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Consumer spending has endured tectonic shifts in the wake of the .com boom, the rise of Amazon, and the great recession. Yet the most predictable trends have been in e-commerce, which has seen an approximate 400% sales growth since 2009.

For all these winners crowned by Darwinist capitalism, the most apparent losers have been their brick & mortar forebears, with locally-owned businesses suffering the worst losses. It all begs the question: should bookstores even try to compete?

This was the challenge I attempted to answer in building out a concept web store for Seattle's native Golden Age Collectables - a best-in-class geek boutique and magnetized tourist trap left weighing decent sales with limited means of expansion.

Drafting tactical e-commerce and an updated online presence for one of America's oldest comic shops.

PROJECT OVERVIEW

OUT COLLECTING DUST

Even after significant expansions to their product catalog, the fan-favorite outlet had been placed in an unfortunate situation, finding themselves unable to contend with digital competitors offering unparalleled convenience, selection, and pricing. 


While laser-focused on their successful retail operation, the brand remained in desperate need of an updated online presence, requiring a clean, organized, 21st-century e-commerce solution for those unwilling to dig through shelves of claustrophobic brick & mortar inventory.

Most egregiously, the company's website still conferred the look, feel, and functionality of a 90's-era personal blog, complete with inane gif animations, unauthorized use of trademark characters, and completely nonsensical navigation and site architecture. A lot would need to be done in order to bring the brand forward from the golden age to the modern era.

 

Working alone, however, meant that resources would be scarce, domain knowledge would be limited, and time would require careful management. Thus, I delineated the following objectives for the storefront, with a focus not on polished comps but strong foundations:

 

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  1. Justify the development of the Golden Age ecommerce platform through design research, surveying rivals to ensure quality interaction design regardless of direction.
     

     

  2. Establish a tailored content strategy based on both business needs and user preferences, subsequently executing with an intuitive information architecture.

     

  3. Sketch, ideate, wireframe, and extensively test a low-fidelity prototype of the intended site experience, satisfying unmet customer needs and alleviating relevant pain points.

VETERAN SERVICE & SELECTION

For the unfamiliar, Golden Age Collectables [sic] is a time-tested galleria of fan-favorite genre memorabilia, located in the lower depths of Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Having opened in 1971, the outfit is often (erroneously) hailed as America's oldest comic shop.

 

Today, Golden Age continues to serve its dedicated customer base with an expanded inventory that includes toys, books, games, novelties, imports, and other collector’s items. Despite status as a local legend, the emporium caters extensively to the Market's constant influx of tourists and sightseers.

DESIGN SPRINT

Nine business days from project kickoff to low-fidelity prototype, plus everything in between.

TARGET PLATFORM

Designing for responsive desktop web, with an emphasis on modern browsers with HTML5 capabilities.

DESIGN TEAM OF ONE

No collaborators on this project. I handled everything myself, from research to interaction design.

CHALLENGES

Defining classifications for hundreds of novelties.

With seemingly infinite categorizations, I struggled with nuance: If Thor was fantasy, was Spiderman sci-fi? Would Kanye West-styled sunglasses fit with novelties, accessories, or cosplay? All three?

Making checkout as painless as possible.

By now, Jared Spool's $300M guest payment button is the stuff of UX legend. Yet the challenge remains: how did you design for the functionality that separates the user from their hard-earned cash? 

Justifying the (hypothetical) value of a web store.

Research didn't always make competition as an online retailer seem the most judicious choice of action. Yet I was determined to identify the best direction, even without the means of extensive validation.

TOOLS & SOFTWARE

Digital Products
Sketch, Omnigraffle, Yelp, Google Maps, Google Drive (Docs, Sheets), Keynote, Slack, Quicktime, TextEdit, and InVision. 

Physical Products

Dry Erase, Post-It Notes, Post-It Notes, Post-It Notes, Construction Paper, Pen, Markers, Post-It Notes, Clonazepan, and Post-It Notes.

ROLES

Design Research & Analysis

I conducted surveys, sorts, contextual inquiry, usability, and every process in between, scaffolding my direction and content strategy with user input and evidence-based design.

Feature Prioritization & Content Strategy

Outlining, developing, and continuously revising my design strategy, I identified the highest-impact features, and targeted site content to the needs of a robust primary persona.

Navigation & Information Architecture

Working not only to improve the site's existing flow, but also the overload of products introduced with the ecommerce component, I kept myself busy building out the full taxonomy.

Concept Ideation & Interaction Design

As a UX team of one, I began by sketching out concepts in the ideation stage before digitizing my best wires. I then built out an interactive prototype with InVision, making way for usability.

Iteration, Testing, & Iteration

After drafting a script for task-based protocol, I poured endless hours into my prototype, uncovering and addressing issues on my own before usability tests had even begun.

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