BJ’s Wholesale Club: Website Redesign
BJ’s hired IBM Interactive to completely overhaul and redesign their website. They were looking to modernize and differentiate themselves from their competitors, such as Costco and Sam’s Club. In this project, I lead the entire User-Centered Design process. During the initial research and discovery phases, I conducted contextual field studies, usability tests, competitive analyses, and heuristic evaluations. During the design phase, I produced sitemaps and wireframes. Later, I played a central role in the final design of the website. In addition, I was heavily involved in the branding and creative direction of the new website, co-hosting collaborative design studio workshops with the client. Finally, I offered strategic ideas for business partnerships, as well as new ways of marketing products online.
The Project Story
Brainstorming with Initial Branding and Creative Direction Workshops
We started off our engagement with the BJ’s team by conducting multiple branding and creative direction workshops. Our goal was to get them brainstorming and really thinking about how they wanted the big box store to be represented, and also how they wanted to creatively distinguish themselves from Costco, Sam’s Club, and other competitors.
During these creative workshops, we collaboratively came up with a collection of aspirational websites. We then organized these websites based on the team’s desired functionality and overall customer experience.
As a part of our preliminary research, I conducted expert reviews (heuristic evaluations) on 6 competitor retail websites: Amazon, Costco, Overstock, Sam’s Club, Smart Bargains, and Target. In this review, I compared the designs and interactions of the Home Page, Search Results Page, Category Page, and Product Page. I recorded the positive and negative aspects of each competitor’s pages, and also ranked them accordingly.
In-Store Contextual Field Study and Competitive Lab Usability Testing
In the next phase of the project, I lead a contextual field study in which we traveled to several BJ’s store locations to gather requirements, pain points, desires, and expectations by interviewing both staff and customers. After that, I set up a mobile lab back at the office and lead usability tests with users that we recruited via BJ’s member database. In this phase of the research, I had users walk through similar tasks on the current BJ’s website (before the redesign), the Costco website, and the Walmart website. This allowed me to analyze what interactions worked well, and also what didn’t work so well, across multiple retail experiences.
Metrics Tracked During Usability Testing
During the usability testing sessions, we tracked various metrics, including task success rate, time on task, number of errors, and how often the user became confused.
Sitemaps and Wireframes
After our user research, we moved onto the design phase. I produced a comprehensive set of sitemaps and wireframes, using Omnigraffle.
Visual Design Strategy and Collaboration
I worked closely with our graphic designer to help guide her as she transformed my wireframes into full, high-fidelity design mockups (comps). We iterated these mockups through a number of rounds, experimenting with the layout, iconography, transparency effects, and various imagery. From what we had seen on Costco’s and Sam Club’s websites, big box stores tended to have very out-dated looking websites that also distracted users with inconsistent graphic design principles, poorly laid out pages, and a lack of coherence in branding. We wanted to modernize the online big box experience and make it feel more elegant, in the same way that various clothing retail stores have done.
Final Website Design
Eventually, this was the full website design that we settled upon.
Future Design Proposal: Red Cross/BJs Business Partnership
My brother works at the Red Cross in emergency mitigation. Talking to him one day, I came up with a fantastic, mutually-beneficial partnership idea that I felt compelled to share with the executive team at BJ’s. The Red Cross is always encouraging and educating families to become more prepared for potential disasters that may occur. This means having a comprehensive set of recommended supplies on hand, at all times, such as flashlights, batteries, canned food, bottled water, etc. It occurred to me that the diversity of products sold by a store like BJ’s made them the perfect partner for the Red Cross, allowing members to conveniently and efficiently make their households “Red Cross Certified” by purchasing disaster preparedness kits with just a few clicks. Essentially, the Red Cross would hand pick a cart full of products, saving members all the time and effort of picking out each item individually. In addition, the Red Cross could use such promotions as an opportunity to encourage BJ’s members to volunteer or donate items to the needy. Our graphic designer and I worked together to mockup my proposed concept so that we could present it to the client. They loved the idea and indicated that they would try and pursue such a partnership, once they had launched the new website.
Future Design Proposal: Showcasing Products as Cohesive Collections
As I explored BJ’s current website and physical stores during our research and discovery phase, I realized that BJ’s sold a lot of unexpected items that I never would have guessed they carried. Then, one day, as I was walking through IKEA, I noticed that they often showcased multiple products as cohesive collections. For example, IKEA would have interior designers expertly construct a room full of furniture, art, lamps, and other items that they sold. This was not only valuable to customers who were looking for home design inspirations, but it also obviously helped IKEA sell more product. It occurred to me that this might be a brilliant strategy for BJ’s new website as well. Using a vintage circus cart popcorn maker that BJ’s sells as an example, I mocked up an interactive, virtual theater room to illustrate how the wholesale club might market products in a similar way to IKEA. Users could rollover and click on various items in the room, such as the couch or the flat-screen television on the wall. Adding in a surprising product like the vintage popcorn maker could draw users’ attention and encourage them to buy something to complete their home project that they may have never even thought of before.