Background: The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) store sells items to support CAF’s local and national education initiatives to “inspire people to discover why design matters.” Their main product offering is the over 80 docent-led tours they operate throughout the city.
Objective: Redesign the CAF store site to better serve the needs of customers searching for products and resolving pain points throughout the digital experience.
Solution: Utilizing the results of a card sorting exercise and user feedback, the information architecture was changed. The content was reorganized on pages and links to their main tour products and mission-based activities were added.
I went to the CAF store in downtown Chicago to observe how the store was designed, what products were sold, and how individuals interacted in this environment. I also interviewed employees that worked in the store and users who used the online store to get a complete picture of the CAF ecosystem.
After reviewing CAF’s annual report and talking to store staff and customers the following became apparent:
- Profits from the store and membership go to support programming. However, much more revenue comes from their tours.
- The store’s purpose is not to be profitable but rather to be a service for customers who make purchases driven by emotional response or impulse.
- There are too many products on display. They need to conduct a sales trend analysis to see what is selling best and worst.
- Nobody interviewed had ever gone to their web store and only 1 participant had gone to any museum store online at all.
Website User Insights
- People said that they would need an incentive to visit the web store as it is not something they would normally do.
- People mostly liked the product selection on the web store, especially LEGOs. However, they wanted less Frank and Kitchen items (many of which did not have any connection to Chicago or architecture).
- Shopping cart process and “products by tour” page were confusing and hard to use.
- There were also no links on the CAF online store to the Foundation’s home page.
- People disliked many subcategories or “rabbit holes” and they wanted to see reviews when they were shopping online.
Based on the results of a card sorting exercise a new sitemap was created reducing the overall number of products offered and simplifying the site’s overall structure.
Based on the interviews conducted with store customers and web store customers, two primary users emerged:
- The Tourist
- The Chicagoan
The two users have different goals and navigate the site to achieve their specific need. For the tourist most likely that is purchasing a souvenir from the tour they took or having something large shipped back to their home. A Chicagoan parent may want to purchase something related to an educational program, such as the LEGO build.
A. Link to the CAF homepage was added to drive traffic back to the foundation.
B. The tours are the most popular program CAF offers and biggest earner.
C. Original home page categories were not aligned with either user type these new categories appeal directly to what most tourists are looking for.
D. These products are promoting upcoming CAF programs and the overall mission.
E. These products featured here will appeal to the Chicagoan user.
Products by Tour
Usability testers found the sheer number of tours listed to be overwhelming and difficult to navigate on the original site. Tourists just want to find products from the tour they just went on that day. The new design solves these problems by simplifying categories and adding a search option.
Lego Products Page
Different product pages will have featured blurbs at the top of the page for related programs, for example, a LEGO build workshop on the LEGO product page. This allows for more integration with the main CAF site and the interweaving of mission and product.
Though the website and the store, in general, were fairly well regarded by those interviewed, there was still much room for improvement and refining. This new version successfully creates many connections to the main site and links products with related mission specific tours and educational programs at CAF.
Additionally, tourists will be able to easily book tours and get straight to the main thing they want from the home page including remember your tour and take a piece of Chicago home. Locals will be able to see new products and shown current educational programming in the city they may be interested in participating in.
Lastly, products were greatly decreased, subcategories collapsed and combined, and random items like kitchen gadgets, eliminated from their stock. In the future, they can continue to effectively rotate through products keeping the best sellers and getting rid of the worst seller under SALE. They will also be able to continuously debut new products under NEW.
I believe that this new design effectively solves the majority of problems encountered by users while still keeping the primary needs and mission of the Chicago Architecture Foundation well served.