JumpUSA.com sells a unique array of sports-specific training aids and exercise equipment. Its name brand includes products that can’t be purchased anywhere else. For example, JumpSoles are plyometric platforms attached to shoes and designed to increase one’s leaping ability. However, the site is hamstrung by a poor User Interface (UI) design. The author compiled a usability report on the website. This post contains an overview of the results, recommendations, competitor analysis, personas, interview script, survey, card sort, diary study structure, heuristic evaluation, and usability testing.
The research consisted of the following methods. Each method is explained in detail later in the post.
Competitor analysis: an evaluation of competitor websites, listing their unique features, strengths and weaknesses.
Personas and scenarios: personas (or user archetypes) are fictional individuals that represent types of users, and scenarios (or use cases) are stories to tell how personas complete tasks (e.g., buying a basketball hoop) or behave when confronted with a given situation (e.g., get a quote on team uniforms).
Interview: a structured conversation in which one person seeks information from another. The research team developed the interview to determine which features in a sporting goods website build visitor confidence.
Survey: a data collecting technique in which a sample population self-reports data in a questionnaire that can be administered in person, online, or over the phone.
Card sorts: a technique to generate an information architecture (a product’s organization, structure, and labeling of content) by having participants group labelled cards. They help designers understand users’ mental models—how they anticipate events and form explanations.
Diary study: enable researchers to collect in situ (as it occurs), longitudinal (for a long duration) data for a large sample.
Heuristic evaluation: evaluators look for design usability flaws by judging a design on ten principles (heuristics) that make a user interface easy to use.
Usability testing: the evaluation of a website or product by observing representative users attempting to complete tasks and scenarios.
JumpUSA.com is a static or nonresponsive website, not optimized for mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). The site is still using HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) rather than HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure), which enables encrypted communication and secure connections between a user’s computer and the website.
Dated design: JumpUSA.com follows a mid-2000s design aesthetic. The homepage is cluttered. It includes an exhaustive navigation on the left, a hero image (slider) above twelve products in the center, and an email signup box and testimonials on the right.
Not optimized for mobile devices: JumpUSA.com is not optimized for mobile devices. With the spread of smartphones and tablets, online retailers are impeding their success if they don’t have a mobile version of their site or use a responsive (fluid and scalable) design.
Outdated copyright: the website’s copyright is 2014. Viewers are likely to assume the site is dormant because the copyright line hasn’t been updated in five years.
Empty product categories: the website navigation includes empty categories (no products), which needlessly bloats the site.
Dormant live chat: the website has live chat software, but the software appears to be dormant in the offline state.
In the competitor analysis, JumpUSA was compared against the websites for Dicks Sporting Goods, Online Sports, and Perform Better. Researchers chose these websites because they represent the scope of competition: from large and national, to small and regional, to strictly online.
JumpUSA was the only site not using HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). This is an inexcusable liability for an eCommerce website. JumpUSA.com (along with Online Sports) does not have a mobile-friendly website.
The card sort confirmed that the website’s navigation should include a media section containing DVDs, books, and videos. It was the only category where all participants agreed.
The Heuristic evaluation found the following:
- Many pages don’t have a back button or a way to return to the previous state.
- The site is inconsistent with its use of breadcrumbs (only product pages have them).
- The shopping cart isn’t intuitive (a conclusion reinforced by the usability test). The continue shopping button is easy to overlook and disappears when the cart is empty.
- The page layout is inconsistent. For example, specialty product pages and more information pages differ in layout and design and open in new windows. The new windows, coupled with the inconsistent design, make the website experience jarring for visitors.
- The design is noisy (i.e., irrelevant units of information). The homepage has two substantial navigations (on the top and left side), testimonials, email signup, catalog request, header (or hero) slider, twelve products, and introduction copy. The introduction copy is at the very bottom of the page.
- There is no easy way to find help. The site does not have a help center, frequently asked questions (F.A.Q.), or hover over suggestions.
The usability testing found two conclusions: the shopping cart is not intuitive, and more information about product links are not easy to recognize.
Two participants didn’t notice the remove button in the shopping cart, and one participant missed it entirely. Navigating from the shopping cart to the homepage proved challenging. One participant did not recognize that the logo linked to the homepage. Another participant mentioned—without prompting—that the cart should include navigation like the other pages.
Finding more information about specific products proved challenging. Every participant needed prompting to locate more information links, which are buried in a product’s description.
- Add a Frequently Asked Questions page. With a dormant chat, JumpUSA.com has only one way for visitors to find assistance: email or call customer service. This is an oversight that needs fixing.
- Remove products from the homepage. During the usability testing, multiple participants commented that the homepage was “cluttered,” and participants didn’t click on the homepage product section.
- Give the site introduction preeminence on the homepage. The site introduction needs to be easy to recognize. In the usability tests session, none of the participants read the introduction. It is hidden beneath the products and above the footer navigation.
- Shrink the social media icons. One participant specifically mentioned that he found that the social media icons distracted from the logo and the top navigation. The social media icons should be updated (the GooglePlus was discontinued on April 2, 2019).
- Condense categories (e.g., remove empty categories). Empty categories plague the current design and confuse users. In the side category navigation alone, there are twenty-one empty categories and subcategories.
- Update the copyright year. An out of date copyright leaves users with a perception that the site may be dormant (and the company out of business).
- Remove the “blog” link from the top navigation. The blog link is an email signup link offering a free “Jump Training Manual.” It is a newsletter rather than a blog, and the offer is the same as the newsletter signup.
