As the flagship brand of one of the largest e-commerce multi-channel specialty retailers in the United States, Williams Sonoma has a well-earned reputation as one of the premiere cook and kitchenware retailers in the world. Among their stable of brands (including Pottery Barn and West Elm) Williams Sonoma promotes high-end, professional and restaurant-quality goods for home use.
The Freshest Start was a microsite designed for Williams Sonoma to build brand recognition and to attract new customers who are largely novice cooks and who needed not only cookware but also resources and help in learning how to utilize the quality goods that Williams Sonoma offers.
Information Architecture/Card Sorting
User Flow/Site Map
Individual Design Immersive Student Project
2 weeks (June 2019)
"I actually like cooking,
I'm just not good at it."
“You have to know
what you’re looking for -
I don’t know that a beginning cook could just walk in and know what to do.”
I conducted 5 interviews in order to compile a broad base of knowledge around people’s varied experiences cooking, their familiarity with Williams Sonoma (or similar retailers), and how their comfortability in the kitchen might shape and inform their purchasing biases and perspectives when it comes to cookware.
Interview participants ranged from those who are highly proficient and comfortable in cooking to those that were very limited in their experience and knowledge in the kitchen. Additionally, there was broad familiarity with the Williams Sonoma brand as a purveyor of quality cookware but the general sense was that it was largely inaccessible to beginning cooks.
Next, I researched the websites of similar retailers in order to understand feature prioritization and differentiation among varied online competitors to Williams Sonoma. I considered 4 online cookware/kitchenware retailers (including Williams Sonoma) and found that there was a wide variety of information architecture and feature prioritization across the spectrum of companies who are selling online.
Many of the sites were large and had vast amounts of content (with corresponding navigation schemes that reflected the scope and complexity of each site).
“I’m eager to start but
clueless about what things
I need or how to begin cooking.”
As a result of my research and as a focal point for the project, I created the user persona of Sam: The Curious But Overwhelmed Novice Cook
- Guidance with cooking equipment and techniques
- Reassurance in decision making and progress
- Basic equipment to begin cooking journey
- Unfamiliar with necessary products
- Overwhelmed by the number of items and possibilities
- Uncomfortable spending a lot for new, unfamiliar products
- Gain trust and loyalty to brand
- Establishment of initial inventory of kitchen/cookware
- Provide instruction in basic cooking techniques related to products
Beginning cooks need help finding and purchasing the right kitchen equipment and cookware as well as getting started learning how to cook.
We believe that a guided, customizable shopping solution paired with learning options will encourage novice cooks to purchase equipment and begin learning to cook.
Research had indicated that the scope and scale of product offerings at Williams Sonoma were overwhelming for new cooks. For the microsite I conducted online research in order to compile a more pared down, basic list of only the most essential kitchen items for a beginning cook - I wanted this to be the basis of my product list for the site.
After surveying several online sites and culling from my user interviews there was a surprising consensus around roughly 10 items. I then conducted 3 rounds of card sorts (2 open and 1 closed) in order to determine how to best organize the products for the site.
The card sorting tests showed that the product list could be streamlined down to only 4 broad categories: Cutlery, Cook & Bake, Measure & Mix, and Accessories. These informed the site map for The Freshest Start and led to a far smaller navigation system than the larger Williams Sonoma (and competitors) site. Additionally, due to the time constraints of the project, the primary user flow that was ideated upon followed the flow of browsing, selecting, and purchasing an item.
I sketched out several concepts on this project to try and get ideas flowing - I tried to integrate the purchasing component of the site with the learning aspects that went along with the beginning cook user persona. Additionally, I initially found myself sketching out versions of the user flow as I was having trouble getting my head around the best way to proceed through that task.
I conducted initial usability tests in order to test the prototype with the task scenario of browsing to select a knife to purchase, proceeding all the way through checkout. The overall flow was successful with feedback centered around small issues of button placement and some page naming conventions.
Following the redesign that implemented much of the feedback from the first round of tests, I conducted more usability tests to see how changes made affected the user flow.