- VLT Labs
- B2B Commerce
- March 2015
- Winnie Tzp (all)
A responsive, uncluttered, tailor-made site for both existing and prospective users.
Ideahouse is a wholesaler specialising in corporate gifts. They've been operating since 1993 and have grown to supply thousands of retailers (internally referred to as ‘agents’) — currently shipping to Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
I was approached to redesign their site.
|✗||Poor mobile view||Technical|
|✗||It’s hard to find things||Informational|
|View screenshots of the original site on Google Drive.|
It doesn’t work on mobiles
This was really the most pressing issue and the driving force behind the redesign. Although accessible from any browser-enabled device, the experience on small screens was a pan-and-zoom headache and accessing via desktop was the only viable option. This leads me to the second criticism…
Outdated is quite a nebulous term, but we all have a sense of what modern websites look, feel and function like. We can understand this from a techincal standpoint (in this instance 'not responsive') but it also relates to shallower, more cosmetic things. Trust is a big issue when you're trying to build relationships anything and the perception of website trust is no different in Asian markets. Making the site appear trustworthy to prospective agents was essential to growth.
Solve the hard bit first
In a project like this, the real task of the designer is to create a system , rather than simply draw up individual views. This requires establishing patterns that can be applied consistently throughout. The most information-dense, component-heavy view on the site is the Product page itself, so that felt like a sensible place to start.
It’s cluttered + hard to find things
The broad navigational structure was already defined when the project reached me, so I was really working in those parameters. Ideahouse has a loyal retailer base, some of whom have grown with the company. Being mindful not to alienate them would be crucial to a successful update. The relationship they would have with the website is a little different to an ordinary B2C consumer: they have more invested in the status quo and will likely be more resistant to change, even if it benefits newcomers.
Although the site was cluttered, adding more information would have been just been lost amongst what was already there and just confused the eye even more.
A ‘Quick Search’ is present on all views and is only ever hidden scrolling down on small screens, for screen real estate reasons. The ‘Advanced Search’ is still accessible through level 1 navigation, offering more precise control.
Ideahouse's Digital Manager was kind enough to share a few insights into how the new site was received. A benefit relayed that I didn’t predict was the experience of demo'ing the site with prospective clients. This could happen at trade shows, at their office or someplace else entirely. The only thing these scenarios have in common is that Ideahouse wouldn’t be using a desktop machine in a controlled environment. A representative would certainly use their mobile device and having it displayed correctly at whatever size is asked makes a great first impression.
Prior to the update, regular clients would more frequently email quote requests (instead of finding this available information out themselves. This is more overhead for the staff and really wouldn't scale very well. This decline in assistance but not in sales suggested this information was now much easier to find.
There was a clear divide between users in one particular view, but it wasn’t drawn along new/existing users, but rather the age of the existing users. The 'Isolated Product' page (fig.1) is the view in question as it meant not all information was on the screen at once, no matter how unorderly. This is something I want to explore further as there might be a solution in which everyone is happy.