In order to encourage divergent and creative thinking, we decided to sketch out design ideas individually before coming together and presenting our ideas to the group. Each group member referred back to the user needs we identified in the research stage to make sure that the solutions we came up with addressed at least part of our users' needs. Below are some of our individual sketches.
As a group, we merged our ideas into the following 3 design concepts:
In our first concept, we provide novice backpackers with a traditional survey which asks questions that would otherwise be asked by salespersons in REI's stores. After answering these questions, users will see a list of recommended backpacks that are suitable for their needs. They will also see a list of recommended features for them, and whether each recommended backpack has those features. This concept allows users to better understand and effectively find which backpacks will be the right fit for them, considering their size, weight, body frame and all of the items they will be carrying in their backpack.
Concept 2 provides users with an interactive video in which a qualified expert from REI talks about his backpacking experience. In the video, the expert will ask the same questions salespersons ask in an REI store, give tips to users on how to measure their bodies, and educate them what they should do to prepare for their specific trips. This concept could not only help novice backpackers narrow down their choices, but also educate them what they should consider while choosing a backpack.
Since research shows that backpackers usually form a close community, our third concept aims to bring the community together and let more experienced backpackers help novice backpackers with their purchase decisions. We provide a "Chat with Expert" function that enables users to email/chat with either REI salespersons or experienced backpackers online who have agreed to give advice to novice backpackers on REI's site. In the expert list, users are able to see the ratings of each expert, their specialties, and their experiences. This concept provides a platform for novice backpackers to reach out to experienced backpackers, learn from them, and find the right backpack more efficiently.
In order to narrow down our ideas, we conducted 7 feedback sessions with novice backpackers to see their preferences. We found that:
- Users generally prefer the survey tool (Concept 1) over the video tutorial (Concept 2), because the survey enables them to skip parts and does not require audio output.
- However, a number of users liked the personal elements of having the instructions narrated by Ned (an illustrative REI expert).
- Users also reported that they will use the expert advice tool, and hope to have access to it at any stage of the process.
Based on the data, we made the following design decisions:
- Use an interactive survey as the main feature to help users narrow down their options.
- Incorporate more personal features that users liked into the survey design (e.g. describing why each question is asked and narrating the instructions through the voice of Ned the expert).
- Create an expert advice tool to connect novice backpackers with REI salespersons as well as experts from the greater backpacking community.
- Allow users to access the expert advice tool anytime during the process.
We created the following wireframes as a group in order to illustrate the basic functionalities of our final design. The emphasis at this stage is still on functionalities rather than visual design, since we hope to make sure that our final design meets users' needs before refining the interface.