Some Client Experiences
HFI has helped hundreds
of organizations, large and small, improve the usability of their e-commerce
sites, GUIs, Intranets, and other user interfaces. Here are a few case
that the key to online success and increased market share was to
make its e-commerce site as usable as possible. Staples wanted the
site to be "customer-driven": to support customer needs in an easy-to-use,
HFI and Staples spent hundreds of hours evaluating users' work environments,
decision-support needs, and tendencies when browsing and buying
office products and small business services through the Web. Methods
included data gathering, heuristic evaluations, and usability testing.
The new Staples.com site has increased usability, reduced clicks,
time-saving navigational tools, and personalized time-saving features
for quick access.
- a streamlined,
intuitive navigational framework for improved usability,
shopping lists for frequently purchased items,
viewable shopping cart for ease in selecting and viewing items,
- the option
to securely store credit cards,
- a dramatically
shortened registration process,
- an online
Rebate Center for e-commerce, catalog and retail shoppers to print
rebate forms and check the status of submitted rebates,
improvements to be implemented soon.
with HFI we are able to further evaluate our customers' online shopping
experiences and needs, and translate them into significant site
improvements," said Jeanne Lewis, president of Staples.com.
the May 2000 relaunch, metrics show:
repeat customers The independent research firm MediaMetrix
found that the site had 300,000 repeat customers in the third quarter,
as compared to 180,000 in the second quarter. "This 67% jump
speaks to the increased stickiness of site and the positive experience
of a customer the first time through," said Colin Hynes, Director
of Site Usability at Staples.com, who oversaw the usability effort
and worked closely with the HFI team.
dropoff rates Staples.com's internal metrics show a 31%
decrease in dropoff rate from the home page, and 45% decreased dropoff
for SKU sets (lists of products that Web customers browse through
shopping experience BizRate found that the Staples
relaunch improved ease of placing orders, overall purchasing experience,
and likelihood of purchasing again, each by about 10%.
traffic MediaMetrix found that since the site relaunch,
Staples.com has ranked first in the office-supply industry in unique
daily visitors. And when the Christmas shopping season began after
Thanksgiving, 2000, Staples.com had a 80% increase in unique daily
visitors - twice the average increase for other sites, and the second
best in the world for any category of site.
revenue It's hard to pinpoint cause and effect with certainty,
but third-quarter 2000 sales were up 491% over the previous year
and also increased over the second quarter.
the only encouraging signs. The relaunched Staples site also recently
won a prestigious award for best business-to-business site from
MIMC, the Massachusetts Interactive Media Council. Says Hynes, "HFI's
team of usability experts and customer-centric approach were key
factors in Staples.com winning this award. As with any good partnership,
they share the Staples.com vision of creating outstanding customer
service through a great Web experience."
Dell Computer is a recognized leader in e-commerce. To achieve its
ambitious growth objectives for the Dell.com
site, Dell concluded that the most important step was to increase
site usability. The site had to be easy-to-use for customers of
many types-business as well as consumer, relational as well as transactional.
- HFI began
by observing users as they navigated the existing site. It counted
the number of mouse clicks needed to perform an action, determined
which actions were intuitive and which could be improved, then
- HFI created
a high-level architecture for the site. It also provided expert
design reviews on prototype sites, and helped determine colors,
fonts, and button locations.
- In addition,
HFI trained Dell's in-house and external Web designers and content
developers on best practices for usable Web-site development and
design, enabling Dell to continue to make use of HFI's principles.
"HFI's scientific approach to usability enabled us to make high-value
improvements to our site," said Margo Winter, Senior Marketing Manager,
Web Business Unit. "Having access to their knowledge of best practices
in the way human beings react to Web sites was absolutely invaluable
in helping us improve the usability of the site, increase customer
satisfaction and consequently increase revenue."
in 1997, helps citizens find statistics from more than 100 agency
Web sites. But because FedStats is a gateway, it is more complicated
functionally than most Web sites; and the site provides access to
an enormous amount of data. The interagency team that runs FedStats
is therefore especially concerned that the site design and architecture
be as intuitive as possible.
In 1999, the
team felt it was time to take advantage of the latest advances in
Web design principles. "The first-generation design of FedStats
has been successful, but there was room for improvement," said John
Weiner of the Energy Information Administration, and a member of
the FedStats team.
HFI began the project by conducting user testing. Through this research,
HFI identified design and placement issues that could be corrected
to improve the site's usability.
"HFI made recommendations that resulted in a cleaner site, through
which people will be able to find what they need more quickly and
easily," said Weiner.
"HFI is very
good at working with users, quickly identifying areas needing improvement
and adjusting test scenarios on the fly to isolate and probe further
issues," he added. "They were very professional and effective in
working with managers as well, and quickly guided discussions to
a consensus that produced actionable results.
Avery, the leading manufacturer of mailing labels, faced an unusual
business problem. Most of its customers used Microsoft Word, but
Word offers only limited format options for printing labels. Also,
Word's mail-merge function was extremely hard to use for creating
labels. Avery decided that it needed to provide a better solution.
HFI's experts began by interviewing a large number of Avery users.
Most said they wanted a simple way to format labels, but didn't
want to buy another program to do that. HFI decided that the best
solution would be a wizard within Word. It designed the wizard
to reduce the most commonly performed tasks to a few simple steps.
User testing of the product showed dramatic results. While most
people found it hard to perform tasks with the native MS Word features,
every user succeeded easily with the new wizard.
now ships with every copy of Microsoft Office in the Value Pack.
Before Microsoft released it on CD, the wizard was available on
the Avery Web site, and when it was first posted 30- to 40,000 users
downloaded it every month. It also made PC Computing's list
of the 100 best utilities.