Camden Market – Hybris Ecom Platform
Over the course of 3 months I helped build the first of it’s kind, an original e-commerce platform for the much loved London tourist hotspot, Camden Market. Retaining the UX research work and the structure I helped build with Miet 24 in Berlin, the overall site skinning has been rebranded in the last 6 months or so as the Camden Market brand has evolved.
Building the site wasn’t easy, there were a lot of hurdles to jump and brick walls that had to be smashed. A lot of functionality just couldn’t be built due to it being out-the-box Hybris. The directive was to build a site to showcase not only great products but to also showcase the traders in the actual market. Camden Market is by it’s very nature a grand, spiralling behemoth of a market. I mean, you have essentially a small close-knit team trying to manage over 300 traders and around 3 million visitors, they very much have a start-up culture in place.
They contracted me to build this site, they wanted something that fulfils two main functions…A) Be a functional consumer hub for users to be able to buy merchandise available at Camden Market…and B) Attract traders onto the site and be easy for them to manage their own shop because some of them aren’t too big on tech.
I basically had to evolve the process organically because I did not have any branding guidelines to work from. I had partial research, some research only became available 2-3 weeks into the project. I had to basically start from complete scratch. Hell, I didn’t even have a computer to work on for the first week! I actually scamped up plans, wireframes and ideas on pen and paper my first couple days and worked mostly off my laptop.
“Brandon came on board to Camden Market and excelled in a startup environment with some definite elements of chaos, keeping a clear head and working up multiple iterations of a fresh new ecommerce site, from very little briefing.” – Camden Market
So ok, I thought the best place to start would be to chat to everyone and find out what everyone wants from the site. I met with the build team and engaged with shareholders and directors. I then had a pretty good idea what they wanted the site to achieve other than the main objective (site for traders and site for users).
After establishing what was required and how to go about my work I began to visualise wireframe user journeys and user scenarios based on some of the user profiling work undertaken by Camden Market and simplified by my needs. Wire framing up 2 or 3 key user journeys and creating a set of around 20 pages which I then put forward to stakeholders, directors and the development team to flag up potential pitfalls. Over the course of the first 2 weeks we established a set of wireframes that would be workable under their current constraints and which ticked all the boxes as far as shareholder requirements went and functionality.
In the 3rd week or so we had a defined route forward and went ahead with work on the visual brand identity elements of the project, visualising the key pages of the site and also finishing off the rest of the non-critical wireframes – we ended up with a set of around 50 wireframed pages – all designed responsive.
So, I mentioned I needed to create an intuitive and slick navigation and UI. I researched some of the best e-com sites, taking samples from a few sites and discussing the possibilities of incorporating these elements into the site with the development agency Miet24 based in Berlin.
“Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.” – Pablo Picasso
Working as a single point of reference for UX and Design I had the autonomy to be able to design the full experience of the site alone. I learnt a few lessons as far as creating my initial designs for the shop. Through generating the first few drafts of the design look and feel based on the guidelines for Camden Market (very colourful) I learnt that using colour affected people’s decisions in selecting the best layouts. People were reacting differently to the colours I was using ranging from positive to negative. For example I would use blocks of colour in backgrounds or as frames and depending on who would be in the focus group each individual would have a different reaction to these elements. It wasn’t until I stripped out colour completely that I began to get a harmonious approval across the board. Lesson: Colour affects mood and psyche. Not good for e-commerce. Part of my research involved identifying the best e-com sites and this particular lesson was evident in sites such as Asos, Boohoo, Reebok, TK Maxx and most other big e-com platforms. It became clear we needed an independent set of guidelines to separate the website from the brand identity of Camden Market but providing a clear link between the two.
The Camden Market experience
As part of my content strategy plan I proposed the employment of a project manager, a copy writer, a content manager as well as initialising the process of commissioning a photographer to conduct a shoot to generate imagery which would play a big part in identifying the brand positioning and look and feel of the site and also be aligned to actual product available on the site. I was fairly happy with the initial photoshoot although it was clear that a number of shoots would be required to create the scope of imagery required. We did have a shortfall of assets but we had enough to launch. The biggest obstacle pre-launch was the development of the Trader Dashboard.
As far as the build goes the front end and ecom platform were ready for UAT a few weeks in advance of the site however there were issues around the build of the trader dashboard. This was something that needed ongoing development to arrive at a solution that was user friendly enough for the average non-tech-savy trader.
So, using the research work and lessons learnt I went about using my wireframes as a reference for creating the visual look and feel across responsive templated key pages of the site. Working with development, Dmitry Meltsov (super ace new Project Manager) and I began streaming in the new completed pages into build to create a basic working website. We worked Lean Agile as you may have guessed already. I visualised all the other pages while development starting building and by the 8th week the visualisation process was just about finished and I started working on usability. I analysed built pages and created amendment sheets itemising all the elements which needed to be aligned with design. This process was ongoing for a couple weeks while the site was in UAT phase. We arrived at soft launch date with a fully working platform and were able to do focussed user testing, taking on board a lot of enhancements and ticketing these into design and build until hard launch in June 2015.
Basically the question I have now is whether the current iteration of the website has as good a conversion rate as my original platform.