HomePortfolio.com is a leading Internet destination for home-design products and information. As VP of Design, I created high-level designs and supervised their implementation. I worked with business development and engineering to develop and refine new features.
Analyzing our site traffic led to improved site design and revenue-generating features. There's a summary of this work in an upcoming Nielsen Norman Group report on Usability Return on Investment.
Home page redesign. As site content and business relationships grew, it became necessary to redesign the home page. We met with an internal task force to learn what each department needed on the page. My design group worked on layout sketches until we reached a consensus before doing visual design. We had a couple of design reviews with the task force and launched this successful new home page. Read why it was successful below.
Here's why this was a successful design:
A balance of business and consumer needs. There's a variety of important content links for consumers. For the business, we added the Featured Sponsor area at bottom right, which highlights a paying sponsor; it's paid information that's actually useful to consumers.
New search methods. We added the Choose a room drop down because that's how people think of home-design products.
Multiple paths to content. Redundant links let users explore based on their model of their work, not ours.
More room for content. Get Inspired links in the center go to features on home design.
Clearer messaging. Text in the dark box at top left describes the mission of the site, which is difficult to get across because it's not traditional eCommerce (the site is about research, you can't buy anything).
Corporate branding. The bright green color at right and the black-and-white image at left come from the trade and consumer ads. The b&w image is so compelling that it became the most-clicked link on the page.
New product development. As an alternative to adding banner ads to the site, I did a site survey and found places where we could let manufacturers show deeper product information that our consumers wanted.
These "ads" satisfied everyone's needs (which banner ads wouldn't have): Consumers got the deeper product information they told us they wanted, manufacturers got to explain their products in greater detail and the company got increased revenue. This became a successful new product for our business partners.
User research for design and business development. I introduced usability testing at HomePortfolio. We did studies up to twice a month and people throughout the company found it helpful.
Focus groups are a good way to get general information about new product ideas. I ran groups to see how our consumers would react to a rebate offer. We learned that they liked rebates (of course!), but were also concerned about finding the right products for their homes. Many of our consumers would drive long distances for just the right item, but not necessarily to save a small percentage of the price.
I ran a focus group to study this rebate offer before we started it. We found that our consumers might not change which products they bought, but they'd travel a fair distance to a store offering a rebate. Focus group results helped plan this program.
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