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hobbies unlimited

Modern rebrand of a beloved Portland hobby shop. 

Intro

 

Team: Solo Project

 

Role: UX Designer and Researcher

Timeframe: Three Weeks

 

Tools: User Research, Affinity Mapping, Journey Mapping, Wireframes, Prototyping, Usability Testing, User Flows, UI Design

Hobbies Unlimited is a charming hobby store that’s been in Portland, Oregon since the 1950s. And believe it or not, it reminds me of Venice, Italy, a city that masterfully employs minimally invasive, modern infrastructure to keep itself from sinking into the lagoon on which it was built. 

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And why, you might ask? Because like Venice, Hobbies Unlimited could benefit from some subtle modern updates, while letting its old-fashioned charm shine.

Strengths

 

A business should play to its strengths.

So what are Hobbies Unlimited's ?

 
Navigation

80% of users felt that they could easily navigate Hobbies Unlimited’s site.

Curation

Hobbies Unlimited has a curated selection of products for both the veteran hobbyist and the novice.

Weaknesses

Now that we've established their strengths,

what could Hobbies Unlimited do better?

Dated Design

User research shows that the lack of modern design aesthetics cause users to distrust this site’s e-commerce.

Cumbersome Checkout

While most checkout flows take about 4-5 steps, Hobbies Unlimited’s takes 8. This is likely to create friction with online shoppers.

Inconsistent Product Pages

Each product page for all of Hobbies Unlimited’s stock differs. Adding consistency to their product pages will not only enhance the overall professional feel of the site, but it will improve navigation as well.

Research

A competitive and comparative analysis reveals some key insights into how Hobbies Unlimited can exploit their current assets, and perhaps how they can improve in other areas.

Note that the competitive and comparative analysis highlights two aforementioned positive traits—curated selection and intuitive navigation—that Hobbies Unlimited can lean into.

Hobbies Unlimited doesn't need to emulate everything that its competitors do, but there are some things that it may consider to improve the user experience.

 

Our User

User Interviews and Affinity Mapping

Having investigated Hobbies Unlimited's capabilities, I wanted to get into the user's mind. I interviewed several hobbyists and crafters regarding their browsing habits, as well as for their opinion of the current Hobbies Unlimited website. From those interviews, I was able to create an affinity map—a diagramming process that organizes thoughts and ideas. Some particularly standout quotes from our affinity mapping are as follows:

 

“The site feels like a mom and pop store, and I want to support them.”

 

This speaks to Hobbies Unlimited's undeniable charisma and old-fashioned charm, a trait that they can lean into.

“I've been going to Amazon because it's easy, and I know how to navigate it.”

While it's not necessary that Hobbies Unlimited emulate everything that larger competitors do, strategically emulating certain conventions of large retailers particularly in checkout could reduce friction for users.

“I’d return to the site for something very specific.”

When people visit Hobbies Unlimited's site, they're not weeding through listings as they might be on Amazon. This trait is something that Hobbies Unlimited can take advantage of.

"When a website is less sleek, it does not give me faith that they'll be able to fulfill an order remotely."

Even with all the fantastic offerings of Hobbies Unlimited, a website that appears out-dated may result in lost revenue.

Persona

From the extensive user research I conducted, I created the Persona of Milton, a 38 year-old male in the Portland metropolitan area.

Bio

 

Milton is an avid hobbyist. He’s always been pretty keen on building models and making miniatures. For a while now, Milton has bought his hobby goods online—from his local hobby store when he can, but from Amazon when something’s unavailable locally. Since COVID, buying his hobby goods online is no longer a matter of convenience, but rather has become a necessity.

Core Needs

• Milton needs a reliable way to browse, search, and buy hobby and craft goods online from local vendors.

 

• Milton needs to be able to navigate his local hobby store website easily, but he still wants the “mom-and-pop store” charm.

Illustrated Prince

Frustrations

• Milton prefers to shop locally, but his favorite local hobby store’s checkout is abysmal.

 

• Though he generally finds the navigation on his favorite hobby site good enough, there are always a few items that elude Milton.

Problem Statement​

Milton needs a reliable way to buy hobby and craft goods online from local vendors.

Milton needs to be able to navigate his local hobby store website easily, but he still wants the “mom-and-pop store” charm.

How Might We...​

How might we help Milton reliably buy hobby and craft goods from local vendors?

How might we help local hobby stores improve their site’s appearance without losing their “mom-and-pop store” charm?

Design

Mid-Fidelity Prototype

With some strong problem statements and how-might-we statements in place, I'm ready to move onto some designs.

 

Below you can see my initial mid-fidelity prototype for the new Hobbies Unlimited site, with which I can conduct usability tests. 

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Usability Tests

For my mid-fi usability test, I asked my users to complete some tasks that Milton might do, and I asked them some debriefing questions afterwards. Let's see how that went.

Tasks​

 

•Search for scissors.

•Navigate home.

•Search for and purchase a model airplane.

Questions

 

•How was the navigation?

•Were you at any point confused or hesitant about how you should proceed?

•How did you feel about the checkout process?

•How did you feel about the searches?

 
Pros

Navigation

 

Navigation continues to be a success.

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E-Commerce

 

Users found the new E-Commerce flow intuitive.

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Cons

Confusing Button

 

Users were confused by the message “view cart/checkout”, since the button actually took them straight to checkout.

Cart Icon

 

Users often tried to navigate to their cart via the cart icon.

Disappearing Info

 

Some users found it unsettling that the billing address field would disappear when the “same as shipping address” box was checked.

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High-Fidelity Prototype

The mid-fi usability tests gave me a lot of great feed back to apply to the next iteration. Below you can see my high-fidelity prototype for the new Hobbies Unlimited site. Let's see how Milton does with some user tasks.

(Feel free to test the prototype out for yourself here.)

Here's the scene:

Milton is in the market for some scissors and a new model to work on. He wants to have his model delivered to him so that he can remain socially distant from others.

 

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Usability Tests

The high-fidelity test was largely a success. However, there are some minor changes that could reduce friction for the user.

Bizarre Shadows

 

The inner and outer shadows struck users as not only bizarre, but they also gave the appearance of being in a pressed state.

Text Alignment

 

Alignment on certain text elements throughout the site gave some users pause.

Preserve Scroll Position

 

Users found it maddening and confusing to be catapulted to the top of a screen when they completed a field on a particular page.

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Next Steps​

For my mid-fi usability test, I asked my users to complete some tasks that Milton might do, and I asked them some debriefing questions afterwards. Let's see how that went.

Mobile Redesign

 

Almost 60% of online shoppers access businesses from a mobile device. Additionally, Google ranks responsive sites higher.

Better Photos

 

With so many beautiful products, it would behoove Hobbies Unlimited to invest in some great photos. 

 

Conclusion

While Hobbies Unlimited has similar old-fashioned charm as Venice, there's a key difference at play: Hobbies Unlimited can modernize easier and more efficiently. They can have a beautiful website that still maintains their charm. The pandemic may have hastened the rush to online commerce, but it was an inevitability, and Hobbies Unlimited can and will rise to the occasion.