We asked you to send in your questions about kalahari.net’s redesign and the User-Centred Design method they’ve adopted for the process. Rian van der Merwe, ex eBay user experience specialist and newly appointed kalahari.net Head of Product & Design, has answered your questions. To read the previous post about kalahari.net and Rian see here.
Apart from the obvious visual updates, what are the major differences between the old and new sites, and what affect do these differences make (or intend to make) towards the ultimate goals/targets for the site?
Initial changes to the design include new navigation, cleaner pages, new merchandising elements, and a consistent 960px fixed grid system. We also have a renewed focus on implementing the site according to web standards, which has many benefits such as faster page loading and much better cross-browser support.
What impact does aesthetic design have on usability, can a nicer look and feel contribute towards a more usable site?
Aesthetics are extremely important in design. The aesthetic component has two primary functions (among many others): First, to communicate the visual hierarchy of the site. Second, to provide the emotional brand connection.
How much importance do you place on the quality of the design work for a site?
Hmm, I don’t think anyone would say quality is not important… but I’d go a step further and say it’s becoming increasingly important for us to sweat the details. As we’re making changes, we’re spending more and more time on the small details that can make a big difference. Basic quality is a given, but sweating the details is what makes a design truly stand out and delight users.
What were the biggest challenges with the redesign, if any?
Figuring out where to start. I would call what we’re doing right now a “realignment” more than a “redesign” – we made the decision early on to do frequent incremental releases so that we can gain momentum as a team, get user feedback faster, and most importantly, not confuse users with a bunch of big changes all at once. With that decision made, we needed to figure out where to start and where we ultimately want to be from a product perspective.
Without going into too much detail, we started the process by going through a “customer experience journey” exercise to help us get an overview of the critical paths that users take through the site. Always start with users.
How important was maintaining a level of familiarity with the old site?
This is very important, and one of the main reasons we’re following a “realignment” approach, as mentioned above. Too much change can freak people out, because even if the new design might provide a better UX, users can get used to doing things a certain way, so changing that can be quite problematic (Facebook news feed changes, anyone?).
Is the site design going to be introduced gradually so the user can get accustomed to the new look and feel?
See above answer.
How extensive was the User Interface testing?
Our initial changes were made using quantitative web analytics as well as a heuristic evaluation of our site (based on established UI industry guidelines).
Now that the basic design framework is live, we’re moving on to improvements in the interaction of specific flows, so we’re currently running usability testing on high fidelity clickable mockups . My goal is to eventually implement a whole range of user experience research methods, including ethnography, contextual inquiries, and participatory design.
How have users responded to the new site, and what is Kalahari.net’s protocol for dealing with that feedback?
This has been incredibly well received and feedback has been positive. Comments have centred on the cleaner and more contemporary design, and how it’s easier to notice the products and specials we’re running on the site.
We have received some comments about certain features/links that we reduced the visual hierarchy on, and those issues all go into our product list to be investigated and prioritised appropriately in context with our overall goals.
Although there is a conditional style sheet for IE6, there are still some small styling and layout issues, broken navigation, etc. (a) What is Kalahari.net’s browser support and/or progressive enhancement strategy? (b) What is the IE6 percentage of web browsers?
In terms of IE6, we have decided to officially stop supporting it in the coming months, based on current usage as well as, of course, Microsoft’s own push to finally get everyone using a modern browser. We’ll provide landing pages for IE6 users to prompt them to upgrade to the latest version of IE. Current IE6 usage in South Africa is siting at 8.4%, and kalahari’s IE6 usage is in that same range.
Where does the balance lie between providing a good user experience and the ultimate business goal of making a sale?
Software development is always a balance between user experience (user needs) and business goals for sure, and I’ll also add a third dimension – technical needs due to possible technical debt accrued over time.
Thanks for your questions! And thank you Rian for your time.