StoreHub is Aussie startup working to make retail stores more effective. That includes, for example, looking at task management — typically done, inefficiently, through email or paper — and improving the experience to drive up productivity.
When I first had a chat with the client about the project, I was fairly confident it wouldn’t be too complex. How difficult could it be to do a Trello / Jira equivalent for Retail Stores?
So we got started.
And I quickly changed my mind.
Retail Stores have a complicated management structure. Countries are broken down by Regions, which in turn have their own Stores, which in turn have their Departments, which have Teams composed by Team Members. Each layer has its own manager, and assigning simple tasks can get complicated really quickly.
The tasks themselves? Not that simple either. They need to support sub-tasks, various deadlines, various assignees and other advanced features. And we’re talking just about the organization structure and tasks. There is a lot more that would go here.
Long story short, it was a highly complex project. As usual, we got started doing research and making sure we had a solid foundation.
The first step was outlining a research plan to be executed. This is essential to make sure the research exercise has clear goals and execution. We wanted to get a clear picture of how stores were managing their tasks — if they were relying on email, paper, and how the tasks were assigned and then reported.
In addition, we wanted to understand which software was being used at each management tier and whether there were any constraints that would have to be taken care of. The client and I worked together to run surveys and interviews and then digesting the results.
For example, below I outline some of the questions that we wanted to have answers for at the end of the research exercise. These aren’t the questions we asked our audience, these were guidelines that helped drive the overall exercise and tell us when to stop.
Once we were confident we had a clear idea of how retail stores operated, managed their tasks and what mattered to the different user profiles, we summarized the research in user personas. Following is an example — Jack, a Regional Manager (Responsible for the Stores inside a specific region):
The next logical step — since we now understood pretty well the problems we had to solve — was to focus on the system that would address those problems. We created a requirements document for the first release and wrote user stories that went from organization management to the actual task management, always having our personas and real-world use cases in mind.
And once we were confident the user stories were addressing the needs identified during the research, we started thinking about how to actually structure them in a system — how the navigation would be structured and how users would accomplish the main tasks. Functionality Maps are a great way of visualizing those workflows.
We created a lot of them, so I won’t include all in this case study. Below are two quick ones, demonstrating how templates (which can then be used to create tasks with set lengths, subtasks and other preset conditions) are created and how new users can be added.
Wireframes were next in line. Some of the most complex mechanics needed to be visualized in an interface both for testing and to evaluate whether our proposed structure from the functionality maps made sense.
Working on the wireframes helped us understand the most efficient way to assign tasks and visualize perfomance, how to create dynamic templates and apply them, how to group assign to multiple regions, stores, departments or teams members, and more.
We played around with different interface patterns for accomplishing certain items (a task card, for example) before deciding on a single one. A good number of wireframes were produced; the following should give you a sense of the overall feel.
You can’t really tell if your designs succeeded helping people accomplish their goals unless…people actually use the things you’re building.
Usability testing sessions are essential, and the client was fully onboard to testing out the wireframes to make sure we were on the right track. Some people don’t like testing wireframes and prefer the finalized mockups — but the upsides are too many to ignore:
I put together a list of task scenarios and scripts that we wanted to run with each persona. We recruited participants and ran the sessions.
The results were overwhelmingly positive. Users could accomplish all the core tasks, and the only things that came up were minimal and easy to tweak. It took us less than a week to do the entire exercise and was absolutely worth it. Below you’ll see some of the tasks and a screenshot of one of the screen recordings:
Once we were confident the wireframes were rock solid, the next step was to work on the mockups. StoreHub kind of had a brand in place. It was a logo and a basic color palette — but it wasn’t a great one. The concept was good and could be re-utilized, so I ran with it and improved it.
The new logo was versatile and communicated that StoreHub would be… a hub for the retail stores’ technology solutions. I changed the color palette to something more robust that would suit our needs and went with Lato as the typeface.
The end result was harmonious, and we were really happy with the versatility of the various elements created — cards for tasks, scalable navigation pattern, task modals and more. I’ll include below some of mockups to give you a good sense of the overall look and feel.
After finalizing the task management platform mockups, we spent some time playing around with experiments for upcoming functionality. We experimented with an analytics dashboard, messaging, a knowledge base and more. The idea was to visualize how they might look and feel. If we do decide in the future to fully built these, more work will have to be done on the structural level.
We were extremely happy with the end result — it was absolutely spot on. Working with StoreHub was phenomenal and the project was challenging but really fun.