In 1999, I worked as part of a multidisciplinary team from Sapient to redesign the Staples.com site. The project sought to upgrade the site both technically and functionally to support the continued growth of Staples' e-commerce channel. The project goals included:
- Increase the product range offered from 30,000 to 130,000 items
- Provide users with new online tools, and increase the overall usability of the site
- Increase the overall site sales and average order value
The design team began the process by assessing and understanding the businesses desired features and scope. Along with the technical team, we conducted business workshops with all of the key stakeholders to get a more detailed understanding of how the current system functioned, the important business processes, and details on how the business wanted to enhance the site.
Once we understood the scope of work, we began our design activities. We assessed how the existing application behaviors, and identified areas of improvement. We also engaged users in collaborative design activities like card sorts to help better understand how users thought about site content, features, and purchasing tasks.
This set of assessment activities allowed us to develop a set of organizational models that restructured and repriortized the site for optimal usability. These models determined the way site content and features would be grouped on the new site, as well as how users would navigate between different areas of the site.
While these interaction models were being refined, we began the process of creating and user testing paper prototypes. We began by focusing on a few key tasks like browsing and searching, and we added features to the prototype over time. This cycle of prototyping and user testing continued through several rounds as we iteratively refined the screen layouts.
As user testing continued, the team began producing visual designs and content guidelines for review by the Staples clients. As these design elements were approved, we applied them to the prototype, and finalized the screen layouts for HTML and ASP development.
The redesigned site was launched in May 2000 with a wide range of improvements. The site featured a new navigational system that supported more efficient browsing and search capabilities. Users were also able to view their shopping cart contents on all pages and quickly and easily make lists of favorite items.
After the launch of the redesigned site Staples reported an increase in sales of 20% per week and a 24% average order increase.* Mediametrix reported an increase of 300,000 repeat customers in the third quarter up from 180,000 the previous quarter. A customer satisfaction survey of 300 hundred visitors resulted in significant improvements in the customers' perceptions of the site's simplicity, user friendliness, and overall efficiency.*
The redesigned site received the best business-to-business site award from the Massachusetts Interactive Media Council and has been featured as a Forbes Best of the Web Pick for Entrepreneurs.
* Source: Softwaremag.com, Staples: The Run for E-convenience, November 11, 2000, Julie Lavallee