“Designing without understanding users’ needs is walking in the dark. Doing it rapidly with prototyping & testing is running in the dark with scissors.”



User Research



Gaining the insight to rebuild from the ground up  -

We interviewed both stakeholders within Volusion and users. Our user research was done in hour long interviews, in two parts. The first was gaining a deeper understanding of current e-commerce users and potential online store owners, and their behaviors and needs. The second was having them walk through the foundation of the Volusion product - creating an account, setting up their first product, and creating and editing their storefront from a template. Overall, this is what we were aiming to learn:

  • What people are looking for in an e-commerce platform

  • What challenges exist in creating and launching an online store

  • How users view the holistic experience from setup, to first sale and growth of their store

  • What is the initial motivation when someone is setting up an online e- commerce presence



Key Quotes & Insights



Time is just as valuable and important to users as money itself.

“I don't want to waste my time... I want to understand the functionality before I get into the aesthetics.”



Users want to see value in requests from the product.

“I’m curious what the age of the user is being used for. How is that used to customize the experience? I’m assuming the experience is changing based on my answers, otherwise I don't know why it would be asking this.”



Users seek support, validation, and advice from their community and from other users they consider successful.

“I learned [how to write product descriptions] by looking at other people’s listings and finding someone who I admired  and had a very strong business.” 



Users want and need to be able to trust Volusion, and see that it has the potential to make them successful.

“Honestly I don't know why they are asking me any of this... it just feels like a survey, like they are trying to just get something out of me.”




Users have existing expectations and affordances of e-commerce platforms.

It is important that if we use different affordances or expectations, that we educate the user.

“I’ve only had a couple of online web experiences - a lot of those edit in the preview which is how I expected it to go.”



Users want to feel empowered and educated when using a product.

Users look for guidance and validation when it comes to the unknown.

“Wait now it doesn’t make sense. I feel like I’ve already done that - I feel like that should say the one I picked. I feel like it should have the green check.”



Customer experience is a valuable touchpoint to users. However, it is the second touchpoint that users have with Volusion.

“I think it’s gonna be a blend of our killer proactive service that we have naturally woven into our DNA. Originally the evolution was because we needed it. But I think it’s become an evolutionary strength. We are gonna have a powerful tool backed with a likable human presence. I think that is gonna win the day over like the big Shopifys and what not.”




Competitive Analysis


Discovering where we did not have to reinvent the wheel  -

01. In addition to tooltips, sections of content or tasks have concise, explanatory subheads.

  • How to complete basic requirements of a task

  • How to improve on a task to make it more successful Why a task is needed or info is being asked of the user

02. Empty states are used as example content or mini- tutorials.

03. Personal and demographic information is not being asked up front, unless it dynamically changes the user’s experience.

04. Progress indicators are clear: there are visual changes to tasks/sections that have been completed. An order is suggested but not required automatically.

05. “Help centers” are categorized by topic, and include more than answers to people’s questions and complaints. There are links to blog posts, tutorials, webinars, etc. to help users grow their business and marketing knowledge.



Competitor Strengths & Weaknesses


Strength: Robust functionality and integration with other tools.
Weakness: Disconnect and confusion with design and editing content.


Strength: Users’ ability to use the platform “part time.” Strong community aspect used in promotion and support.

Weakness: Inability to customize, create a strong brand, and the legitimacy that comes with that.


Strength: Ease of use, ability to create strong brand very easily.
Weakness: Lack of complex functionality and integrations.





Repairing the vision of a fragmented organization -

We were assigned multiple key stakeholders at the beginning of this project who did not communicate with each other more than one hour on Fridays, often over a conference call. 

One of the biggest challenges of this engagement was educating the teams we were working with on design thinking, and showing them the value of basing decisions on their users as much or more than business goals. To them, they had heard so many things from so many different people that they considered generative user research a waste of time. We needed to show them how to organize that data into something meaningful. 



Persona Creation



Narrowing down the target users  -  

When we started, Volusion felt very strongly that because anyone could use their product, they had to design for everyone. This created a very "medium" solution - new users felt lost, and power users felt bogged down by onboarding.

It was important to us to work closely with the Volusion teams as much as possible throughout this process, and workshop with them for key pieces of the puzzle. We took an initial stab at persona buckets, and then had everyone write "want, need, scared, help, love, hate, and annoyed" statements for each of these user types. We were able to narrow down eight initial personas to five.



User Hierarchy of Needs

Hierarchy of Needs_V1.png


Creating custom paths for different user types  -

One of the most key differences between our personas is how much "readiness" they have towards setting up an e-commerce store. 

We wanted a solid way to determine where in the process our users needed to be landed to feel the most engaged. If we put Jenny too far back, she would likely get bored or feel like Volusion is not robust enough of a solution to fit her needs. If we dropped Sarah and Ellen in without enough communication and context, they would be stuck. This was very important for a feature we knew we wanted to redesign, which was the initial onboarding survey customers take. We wanted to figure out the minimal amount of information we needed about our users to put them in the appropriate step of the process right away.