- Enable or remove the live chat feature. The site live chat feature is dormant. If it’s not active, it is superfluous and should be removed.
- Redesign the shopping cart. This research found that visitors have difficulty noticing the remove button, and the logo link to the homepage is not obvious. Adding a form of navigation (e.g., top) will make the cart user-friendly.
- Standardize page layout and design. Specialty products, sports (e.g., basketball), and more information pages have inconsistent designs. Establishing a design system will improve the site’s usability.
Methods in Detail
Personas are user archetypes, fictional individuals used to represent types of users. They humanize users and help create empathy for users.
Research question: How can the JumpUSA website interface be improved to build user confidence?
Participants: Users who have purchased at least a thousand dollars’ worth of sports training equipment online in the past six months.
The objective of this study is to determine which features in a sporting goods website build user confidence. JumpUSA sells sports training equipment to organizations, gyms, teams, coaches, and individuals. Many of these transactions cost over a thousand dollars. The researchers want to interview users who have made a sports training equipment purchase costing a thousand dollars or more in the last six months. Users need to have confidence in the product and feel that the website is credible if they are going to make a purchase. The interviewees for this research do not have to be customers of JumpUSA.
The researchers are seeking insight on industry website features that build user confidence or have the potential to build user confidence. The report includes a substantial script for the interviewer complete with follow-up questions, probing questions, and prompts.
The report includes a twenty-one question survey. Its purpose is to determine the tendencies of people who have purchased sports equipment online in the past six months. The researchers want to find which site interface features build user confidence. The desired respondents are people who have purchased sports training equipment online in the past six months. Respondents don’t need to have bought from JumpUSA. It is only necessary that respondents have visited the website.
To generate new ideas about product organization, researchers conducted an open card sort. An open card sort was used because researchers were looking for insight into how inexperienced users categorize products and the language (or vernacular) they use to create labels. The goal of the card sort was to understand the mental models of users who do not have experience in sports and athletic training.
Four sessions were conducts in person on a computer using xSort. This choice saved time in preparation and cleanup and data analysis (because the program automatically creates a distance table and cluster analysis.
Each session was conducted individually. Participants were given a tutorial on using xSort then asked to categorize forty-five products. Participants were encouraged to think aloud and discouraged from leaving cards unclassified.
The focus of the diary study proposal is user behavior and general activity. Researchers intend to include diverse groups of spenders (High, Medium, and Low). The data gathered is to be used in persona and scenario development and to isolate pain points.
The diary study will be conducted in three phases based on how much participants intend to spend on sports training equipment. The total number of participants is fifteen (five high spenders, five medium spenders, and five low spenders).
The classifications are as follows:
- High: over $1,000 (logging period two weeks)
- Medium: $250 – $1000 (logging period two weeks)
- Low: below $250 (logging period one week)
Participants will be recruited from JumpUSA’s customer pool and email subscribers. A pop advertisement on the company’s website is a secondary option if needed. An exploratory email, including a screener questionnaire, will be sent to candidates. The questionnaire will be used to establish if the candidates are presently looking to purchase sports training equipment online or will be in the immediate future.
The study will be kept short, no more than two weeks. The length of the phases will vary based on the anticipated amount of research needed for each group. The assumption is that less expensive buying decisions will involve less research on the part of the consumer. As a result, the low spender phase will last one week, while the medium and high spender phases will last two weeks. The study incentive ($100 prepaid VISA card) will be distributed for each week of the study.
Participants will log their entries via email and will be encouraged to create snippets as actions happen via a smartphone application that they can download and use. They use the app during or directly after they visit a website. Participants fill out a simple form with their goal, action(s), and the website they visited. They also rate whether the actions were helpful or unhelpful and whether the experience was positive or negative. The application will send participants reminders to complete a full entry at an interval and via a method selected by the participants (e.g., an email reminder in two hours or a push notification in four hours).
This method was designed to make it easier for respondents to provide information on searching behavior, attitudes, and context. This study should provide a wealth of contextual user information for persona and scenario development. Also, this study has the potential to reveal customer journeys.
Jakob Nielsen, a co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, introduced ten usability heuristics (or rules of thumb) for evaluating websites in 1994. In this method, evaluators look for design usability flaws by judging a design on ten principles (heuristics) that make a user interface easy to use.
0 – I don’t agree that this a usability problem.
1 – cosmetic problem. Fix only if time permits.
2 – Minor usability problem: given low priority.
3 – Major usability problem: important to fix, given high priority.
4 – Usability catastrophe: imperative to fix, given top priority.
The researchers conducted the usability test with inexperienced users, who had little to no prior experience with JumpUSA.com. The goal of this study was to check the JumpUSA.com usability by having participants complete a range of common eCommerce interactions:
- Search for products
- Find more information about products and specialty products
- Find contact information
- Test the site’s shopping cart
Participants completed five tasks. Each session lasted approximate twenty minutes. Sessions were run in-person, and participants were encouraged to think aloud. All were in the 60 to 75 age range, computer literate, spent over an hour a day online, and had made a purchase online in the past six months.
Participants were asked to complete the following tasks:
- Find the Jumpsoles Frequently Asked Questions page.
- Find the JumpUSA.com Customer Service email address.
- Find a product designed to strengthen the upper body (chest or shoulders), and add it to the shopping cart.
- Remove the product from the shopping cart and return to the homepage
- Find a DVD to help improve a basketball player’s shooting ability.
- Find more information about JumpUSA’s resistance (and stretch) bands.
For a more detailed explanation, download the report.