Beautiful. Timeless. Recycled: A CONCEPT PROJECT.
This project consisted on developing a business idea that could be implemented and represented via a desktop website centered around the e-Commerce experience.
A business idea involving a sustainable, affordable clothing brand that sells timeless clothing made of recycled high-quality textiles, and an accompanying desktop-based e-Commerce website
- Qualitative Research (semi-structured interviews)
- Competitive Analysis
- User Journeys and Empathy Maps
- Ideation / Sketching / Wireframing / Prototyping
- User Flows and Sitemap
- Continuous iteration
- Usability Testing
- Documentation (Case Study)
- To have an enjoyable shopping experience that is free of frustration and makes them feel welcomed
- To obtain a sense of accomplishment from said experience
- To have fun while shopping online
- To feel like the brand thought of them when designing and building their website
- To feel satisfied and efficient
- To receive high-quality, affordable, long-lasting items
- As a new company, roup is looking to promote awareness and attract new customers by providing a functional, enjoyable shopping experience.
- To lead people into going from users to customers by ensuring that their shopping experience is congruent with their goals, hopes and expectations.
- To increase website traffic
- To prove that upcycled fashion can be beautiful, timeless, and of the highest quality
- To debunk the stereotype that recycled clothing is not aesthetically pleasing
- To promote slow and conscious practices in fashion
- To close the loop between manufacturing and landfills
- To work towards changing the fashion industry’s current unsustainable practices
Strategy & Research
Developing the Business Idea
While the overall number of sustainability-driven companies (and consumers) have been growing in the past few years, it is still a relatively young area of business (especially in fashion). However, in the grand scheme of things, this is neither common practice nor prioritized as a fundamental way to run a business.
With the fashion industry being one of the most polluting in the world, there is a case to be made for the importance of repurposing and upcycling (i.e. giving new life to previously made/loved/worn items). Not only should it be about incorporating conscious practices and materials into the process, but about aiming to make ‘new’ clothes exclusively out of them. This way, the cycle never ends and the creation of waste is completely avoided. This would effectively keep textiles off of landfills, thus reducing the negative impact that fashion has had and continues to have on the environment.
“By 2030, fashion's annual waste from production and consumer disposal will increase by 60%. Today, only 20% of apparel is recycled at end-of-use, and most of that is downcycled into lower-value materials due to inadequate technology. Assuming a linear production model, the industry could save society 4 billion euro per year by keeping the total amount of waste constant. Far more is possible through closed-loop recycling."
– Copenhagen Fashion Summit 'Pulse of the Fashion Industry' Report, 2017
COMPETITIVE RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS
The number of existing brands and marketplaces dedicated to slow fashion are limited, with only a handful of them being dedicated to upcycled clothing. Most companies are either a) focused on small batch items, b) incorporating this practice as an add-on or ‘extra feature’ of their already existing business, or c) in need of support from the fashion community.
Additionally, research showed that while some bigger brands do appear to take into account ethical fashion and sustainability, most are either targeting specific items of clothing (e.g. stores selling exclusively recycled leather jackets–see Wolf and Lamb on the left), or only included a small "recycled and upcycled" section on their websites (e.g. ASOS and Urban Outfitters.)
Aside from digging into the feasibility of the business idea (would users be interested in it?) the research phase was also focused on the identification of frustrations associated with the eCommerce experience (what are users’ goals when online shopping? What do they dislike and want to avoid?).
Individual, semi-structured interviews were conducted in order to obtain insights into user pain points as they related to online shopping, from the concept of the brand(s) to the actual buying experience.
Additionally, user journey maps and a competitive analysis uncovered answers to all three of these questions while simultaneously identifying market gaps and opportunities along the way.
