Mount Everest Ski & Snowboard is located in Westwood, NJ. Family-owned and operated for 40 years, Mount Everest remains dedicated to promoting involvement in snow sports for all ages and has established itself as an essential partner in NY Metro's snow culture.
Help a popular ski + snowboard shop improve their site usability and update their online presence while maintaining and expanding upon current branding.
An all-new responsive website design which makes it easier for customers to find information, place an order and learn about what product suits them best while shopping online.
Lead UI/UX designer responsible for user research, strategy, UI design, prototyping, visual design, usability testing, and branding within a Lean UX framework.
Since Mount Everest have positioned itself outside of the e-commerce retail landscape for so long, they were in a good position to observe and analyze the market in order to identify where and how to position themselves and where best to invest their resources. To aid in this, I began with a market analysis and competitive analysis. I conducted a quick overview survey of the snow-sports retail industry in order to understand and identify indicators of success, audience and user expectations. I looked at the sites of Mount Everest's competitors to identify the strengths and weaknesses of existing online clothing stores. I also created provisional personas to begin thinking about who might make up Mount Everest's user base.
In addition to looking at competitors, I conducted a quick site audit of Mount Everest's current website to help familiarize myself with its content, visual style, hierarchy and usability. Although visually up to date with most other businesses several important pages are buried within the navigation, the checkout process is broken and there are lots of visual inconsistencies.
Guided by my secondary research, I based each persona around behavioral patterns. I created provisional personas to begin thinking about who might make up Mount Everest's customer base. These rough sketch personas helped bring focus to my contextual inquiry questions and allowed me to have a starting point for testing my hypotheses and assumptions regarding the goals, needs and frustrations of users.
To better understand the pain points and goals of those who travel with tour companies to test a few of my assumptions, I developed an interview script and conducted observational user interviews with participants who fell within the provisional persona profiles I’d established. I asked each subject some questions about their travel experiences and preferences. I also asked them to walk me through the process of discovering a place to travel and what services they frequently use.
Following the interviews, I created an empathy map to synthesize the information gathered during my contextual inquiry. I looked for patterns, similarities, and contrasts in order to uncover insights from my observations and move towards identifying implicit user needs.
• Participants are willing to travel in store to get good customer service.
• Participants dislike stores that do not have associates to help you.
• Participants are unsure if they will get the right fit when buying online.
• Participants feel that it’s easier to buy items in store.
• Participants need to know they are getting the right product for them.
• Participants need a way to get the right fit.
• Participants need a way to access information that helps them make the right decision.
• Participants need personal attention when buying equipment.
Rachel is the primary persona that emerged as a composite of my research findings. Rachel is an attorney who has 3 children. Although Rachel can be busy with the kids during the year with school, sports and other activities life begins to slow down in the winter. She looks forward their few ski trips as it’s a great way to spend time with the family in an active setting. Typically Rachel goes skiing 2-3 times a year with the family and enjoys her apres ski evenings with her family. She values owning a product which she can use for years, having the right equipment for the right moment and creating memorable experiences with her family at the mountain.
Those I interviewed expressed a range of feelings, from frustrations when buying online to not getting a quality product and having to replace it in a short period of time. While the range of stories varied, a common thread was individuals want to get the right product for them. Whether it be in quality, type of product or appropriate sizing. The personal attention and quality of customer service is why this store has customers returning, it's the core of Mount Everest.
With my primary persona established, I moved into translating the insights and needs of Rachel into defined Point of View statements, then crafting a set of "How Might We" questions to guide my design.
Moving from research and into the next stage of defining the product, I mapped the overlaps of business goals, user goals, and technical considerations. Identifying core project goals while considering technical aspects helps to define the sweet spot between finding viable solutions and prioritizing those which benefit the needs and desires of both the business and the users.
With the project goals in focus, I created a product roadmap, with features presented in order of priority in terms of development, investment, and importance to business and user goals. Rachel's needs and priorities were used to focus the exercise. The roadmap includes proposed metrics for measurement so that the impact and effectiveness of the features can be analyzed.
Informed by the features and priorities outlined in my product roadmap, I created a site map showing the content architecture proposed for the new Mount Everest site.
With the site map in place, I moved towards prototyping. I created a user flow based on some simple use cases for Rachel. In this diagram, Rachel moves through two scenarios, mapping her user journey from each possible entry point to check out. Mapping out the user's journey from start to completion helped me think through each step of the process and experience to make sure the organization of the pages flowed in a logical, smooth way.
