Web Usability: How Staples Does It
If you operate a dedicated catalog/multichannel business nowhere near the size of Staples, you may think you have little in common with the office products giant. But in catalogs and on the Web, the playing field gets leveled and best practices can be common among many players. During a session at the recent NEMOA conference in Cambridge, Mass., Staples Director of Usability Colin Hynes laid out several ways in which Staples brings customer centricity to its catalog, store and Web initiatives.
1. Research user goals by doing in-store studies, seeing if customers use their catalogs in stores.
2. Design those goals through content maps and page flows.
3. Validate that goals are met through usability testing, online studies, monitoring behavior and heuristic reviews.
Site Design Research
He then discussed the guiding principals for Staples’ Web site design:
1. Involve users in every stage of the design process.
2. Blend methodologies to gain strategic and tactical insights by doing the following:
*start with open methods that are prone to discovery and move toward highly structured activities
*focus on actionable insights while moving from concept to low-fidelity design to high-fidelity.
3. Use technology strategically to increase sample size.
4. Ensure tight controls over distribution of designs to the public.
Upon completing a number of Web research projects, Staples was able to increase its Web site conversion rate by 28 percent, Hynes said. And although its average order decreased slightly, its margin rate increased enough to cover it, driven by a 30 percent improvement in attainment in key categories.