Polyvore Usability Study

Polyvore is a creative shopping experience for the web, mobile and tablets that enables users to not only discover new trends, but to create their own stylish collages as well.  I fell in love with Polyvore's unique ability to provide an outlet for my own creative expression - it's so easy to mix 'n match and experiment with the latest fashion styles.  I wanted to get a glimpse into how other people responded to the app, so I decided to run a usability study.  I held sessions with a handful of people using my iPad Mini and created a few recommendations for making the Polyvore iPad app even better!  My process had five steps as outlined below:

Step 1:  Find Users to Test

I created a persona to get an understanding of the type of person to target for my usability study.  From my persona, it was clear I needed to find females who were comfortable using touch-based platforms, were interested in current fashions and were within the age group of 18-35.  Additionally, to get consistent results I decided to target people who had not used Polyvore before - either on the web or on mobile.   

I contacted former coworkers who fit the persona and found two who were available and interested in helping.  One contact invited me to her office and recruited three of her coworkers to participate in the test as well.  Lastly, I scheduled a test with a fellow Tradecraft colleague bringing it to a total of six usability study sessions.

Step 2:  Determine User Tasks

Upon evaluating the app, I noticed a handful of opportunity areas that I thought might lead to ideas for improvement.  Therefore, I decided to run a fairly broad test to see exactly how my participants experienced the app.  These were the tasks that each of my participants performed:    

  1. Indicate that you like a few items.
  2. Make your own collage and save it.
  3. Make a second collage using an item you indicated you liked previously.
  4. Buy something from the first collage you created.

Step 3:  Perform Study

I performed the study with six participants using my iPad Mini each time.  Each of my participants agreed to have their sessions recorded on video.  

Step 4:  Synthesize Results

I reviewed each of the six videos to study the pain points and any other insights I uncovered as my participants performed the tasks.  I noted each individual issue on a post-it note using a unique color per user.  That way I could quickly see which issues effected the most participants.

 
 

Next, I grouped each of the insights by the patterns I uncovered - some pain points where straight forward like, "accidentally tapping Trends when trying to tap Back" or "accidentally deleting an item in Create Mode when trying to close the edit menu."  Other insights were more general like feeling lost when trying to navigate to find their previous likes.  My biggest grouping of issues was focused around one part of the third task - finding the items they had 'liked' previously.  I decided to recommend three solutions to improve this specific navigation.  

Step 5:  Recommend Solutions

Solution #1:  

"I don't know what just happened here..."

As my participants navigated through the app to find their likes, some would accidentally tap the 'Trends' button when trying to tap the 'Back' button.  Each time this happened, the participants were very disoriented and sometimes even lost track of what they were trying to do.  Even though it only happened with 3 of the 6 participants, the degree of frustration and confusion it caused made it my top priority for improvement.

Recommendation:  

I recommend increasing the width of the back button.  Since users generally aim for the center of a button, having a larger tap area will reduce the accidental taps on the Trends button.

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Solution #2:  

"Wait, this isn't stuff I liked..."  

My participants often assumed the 'Likes' in 'My Feed' were items they liked, and not items their followers had liked.  Generally, it took 5-8 swipes through that content until they started to realize what they were actually looking at.  This exact pattern occurred with 4 of the 6 participants.

Recommendation:  

I recommend adding a short text description to the right of the top navigation bar.  Specifically, for the "My Feed" page I recommend the description say, "Creations and 'Heart' from people I'm following."  With this text displayed prominently, I believe people will quickly realize that the 'My Feed' section is a place for their followers stuff, and not their own.  Therefore, they'll be more likely navigate to the 'Me' button faster. 

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Solution #3:

"If I could just find a list of the items I liked, this would be so much easier..."

Once my participants navigated to the 'Me' button, most had trouble finding the path to their liked items.  Two participants tapped the 'Settings' button expecting to find their likes there - both of those participants ultimately gave up.  

One of the key issues making this task so difficult is that unlike in 'My Feed,' items have to be viewed by a distinct category only and there is no 'Everything' category.  And since the 'Me' page defaulted to viewing their collages, the participants would quickly swipe through the content only seeing things they created and immediately think they were in the wrong place.  Therefore, the participants were not giving the 'Me' section enough time to realize they could tap the top navigation bar to select 'Likes.'  

Recommendation:

I have two recommendations to improve the usability of the profile section.

My first recommendation is to add an 'Everything' category to the 'Me' section.  That way, even if people are quickly scrolling through the 'Me' section, they'll also come across items they've 'liked' in addition to the collages they've created and realize they are in the correct area.  Also, the current design doesn't show the top navigation bar until swiping to a page - I recommend it appear on the landing screen as well to maintain consistency.

Secondly, I recommend adding four buttons that correspond with the existing four categories of the 'Me' section.  Each button should have a visual representation of the last 3 items interacted with from each of these categories.  Adding the visuals of the actual items will help the user connect with the categories and navigate to the items they want much faster. 

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Oh, by the way, I am not affiliated with Polyvore.