In 1945, London Drugs opened the doors to its first location, a 1,000-square-foot community drugstore in Vancouver, British Columbia. Now the Canadian company has evolved into a retail giant, serving more than 45 million customers each year in 78 stores throughout B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
London Drugs sells thousands of products, from appliances to vitamins, in its stores and on its website. The one-stop shopping mecca is also developing a new loyalty program called LD Extras that it’s piloting with customers. The London Drugs team wanted us to evaluate both sites to make sure they were providing customers with the same great user experience online as they get when they visit a store.
A longtime retailer like London Drugs understands that consumer behaviour is constantly evolving. Research shows that if a website is difficult to navigate or customers can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll give up in mere seconds. Our goals were as follows:
- Develop a recruitment plan for finding participants to test the sites.
- Evaluate real users’ experiences on each site.
- Identify key issues and provide recommendations for improvements.
London Drugs knew that the best way to assess and improve its websites was to get first-hand feedback from its users—real people who shop online. That meant we needed to identify and recruit test participants from various demographics and geographic markets, observe them as they navigate the websites and assess their online experience.
The London Drugs team had already done preliminary research on its audiences, so they knew who their ideal users were, and what they thought were the main pain points for each site.
The first step for each project involved creating profiles of the types of users London Drugs needed to recruit, particularly for the loyalty program. Using London Drugs’ research, we drafted a recruitment plan including a script we’d use when we went to market to test each site.
For the loyalty program site, we recruited online shoppers in ages ranging from late 20s to 70s, with varying technological competencies. They were located predominantly inB.C., Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. For the main London Drugs website, we tapped a more general audience: online shoppers of all ages (youth to older adults) from throughout Canada.
Testing the sites
When testing sites for usability, we’re looking for answers to two closely related questions: Is the user finding what she is looking for? Is she having a positive experience when using the site? This, however, is just a starting point. To find actionable results, we needed to delve deeper.
Each script we developed allowed us to assess various facets of the sites and observe, first-hand, the intuitive steps users take to complete pre-defined tasks. Given that our test participants were located throughout Western Canada, our two-person team performed the sessions remotely. We used computer screen-sharing technology to observe and interact with participants and record each session. One person implemented the script, while the other observed and took notes, which we later distilled into findings and recommendations for London Drugs.
On London Drugs’ main website, our focus was evaluating each user’s shopping experience. We instructed each participant to perform a continuum of tasks, such as locating an item, like a four-slot toaster, going to the checkout, and even simulating payment with a credit card. This lets us observe the steps they take and how they use the navigation. Do they use the search tool, or drop-down menus?
The LD Extras site wasn’t live yet, so our testing process involved using static design composites, along with an interactive wireframe prototype we created. This allowed the participants to see a visual representation of the site, while clicking through some sample pages. We also assessed the user experience on both desktop and mobile.
The scripted tasks allow us validate our assumptions and get more granular results. For example, How long did it take to complete the task? Were there bottlenecks in the process?How easy or difficult was it for users to complete the tasks? These usability tests give us a better understanding of how London Drugs’ customers think and how they use the site.
Sometimes adding a single line of text to a page can transform confusion into clarity. In our findings, we identified several small tweaks that could vastly improve the users’ experience, such as adding a call to action to a page, or enhancing the styles of graphics. We also made more significant recommendations, including ways to improve certain pages, search functions, and ways of communicating with customers.
It took us just a month to complete both projects and the results of our research sessions were an eye-opener for the London Drugs’ team. That’s one of the major benefits of usability testing: it reveals what your users really want from your site, versus what you think they want. London Drugs is thrilled with the feedback we provided and are planning to put our recommendations into action.