case study

Chocolate Retailer User Experience Journey

Project overview

The user experience improvement journey is an ongoing one for a chocolate retailer customer of ours. Saddled with a clunky legacy website that is tightly integrated with their back-office systems, and limited to making changes during a 5-month window of time each year by their peak sales seasons, they are working in baby steps.

They consistently heard from customers that their checkout process was confusing and they needed to make improvements, even though a ground-up re-build was not possible.

Usability review & competitive benchmark

After hearing from customers that their checkout process was confusing, they asked me to conduct a comprehensive competitive usability review, both to identify where they needed to improve for customers to have an acceptable experience and to highlight where they could draw inspiration from competing sites and make larger improvements.

The review presentation included an overview of recommendations and inspiration suggestions, but also detailed scorecards showing where they needed to improve relative to competitors, and a tracking sheet for when they chose to implement recommendations.


Once the busy season passed, we began a project to redesign the site, with the primary goal of making it more shopping-focused rather than having “shop” be only one item among an otherwise company-focused navigation.

Restricted by how their back-end system communicates with the customer-facing website, we went into the site map phase of the project with a starting draft from them, and my task was to make refinement recommendations, and verify with the development team that everything outlined was possible without re-engineering the system.


Because the company had its own design team, we were once again given initial direction for the layout of the homepage, product list, and product detail pages, so the first round of wireframes refined this initial concept, making recommendations on best practices wherever necessary.

The subsequent “batches”, broken up in an agile manner to keep design and development moving, worked through the functional challenges of improving their checkout, product customization, search, and member registration/administration processes.

With the limited timeframe and a tightly-defined scope, I needed to make sure that I didn’t inadvertently introduce any design elements that would jeopardize the timeline or budget.

So for each batch, I sat with the developers and made sure that I understood exactly what the data models dictating screen elements were, what workflow steps could and could not be shuffled around, what information and alerts came from the back-end system vs. got managed via the website CMS.

Tools & methods:

  • Competitive review
  • Site map
  • Axure wireframes
  • Form design

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