Design Values

From a team perspective, design values provide a motivational foundation for the work you produce. When we have a consultant team working with two completely separate client teams, these were absolutely essential to get everyone working towards the same goals. 



Design not only for an onboarding experience, a first sale app, or a growth app, but one experience that feels seamless, with one step lending itself to the next.


The product should generate and resemble the relationship and emotional experience users get with Volusion Employees.


Consider the design and experience to be another person on the Volusion team.


Seize opportunities to educate the user.


Every request from the user should have an output.


Validate, motivate, and encourage users by celebrating small victories.


Create solutions that are holistic and thoughtful that will lend themselves to being scalable showcasing the true power of Volusion.


Interaction Design



Diving into the product  -


Research was the overall emphasis of this project, but we did have a chunk of the engagement dedicated to ideation and interaction design. This was a combination of redesigning larger features based on the research, and executing on small, "quick win" tactical design assignments, such as reworking form field or button styles to improve usability.



Feature Ideation & Sketching Sessions



Ideating, then carving down based on constraints   -

After the Volusion teams had been debriefed on all research, we conducted two workshops to do feature ideation. The purpose of these was to get out everyones' thoughts, whether they were quick win tweaks or blue sky, long term solutions that might not even be possible. 

After synthesizing the sketching sessions, we created a set of 6 storyboards to represent key concepts for features that we were seeing over and over again.



Solution Roadmap



Breaking down long term solutions  into one-week sprints  -

After our initial rounds of ideation and sketching, we held a workshop with Volusion to finish synthesizing  all of these into themes. We ended up with a list of six "opportunities". For each opportunity, we created a roadmap of features and solutions that could be seen broken down into their one-week sprint process.

Before, they had only looked at one week at a time. They did what they could in a week, and then put a version of that into USerTesting.com, and decided whether or not go pursue more complexity based on these results. The opportunity roadmaps allowed us to think about long term solutions that directly tied back to our users' goals.  These are the major themes we landed on:

  • Connecting users with their customers

  • Creating a community of e-commerce users

  • Using system messaging to guide and educate

  • Making resources for business improvement available where contextually relevant

  • Ensuring UX patterns match existing user affordances

  • Customizing the flows where possible for each user type



System Messaging



Finding the smallest ways to make the  biggest changes -

The first major area for improvement we tackled was system messaging. The product lacked education, feedback for actions taken, and guidance on where to go next or when stuck. It was also easy for us to start filling up their one week sprints with easy to execute tasks that would make a huge difference to the user.

The goal was to eventually have this messaging be as dynamic as possible, and change for each user type based both on their intro survey answers and their behavior throughout the experience. We created a system map of the current product (part of which is shown here) so we could start to break down where these different types of messaging were needed, and which of our personas would benefit from being spoken to at that place.



Onboarding Survey



Learning who we are speaking to so we know what to say  -

Once we understood even better where we wanted to drop users in the experience and an overall strategy of how to speak to them, we decided to recreate the intro survey - the first impression users get.

The original intro survey was almost scrapped completely because users disliked it so strongly. The problem was that all questions were based around the information the sales team wanted to gather before calling people who had just signed up. It asked questions like age and gender and made users uncomfortable.

We divided our users into three major groups for the first question. Based on how we would plot them on our hierarchy of needs, we got the minimal amount of information to get them started. The next step would be to identify what behaviors were most valuable to track to provide them a dynamic experience.



Get Started Guidance



Encouraging progress with a task-oriented  onboarding experience -

Once we had some very important but short-term solutions in the works, we wanted to tackle something that would take more steps and iterations to get right. 

When we started, the "dashboard" was simply a group of links leading to different pages that Volusion was referring to as "apps." It was not providing any communication, guidance or analytics. One of their biggest challenges, the reason why they had an entire team called "first sale", is that onboarding is where most people drop off. Our goal was to make the initial state of the user's home screen be task oriented, and show them a roadmap of what needs to be done to be completely set up and ready to sell.

As tasks were completed, we revealed more, secondary tasks, as well as a prominent CTA for launching their store. Some users with established brands did not feel comfortable launching until their site felt completely professional, so recommendations on improving product photography and writing for the web. We want to encourage and comfort customers at the same time.



The Future Volusion Dashboard



Helping our users grow both their business and skills   -

The biggest piece we wanted to explore was the potential of the dashboard once users had set up their stores. There is no way to really monitor analytics or get alerts and updates in a central location. 

We began to explore a modular dashboard that could be customized for each user depending on their needs, as well as a notification center that would include updates on items sold, recommendations for store improvement, alerts for new apps and functionality, and promotions from Volusion.