down interview with the founders I wanted to discover what the business was aiming to achieve moving into the future. What was so fascinating was how they discovered that their original business model of a single-person wrapping service had barely accounted for 10 percent of their overall business. What instead had become their main source of revenue was providing pop-up wrapping events.
Looking back on this now it makes sense. Both of these entrepreneurs had spent their entire careers creating entertainment events, so of course the best service they new how to provide became a kind of entertainment event in itself. These single day business based events brought people out of their home during the pandemic in a safe, socially-distanced way and provided them with a service that was not only value adding but fun as well.
I wanted to find a way capitalize on this feeling. We needed to find a way to streamline the process of drop off and pick up for these events and provide a means for businesses to book these events in the future with more ease. I felt my charge was to take the bookkeeping part of the transaction and move it farther away from the entertainment part so people would have more time to enjoy.
I started with a swath of competitor analysis, looking at large scale wrapping service provided by big boxers (like Amazon or Target) as well as the small business model that is much closer to Wrap Queens. I discovered that while the big box dealer would provide the wrapping at a small cost ($2-8), they didn’t provide any personalization to the gifts. You can’t pick your paper or get a gift tag that was hand written. The big guys also placed more importance on branding their wrapping to identify themselves. This brought me to my first interview question: Does what the wrapping under your tree look like matter to you?
The small business competitors all seemed to offer the personalization I thought users would want, but they did so at a much higher price point and generally didn’t offer single- customer wrapping service. I found it interesting that small companies had mostly conceded customers would wrap gifts themselves or have a store at the mall do it for a small cost. Now remember this is during the pandemic, so going to the mall for Christmas gifts is basically out. So how do we jump into this market that does not seem to exist anymore? That is the problem that Wrap Queens was attempting to solve.
Trustworthiness of the new local wrapping service seemed to be another potential concern for prospective clients. These are their Christmas gifts after all. No one wants to get taken by the grinch and be left with nothing but coal under the tree. This would lead me to my next question of the user interview: What makes you trust a company?
I found individuals that were likely to use such a service based on age, income, and demographics. Most participants were quite happy to chat openly about the holidays. It is the time of year that brings out the best in folks.
- What online brands do users find trustworthy?
- How much do users spend on wrapping supplies?
- Do users think a service like this would add value to their gifts?
- What are users looking for on a site that makes a company seem legitimate?
- Conduct online and in person interviews one on one
- Ask questions about users methods of building trust with a company and general information about how they might utilize a wrapping service
- Record all feedback and synthesize results to aid in developing personas
The people I interviewed were a huge help. It really opened my eyes on many key subjects pertaining to the solutions, mainly:
- Users wanted an uncluttered website experience
- Users wanted multiple ways to verify of a companies existence
- Users want a site to feel clean an up to date
- Users wanted legal guarantees on their purchase
- Users wanted to see pictures of the products and the people
- Users rarely used a service unless sending a package out of town
- Users spent on average $50 per season on supplies
- Users coveted “Martha Stewart” type wrapping skills, but didn’t want others to know they had used a service
Taking all the information obtained from the research I built a persona that embodied the traits of many users and would be the basis for the prototypical user moving forward. Evelyn is the embodiment of the prototypical user.
She is so much fun! I am sure, if she were real, you would be best friends!
With this new knowledge on hand I set about building a roadmap to the solution. I started with a feature roadmap. From there I built a site map and some user and task flows to understand how users might interact with the site. I knew I wanted it to be a fun and simple process because the value of the company is really based in human interactions. I researched many other websites to get an idea of the patterns that users would expect. While I wanted Wrap Queens site to be unique, I didn’t want anyone to come across a flow that wasn’t instantly recognizable and easy to accomplish.
Building the Solution
With that part of the process out of the way, I started putting pen to paper and looking for the best way to tell the story of Wrap Queens visually. After some initial sketches I moved to Figma to start wire framing a playful and whimsical site that users would be drawn into and remind them of the experience that the service provided.
I also started looking at some wonderfully warm and fun holiday photos that I would use as inspiration moving forward. Photos were one of the biggest buzzwords that interviewees had used. They all had pleasant memories of the holidays that could be stimulated by the proper photography. Some of these photos even brought a smile to their face that could easily be transferred into feelings about Wrap Queens.
All the photos needed to feel warm, and colorful. Users all reacted to red, gold and autumn tones. Pictures with families and children received great reactions, As did any photo that featured wrapped packages that users felt were “beyond their skills".
So the problem with Christmas is that it has an existing color scheme, right? It is almost impossible to escape the expectation of red and green. On the other hand, having the phycological expectation built in immediately tells users what the site is trying to convey without more explanation. So rather than reinvent the wheel, I chose to lean in. Finding tones that felt warm, inviting, and full of color and whimsy was a challenge. Users don’t want to feel like they are giving their packages away to a bunch of kids. Instead they want Martha Stewart showing up at the front door and somehow creating wrapping paper out of their old curtains and making it look like they spent a fortune on it. Color choice plays a huge role in this. Hot pink might say fun, but it doesn’t necessarily convey trustworthiness.
Combining that feeling with the whimsical elements, to keep the sight playful while still elegant, is like hooking up Martha Stewart and Snoop Dog. It might not make sense from first glance but we all know it just somehow works.
Constructing the prototype was a big undertaking and required me to pivot on entire design ideas more than once. Just when I thought I was headed in the right direction I would look back to the persona and research to realize that I needed to refocus in a different direction. Just when I started to feel good about the fun packaging icons, I would test them to only find they no longer matched the rest of the site. This was a big lesson for me: test, test, and then test again. Never let yourself get trapped in your own vacuum drinking your own kool-aid. Let the opinions of the test instead open your mind to what is possible and build from there. Testing makes the bridge stronger, not weaker. When you take the time to really listen to the feedback and look for the flaws in yourself you can grow into a much better designer.
After settling on the design as a whole I turned my attention to the usability testing. I wanted to make sure users could get through the entire process of ordering and learning about a company that they would trust.
- Observe how users accomplish given tasks
- Evaluate the ordering process and look for missing items
- Discover how users looked for clues in the design they could trust
- Find what elements of the design users enjoyed
Using the affinity map I built from these tests I was able to design a plan to make the site much easier to navigate and fill out the holes discovered in the process. I found this incredibly useful. In fact, the last person I tested discovered a huge flaw in the process that the other participants had failed to see and quite frankly saved me from a huge omission in the buying process. Test, Test, Test it’s the best!
Using all the information gathered in this process I was able to deliver this beautiful design to the founders. They were incredibly pleased. I look forward to helping them further develop and grow this site moving forward.
view the prototype
The Big Finish
Thanks so much for reading all the way down to the bottom. I hope you liked reading about this project as much as I enjoyed doing it.