Over the course of seven weeks, I created a usability report for the Abercrombie & Fitch website, abercrombie.com. This extensive process began with a deep dive into the company history, current website content and a competitive analysis of their biggest competitors. From there, I created personas and scenarios to help guide my next few steps. I conducted several studies such as interviews, surveys, card sorting activities, dairy studies, heuristic evaluations and a final usability study. I began this study thinking that there was not much to fix on this site and that I would have a hard time identifying problems, but as soon as I began see the results of some of my tests, I was able to recognize flaws in the design. The method that had the largest impact on my usability report was my final usability study. Here, I was able to watch participants in real-time complete given tasks on the website. The biggest flaws I found on the site pertained to the main top menu options, the organization of certain product categories and the user accessibility to customer help. I suggested the following solutions:
- Make a “Customer Service” or “Contact Us” page on the top menu option. This way users can find help without having to scroll to the footer of the page.
- The organization of the “Fierce” section needs to be re-evaluated. There isn’t a clear breakdown of the different scents. Users should be able to organize it by scent and size to allow for an easier shopping experience.
- The top menu options are currently “Men’s”, “Women’s”, “Kids”, “Jeans”, “Fierce”, “Gift Guide” (seasonal), “Sale” and “About Us”. Although it is not the quickest or easiest route, all of the participants went to find jeans under their gender category. Consider taking away the “Jean” category and putting it under the respective genders. This will also help de-clutter the top menu.
The first phase of this project consisted of a lot of research and current content evaluation. I took a look at the history of the A&F brand and it gave me a good idea of how they came to the brand image they have today. They had a downfall in the 2010’s but came back with a more mature look. They took aim at a slightly older demographic and changed their entire appearance.
The competitive analysis showed me what other sites have deemed important and how A&F compared. I looked at Gap, H&M and American Eagle.
Creating an audience
After some background research, I turned to creating personas (which are essential characters) that could accurately represent A&F’s target audience. Typically this step would be conducted after research methods such as surveys and individual interviews because it allows you to cast a wide net before narrowing your audience down. I created three different personas to represent all of A&F’s target audiences. I had a young woman, a college-aged male and a mother of a young daughter.
I covered an extensive amount of material during this process. I began by creating an individual interview to gain in-depth customer feedback on the satisfaction of the performance of the A&F website. These one-on-one interviews were to capture qualitative data. I then created a survey that could be sent out and collect a large amount of responses for quantitative data. For these methods, I asked about similar topics but tweaked them in a way that could either be expanded upon or answered with a simple “yes” or “no”.
Then came the diary study. This type of study is usually conducted over a period of time. In this instance, I chose six weeks. A diary study is when participants are asked write, text, or record their experience with something. I asked current A&F users to track their weekly online shopping habits via email since I wanted to get a better idea of their behaviors outside of the A&F website. How do they spend their time and money? How does A&F perform against competitors?
The card sorting method proved to be most difficult to me. Card sorting is a method used to better understand how users navigate websites. A user is given a list of potential items and are asked to sort them into groups that make the most sense to them. We can then examine the navigation aspect of the website from the user perspective and use that information to improve upon the design of the site. Upon completion of this method, I analyzed the following similarity matrix:
This shows how likely participants were to group certain items together. The results were not surprising and it confirmed that participants are used to associating certain groups together such as tops, bottoms, accessories, etc.
The last two components of this report, the heuristic evaluation and the usability study shed the most light on the site’s issues. A heuristic evaluation will rate how easily the interface can be navigated by users. Each of the ten heuristics will be scored out of 4. The scale will be as follows: 0 = no problem for user, 1 = cosmetic problem, 2 = minor usability problem, 3 = major usability problem, 4 = usability catastrophe. In this particular evaluation, it was brought to my attention how inaccessible the costumer help section is. It is buried in the footer of the webpage and can be quite hard to find. This issue was confirmed during my usability study conducted on three participants who were each given a list of five tasks to complete on the website. Participants often searched in the wrong places for the customer help page and had to really do some searching. This came forward as the main issue with the site. As you can see from this chart of participant task completion times, this was task #4, which took the longest for all three:
Other smaller cosmetic issues were discovered during the usability study, but nothing wrong with the overall structure of the site.
By conducting a lot of these different methods I was able to see A&F’s website from the perspective of others. I had been so closely examining it that it was refreshing to have a set of eyes that were brand new to it. I learned a lot during this process and it makes me look different at every website I visit now. I take into account how I move through the site and how long it takes me find what I need. I even stop to take the small surveys that pop up on my screen from time to time because I know that my input will be extremely helpful to the team of designers behind it.
I invite you to take a look at my full report here: