EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 338 - July 07, 2013 - ISSN 1528-6703     4 of 8

Web Design Challenge Two: Design/Usability Center, Bentley University

By Julia Wilkinson

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EcommerceBytes challenged three professional web designers to give an online store a homepage makeover as part of the Web Design Challenge. You can read more about the Challenge and how the merchant was selected in today's introductory article.

Here's the second redesign from the Design and Usability Center, Bentley University - you'll have a chance to look at all three and vote for the design you think does the best job of meeting the merchant's design goals. And you'll pick up some tips for your own storefront along the way.

Click on image to enlarge

Does Glamoursurf's design structure match shoppers' expectations? Peter McNally of the Design and Usability Center at Bentley University assessed the site from a usability standpoint. He identified problems with how categories are arranged, which could lead to customers taking longer than expected to find the area they are looking for. He also identified Glamoursurf's search feature as an area needing some attention. Read Peter McNally's assessment of the site and what Glamoursurf should keep in mind from a user's perspective.

Commentary and Analysis from the Design and Usability Center, Bentley University offers a great selection of vintage swimwear and accessories. Below I point out some things Glamoursurf is doing right, providing a solid customer experience, and then discuss several opportunities for improvement.

As seen on the left-hand navigation menu, there are many interesting areas of inventory. There are some natural categories, however it is unclear how these are arranged and customers may take longer than expected to find the area they are looking for.

For example, the critical link "View Shopping Cart" is hard to find in the middle of the list. In using the site, it took me several minutes to figure out how many items were added to my cart.

Navigation Recommendations
1) Remove non-inventory items from the main navigation area.

  • a) Display the "View Shopping Cart" and "Checkout" links in a prominent location, e.g., toward the top of every page.

  • b) Provide a secondary or auxiliary navigation area containing items such as "Policies," "Articles," "Links," "Join our Mailing List," etc.

2) Organize inventory into 5-7 main areas.

  • a) Each main area could have sub-areas if applicable. When designing your navigation, it is critical that you get inside your customers' heads and organize your products as they expect them to be organized.

  • b) The best way to do this is to conduct a "card sort." In this technique, you provide a handful of customers several cards. Each card lists one unique product category. The customers then organize the cards into their own groupings. Traditionally this is done with index cards; however, a good way to do this online is with a tool called OptimalSort from Optimal Workshop. See the details on their web site. I recommend you start out with the free version and gather feedback from 5-10 customers. This should tell you if you current grouping matches your customers' view of the world or if you should consider reorganizing.

The search seems to be searching for the keywords across the site. Searching for "men swimwear 1990s" returned mostly relevant inventory. However, the first result listed was for women.

Search Recommendations
Some people prefer to search first, rather than browsing on a site. So it is important to carefully consider your how your search works. In addition, the majority of Internet users is used to Google Search and expects all searches to work like Google. Therefore the simple search field currently on the site will meet many customers' expectations.

1) Consider providing an advanced search that will let more seasoned customers narrow products by category (based on any updated navigation categories), price, label, size, and any other relevant data. This feature will allow your "power" customers see what you have quickly.

2) Make sure you display the most relevant results first based on all the keywords. offers a unique line of vintage swimwear and accessories. While there is a lot of good inventory, customers may get lost or delayed in browsing and searching the current site. I hope my recommendations will give you some things to consider as you move forward with your business. I wish you much success!

About the Designer
Peter McNally is a Senior Usability Consultant at the Design and Usability Center at Bentley University and has over 20 years' experience in usability, information architecture, accessibility, and software engineering. Peter has designed and evaluated user interfaces in the healthcare, financial services, government, education, energy, manufacturing, defense, and electronics industries. He is a member of the International Usability Professionals' Association (UPA), ACM CHI, Boston UPA, and Boston CHI.

How to Vote
Now it's time for you to weigh in! Here are the three designs:

Design # 1 - submitted by Ventura Web Design

Design # 2 - submitted by the Design and Usability Center at Bentley University (above)

Design # 3 - submitted by Redhead Labs

Once you've looked at all the designs, use the survey to indicate which of the homepage mockups you think best meets the Glamoursurf's goals. And look for the final "reveal" in the next issue of EcommerceBytes Update.

Vote for your favorite redesign now!

About the author:

Julia Wilkinson is the author of "The eBay Price Guide" (No Starch Press, 2006) and "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2004-6). Her free "Yard Salers" newsletter is at available at where you will also find her latest ebook, Flip It Again.

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