Fall 2020 – 10 weeks
Zoom (user testing)
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit small businesses especially hard due to the lack of cash flow, store traffic, and revenue. Many have been forced to reduce hours or lay off employees, some even shutting down indefinitely.
With the transition to internet tools as a primary means of generating capital, my group wanted to help small businesses generate more exposure and revenue through technology. We chose to extend features in Instagram, an app used by 90.9% of the small business owners we surveyed.
Small business owners have turned to Instagram as their primary advertising platform because of its large user base, high use of visuals for marketing, and the ability to interact with customers directly.
However, Instagram's algorithm (based on post engagement) makes it difficult for businesses to reach broader audiences, and increased competition on Instagram makes it challenging for small businesses to target specific local viewers.
We were able to help small businesses reach their target audiences by establishing a curated Shop Page that highlights small businesses, increases shop discovery, and allows for a more custom-made search experience.
Due to positive user feedback, if our redesign was implemented, we can expect:
We first wanted to understand how owners adopted technological solutions to support their shops, and scope out our problem space. We deployed a survey online and received 14 responses from small business owners.
Our survey results found that many small businesses are attracted to Instagram because it supports easy marketing and communication with customers through direct messages, comments on posts, or stories.
We then decided to interview 4 small business owners and focused most of our interview questions on further discovering Instagram-specific insights and pain points.
From our survey and interviews, we narrowed down these major pain points:
— PROBLEM STATEMENT
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced small business owners to transform their business strategies in order to increase sales in a safe way. Some are establishing an online presence to reach a larger audience of potential customers, but face the competition of other businesses moving online.
How might we increase the exposure of small businesses on Instagram to help them reach more relevant audiences and better attract potential customers?
— USER PERSONAS
Drawing on our interviews, we created two types of user personas who were looking for different ways to expand their audience on Instagram.
— EVALUATING COMPETITORS
We compared Instagram to applications such as Yelp, Etsy, Facebook Marketplace, and Redbubble. We chose these competitors as they utilized different methods to help businesses market their products.
Since business owners expressed how they reached out to broader accounts and influencers, we also explored applications like Buzzsumo and Hybrbrands, which help businesses find people who can advertise for them.
Instagram – Original Design
Our competitive audit informed us to focus on engaging visuals, provide business spotlights, implement pre-determined categories for easier browsing, use filters and categories to narrow down searches, and show engagement statistics when looking for business partners.
— USER FLOWS
To meet the needs of both personas, we explored flows for two different functionalities. We wanted to first explore two separate designs, and conduct user testing to narrow down the best solution.
Explore Shops & Search Flow
In this flow, we are redesigning the Shop Page on Instagram to make small business accounts more discoverable and catered towards customers’ preferences (based on our persona Anne).
In this flow, we are incorporating a collaboration feature into Instagram’s business account. Since our survey respondents and interviewees mentioned partnering up with influencers and other small businesses to expand their reach, we wanted to add a feature that would easily allow businesses to find compatible partners. This flow was based on the needs of our persona Charlie.
— LO-FI PROTOTYPES
Using these user flows, we each iterated on the UI with sketches. We then consolidated our ideas into two different lo-fidelity prototypes, and conducted user testing to determine which prototype would be best at promoting small businesses.
— TESTING INSIGHTS
We initially planned to test the prototypes with small business owners we previously interviewed, but only one could respond back to us. Instead, our other two users were college students who both use Instagram frequently and are supporters of small businesses.
3/3 users preferred the Explore Shops prototype over the Collaboration prototype for these reasons:
Based on our findings from user testing, we believe that focusing our redesign on Instagram’s Explore Shops feature will help increase small businesses’ exposure to potential customers. Users projected that it would have a more direct influence on customers, while aiding businesses as well.
— ITERATIONS & TESTING
To better refine our high fidelity prototype, we showed our prototype and explorations of specific screens to 2 small business owners and 1 consumer, and asked for feedback.
3/3 participants agreed that the alternate redesign of the Shops page was more effective than the original because of the ability to display multiple product images, which gives users a better idea of the business and the items they sell.
The consumer also preferred the alternative version, but thought the multiple images could seem busy. To improve upon this, we adjusted the product images’ spacing and size to be more comprehensive (shown on the right).
Users favored the alternate redesign because it immediately offers more information for products like names, prices, and the ability to save. One of the owners commented, “I like seeing the product name and price so you don’t have to click on each one."
For the original redesign, users liked the larger images that brought a more visual appeal to the page. They also liked the highlighted categories at the top of the alternate redesign. However, one user mentioned, “If I’m trying to look for a category fast, the list view (alternate design) would be more efficient because I can scroll through it quicker.”
To incorporate the advantages that both redesigns offer, we decided to add the highlighted categories to the top of the original redesign page, while evening out the size and shape of the general category images so that the information is easier to skim.
— FINAL DESIGN
View the interactive prototype here.
Businesses can now post promotions or inform customers about new products through the Stories feature on the Shop page. This was implemented based on a small business owner's comment that business stories often get lost on the main feed.
Small Businesses & Shops for You
Browse Categories & Interactive Search
To address the usability heuristic of recognition over recall, we provided users with predetermined categories to improve search efficiency and increase the discoverability of products and categories. The highlighted categories at the top are curated to the user’s interests or are based on the season.
Distance & Category Filters
Using the same UI as Instagram’s existing Sort & Filter, we added two features– distance and category. The Distance filter was inspired by businesses that wanted to reach out to audiences within their local community. In the Categories filter, users can select specific topics they are interested in.
It was definitely a challenge to redesign Instagram since it's such a well-known platform. However, I learned a lot about how to stay within the app's current design system. During our final user testing, it was great to hear how if our designs were implemented, they would benefit both small business owners and consumers. One small business owner highlighted how we gave a voice to them, as it was an issue that bigger shops on the current application frequently overshadow them.
Throughout our project, Instagram frequently changed their UI, which forced us to switch our direction multiple times. Due to time constraints, we decided to stick with redesigning Instagram's second-most recent update. For our next steps, I would love to do A/B testing with Instagram's current update (with the Shops feature on the bottom navigation bar), and our redesign, to observe what users resonate with more.