Educational Insights (abbreviated "EI" here) sells toys promoting learning and STEM online to mostly upscale parents. In 2021, I was asked to help EI improve the organization and overall user experience of their website. The current EI site was originally built in Magento, and was envisioned as a product-centric, e-commerce system.
However, EI now has good e-commerce portals through e-commerce sites and retail stores (e.g. Amazon, Walmart). The EI website's information is product and company focused. The site needed to be redesigned so it was user-focused, providing good information for parents about educational toys, while steering them to the e-commerce portals. Elements of UX, Information Architecture, and Content Strategy all figure in this project.
The first step was to build a sitemap for the current EI website, and compare it to competitors. The results of the sitemap analysis were summarized in diagrams like those shown below:
Like many websites, EI had become complex, but that complexity was structural - it was more about filling out parts of the internal "org char" than providing specific answers to user questions.
So what were users actually looking for? To begin answering this, I looked at analytics. Search terms are one way to uncover what's honestly on the user's mind - if you lie to Google, you don't get your desired results. The audit included search terms from Google, as well as search terms typed within the Magento Content Management System (CMS). Particular attention was paid to "long tail" phrases.
After making a purchase, users often returned to the website for about a year, then stopped coming back. Presumably, their child had "aged out" of toys designed for a specific age range.
Based on preliminary research, I divided EI users into the following segments
These users already knew about EI, and were looking for a specific toy by name. Sometimes they looked for educational toys appropriate for a specific age range. They typically visited multiple pages.
These users had already browsed the site a few days earlier. They revisited product and information pages, and often commited to buying a product.
This group was led to the site through advertising or social media. They were similar to first-time users, but searched with terms indicating they were less familiar with EI products. Unlike those typing product names during searches, they only looked at 1-2 pages, and rarely returned to make a purchase.
This group had typed "free toys" or something similar, and been directed to the EI website. Almost all of them left the site immediately.
A small number of users were looking for something that EI did not provide, and landed on an internal site page. They left immediately.
Based on this segmentation, we decided not to conduct in-depth interviews. The view from analytics was pretty clear - users already knew about EI, but needed to find out detailed information about a toy to make their decision to buy. They weren't looking for general parenting information, since the blog was hardly looked at. They needed multiple visits to find the information they needed, which implied the right information was hard to find. To investigate this further, I began a card-sorting study.
Terms for the card-sort were extracted from common search terms, e.g. "Best toys for 7-year olds," along with the current page titles and menu options on the EI website. These were loaded into a ProvenByUsers account for online sorting.
I conducted multiple card-sort studies. The first set was internal, and involved EI marketers and the people responsible for the website. This resulted in a similarity matrix and dendogram like the following
After this, we completed a second sort with users recruited from EI social media, and the parent user panel, with the following results:
The results of the card sorts were valuable to EI in several ways. First, they showed the value of UX to stakeholders - their users sorted information in a very different way than internal EI employees did. Users have little interest in discounts, gift cards, and the like. They visit the EI site to find information to inform a purchase of an EI product they usually know about. They expect information to be in specific places. The current sitemap of the EI site does not match their expectations. New pages should be created which match user needs and expectations better.
Second, the information from the dendogram suggests a new sitemap for the EI site.
Third, the desire for information highlighted the importance of the EI blog, which had languished. The blog needs to be more accessible. A formal Content Strategy should be developed to ensure the blog has information users are looking for.
Finally, marketing efforts need to be co-ordinated more closely with UX work. What makes sense to the internal organization may not be resonating with the actual users of the EI website.
Currently, I am working with EI translate these UX research findings into a revised sitemap and page layouts. Blog-writing has been elevated in status, and content will address the specific queries users have about products. Marketing pages will be changed to promote "sticky" returns to the website. There is a big opportunity to try to catch users as their kid ages out of a particular kind of toy. Ultimately, the local e-commerce system may be replaced entirely by links to third-party retail vendors carrying EI products in their (physical) stores.