Before moving into digitally sketching wireframes, I began with some hand-sketched concepts for the Mount Everest home page. This gave me an opportunity to think through which direction might best meet the needs and wants of Jill, as well as meeting Zeit's priorities and business goals.
After establishing some initial UI requirements, I began wire framing some key pages informed by my user flow. This set of initial wireframes covers a wide array of content on the website. These screens were developed with the goal of quickly translating them into a prototype so that I could begin testing my design early in the process.
To begin thinking about how Mount Everest's content and layout would adapt and adjust across different viewport sizes, I began transforming the desktop wireframes into tablet and mobile versions. Both tablet and mobile versions are shown here for 3 key screens.
For Mount Everest's visual design, I began by defining the brand attributes, which were informed by the project brief and my user research. The attributes were anchored around 4 central characteristics of the brand:
ADVENTUROUS / AUTHENTIC / KNOWLEDGABLE / TRUSTWORTHYINVITING / CLASSIC / FRIENDLY / VERSATILE
NATURAL / CASUAL / RELIABLE / SECURE
I began collecting some brand style inspiration via Pinterest, then created a mood board.
Before sketching and ideating a new brand, I first analyzed the branding Mount Everest currently has. Mount Everest's logo works well at large scale, but at small size the lines become to thin and the text illegible. This presented a challenge when trying to incorporate it into the new design. I decided to pursue a direction where the logo's typography would scale well and looked to refresh the branding for better visibility and recognition.
The initial, unrefined explorations shown above helped me hone in on a few different directions I might pursue. Reflecting upon Mount Everest's brand attributes, I determined that something friendly, versatile and adventurous was the direction I was heading in. The ideas ranged from mountains, to classic ski badges to a simple logomark. After experimenting with these ideas I landed on the logo below.
With the design direction established, I created a Style Guide and UI Kit for Mount Everest. These are living documents which can be updated and added to as the site (and brand) develops and evolves. By documenting the UI patterns and components we use in the design, we can better ensure that they are repeated and, therefore, consistent across the product.
With the key frames of the user flow designed, I brought my wireframe screens into InVision and created a mid-fidelity prototype to share with users. I was eager to see how the shop page would fare.
After creating the high-fidelity wireframes and iterating based upon feedback gathered from the first prototype, I created an updated, higher-fidelity prototype and tested again.
5 participants were asked to walk through the prototype. I asked each participant to complete three tasks according to the information in three scenarios I provided. I observed each and took notes as they navigated the site. I also recorded each in-person session with the app Silverback, which records both the screen and the test subject’s face and voice as they navigate through the screens.
Learn the difference between a camber and rocker snowboard.
Purchase a Burton 007 Winter Jacket.
Select a ski rental package and create a reservation to pick up the skis.
To synthesize the results and observations of the testing, I created an affinity map as a way of interpreting and prioritizing my findings. The insights gleaned from my observations inform the recommendations outlined in the far right column. If limits to time or budget necessitate choosing some recommendations to pursue while putting others on hold, this prioritization can inform those choices.
Although at first it seemed to be straightforward in determining the information architecture of the site it ended up being more challenging in ways that I didn't expect. Because of their product depth organizing information was a more delicate process. Mount Everest doesn't only sell snow-sports equipment but everything that's needed in addition to the equipment such as jackets, pants, etc. Because there is an overlap in product assortment finding a balance of keeping things simple while allowing the user to find what they were looking for quickly was an essential aspect of the project.
Another interesting feature to work on was the customer service / buyers guide aspect of the website. Mount Everest has a loyal customer base due to their amazing customer service. Trying to translate what they do in-store to online was critical in creating a website which reflects their values.
With more time, I'd like to iterate further and develop the full site design. Specifically the rental and service pages. Currently these services are a large part of their business. After expanding on these pages, I would conduct further testing to understand the behaviors of the customers who use these services and if there were any additional frustrations with the flow / process. The challenge of enabling users to feed confident about their selections and size is one I'd like to further pursue. Many questions remain. How best might we find ways to reduce the rate of returns and increase sales? Can we use augmented reality or other technologies to assist users when purchasing products online? The process of ongoing research, ideation, testing and iteration allows for ongoing growth, and I'm confident that further iterations would yield further discoveries and improvements.