PAIN POINTS AND FRUSTRATIONS
In terms of the online shopping experience, research showed that most of online shoppers’ pain points revolved around:
Struggling to properly determine an item’s fabric/material (interviewees reported that this will sometimes cause them to give up on shopping)
- Having to choose between “expensive and long-lasting” and “affordable but low-quality”
- Wanting (but not being able) to see more detailed shots of items as a way to solve the lack of information as it related to fabrics
- The lack of transparency from brands in regards to pricing, sourcing and manufacturing
KEY RESEARCH INSIGHTS
- Some shoppers are goal-oriented, while others enjoy browsing online but shopping in-store
- Sizing and fit are the top variables that negatively impact the shopping experience
- People who don't go past the browsing stage report 'not being able to try it on' as their main setback
- Some shoppers reported concerns about colors not being true to what is shown in photos
- Most users reported a desire to see brands share with customers how they price, profit and how/where items are manufactured
- Most shoppers reported not knowing much about the life cycle of clothes, where they come from or where they go after they’re discarded
- Most shoppers mentioned that they enjoy the use of zoomed-in/macro shots as a way to obtain an idea of what a garment’s material is like
Jenn: CURIOUS, Conscious (Primary)
- Wants to feel relaxed and taken care of when shopping
- Likes to be able to assess the quality of item's fabric/feel
- Wants to learn more about where clothes come from
- Wants brands to consider her when building their sites
Mark: Utilitarian, GOAL-ORIENTED
- Wants to feel fast and efficient
- Wants to feel like he’s "found a good deal"
- Likes to buy affordable items that are long-lasting
- Wants to "get straight to the point" and not be distracted
Jenn became the primary user persona due to her shopping habits, her love for clothing and her desire to build a more conscious, sustainable wardrobe. However, the design made sure to consider Mark's goals and needs in addition to Jenn's, as his goals also aligned with the principles and values of the business–something that is important to remember when designing positive experiences, establishing emotional connections with users and building customer relationships.
DESIGNING FOR PERSONAS
In designing for Jenn and Mark, it became imperative to consider shared pain points between the two while remaining mindful of the fact that research showed Jenn as the primary user persona, and therefore the one who is more likely to engage in the shopping experience from beginning to end. Mark, on the other hand, has different goals and appears to be the type of user who sees eCommerce websites as part of ‘the browsing phase’ of the overall experience, meaning that he goes to a store’s website for visualization purposes and finishes his purchases in-store. However, the goal was to design for both users and ensure they both had an equally satisfactory experience.
WIREFRAMING, PROTOTYPING AND TESTING
Data recollection, analysis and synthesis went on to become insights that defined the beginning of the ideation process. Sketches became wireframes, and wireframes became an interactive prototype that was put through two rounds of usability tests. The process of refinement was constantly revised and aimed at making sure that user goals were being met appropriately and successfully. Each round of testing consisted of 6 to 7 tests.
The most significant changes that took the wireframes from their initial version to their fourth and current version included:
- Addition of a new screen that allows users to choose between checking out as a guest, as a returning customer or signing up for a new account
- The addition of a reference guide to inform users of their whereabouts in the checkout proces
- The addition of ‘Same As Shipping’ as an option on the ‘Billing’ screen
Define the entirety of the site’s interactions
Continue testing the 'Product Listing' and 'Product Details' pages and design corresponding high fidelity mockups
- Work collaboratively with developers towards creating a fully responsive website that can be accessed from several platforms
- Develop an accurate, trustworthy sizing chart
- Provide users with cross-sell recommendations that are intuitive and non-intrusive
- Offer a free at-home try-on service
- Develop a closed-loop system where users can send the store their old clothes for recycling/upcycling
In this case, developing a business idea and creating a website to accompany it were two very different yet mutually dependent tasks. Separating the two during the research phase posed some level of difficulty. However, revisiting goals and constantly testing brought focus back to the interaction between the testers and the design, allowing me to separate business goals from design goals.
Accurately translating an inherently sensory experience (touching fabrics in order to assess their quality and feel) into a digital one resulted in another big challenge. Thorough ideation (in combination with valuable user feedback) allowed me to arrive at the use of detailed, high quality macro photos in an attempt to visually convey that experience.
I found great value and growth as a designer thanks to this project. As someone who is in the psychology and design end of the spectrum, becoming familiar with the challenges of a business and the ways in which they can be resolved resulted in a very eye-opening experience. It reinforced the idea that it is essential to not only empathize with users and customers, but with stakeholders as well.