🚀 MVP shipped June 2018

REI Get Outside website

The Google Trips of the outdoors. Browse adventures, trails & articles personalized to your interests, save your favs into customized lists, and get outside!

Discover

Problem

As a customer

  • I hate that REI makes me search 7 different sites for the content I’m looking for
  • I am overwhelmed by the excess of content that REI has to offer. I wish they gave me the option to see only content relevant to me
  • I have no way to save my favorite content for later

As a business

  • Combine content from all REI properties (trails, classes, events, articles, products, adventure trips) to offer a “one-stop-shop” of personalized content
  • Utilize user-generated trail data from external REI properties to build a trail search experience in-house
  • Attract a new audience – the novice, outdoors-curious, millennial
  • Use REI’s new foundational design system
  • Build new component candidates (when necessary) for REI’s new design system

Observations 

Existing research

Working with our Customer Experience and Business teams, we defined our target audience for this product as the Multi-Cultural Millennial. Existing research from the team showed the characteristics of this target audience to be: 

 

  • Social-seekers, new to outdoors
  • Want to learn where & how to go
  • Journey-focused
  • Budget-minded

Current UX 

REI Properties
At this point in time, REI had 7 different “micro-sites” for their different content. Some sites were aggregated into one main REI platform, while others were external sites entirely separate from the main platform. 

 

Over time, the sites had grown to use different variations of REI’s legacy design system. This created confusion for the customer, especially if they entered sideways from meta search.

Get Outside v1 – August 2017

Get Outisde v1
Get Outisde v1_2
The first attempt to combine REI trail data, classes, and articles into one experience on REI.com was made in August of 2017 (before I joined the team). It allowed customers to filter by location and activity type. This set up the foundational backend architecture that could be built on for all future work.

 

Unfortunately, this iteration saw little customer engagement on the front end. Customers did not click the activity tabs or scroll to the bottom of the page, and they entirely missed the area to input their location.

 

In addition, all content on the page linked out to one of REI’s microsites – it essentially acted as a meta search. This was a jarring and unexpected experience for the customer. Keeping customers within the experience as long as possible would have likely reduced bounce rates and increased engagement.

Opt Outside campaign – Nov 2017

Opt Outside 2
Opt Outside 1
Opt Outisde is REI’s yearly Black Friday campaign centered around finding new places for customers to spend outdoors. 

 

In the 2017 campaign, the Opt Outside team (not me) built an experience that allowed customers to browse an Instagram-like feed of user-submitted photos & hashtags. Clicking a photo or hashtag would display details, and related content (trails, articles, classes).

 

Results:
  • Low engagement past initial page
  • Users didn’t understand how the experience worked, or purpose
  • Low utility value
  • Not personalized to user

Teardowns

Define

Hypothesis

By offering REI content in one personalized “hub” experience, in addition to a new in-house trail search platform, customers will be able to easily find the right content for them to plan & prep the perfect outdoors adventure. As a result, REI will see increased funnel progression, repeat users, conversion (kinda) and a decrease in bounce rates.

Scope

Countries

  • United States
  • Canada

Platforms

  • Responsive web
  • App (future)

Language

  • English

Metrics for success

  • Repeat visitors
  • Bounce rate
  • Conversion (kinda)

Team

  • UX designer (me)
  • Content strategist
  • Product manager
  • Technical product manager
  • Back-end devs
  • Front-end devs

Develop

Explorations

Before jumping into designs, the team had several high-level discussions about intended strategy/architecture for the Get Outside website. Two themes emerged based on existing research and knowledge.
  1. We wanted a central “hub” where customers could quickly access all REI content
  2. We wanted to pull our trail search experience into the core REI platform, so customers would no longer need to go to an external platform to view trail details
What those two experiences looked like, and the features that they included, was entirely up to us.

Variant 1

Our first pass focused on simple optimizations to past Get Outside attempts. Content was fairly static to limit scope for dev/engineering teams, based on requests from the product team.

 

We started working closely with other REI search teams (shop, articles, adventures) to get a deep understanding of their experiences, so we could translate that experience to trails.
Sitemap v1

Sitemap v1

Variant 2

Added additional features to the hub page, based on feedback from stakeholders.
Sitemap v2

Sitemap v2

Get Outside Hub v2

Get Outside Hub v2

Variant 3

We regrouped as a team to discuss strategy. UX/content pushed on product to explore an alternative approach that offered a more content-rich customer experience.

 

We wanted to see what this experience looked like as a campaign-style page, with highly-interactive content that revolved around a specific theme (i.e. camping, hiking, watersports). The benefit of this approach is that it offered many options for the customer on page vs making them go to several external links. Themes could change every season, attracting new customers and bringing back current customers.

 

The primary problem with this approach is that content would need to be updated by a production team every time a new theme was chosen. It was not a scalable solution long-term and was inevitably scrapped. It did offer valuable insights into a final variant though.
Sitemap v3

Sitemap v3

Get Outside Hub v3

Get Outside Hub v3

Re-designed "beginner" trail page

Re-designed "beginner" trail page

Trail Search v2

Trail Search v2

Variant 4

After 3 rounds of explorations, we still felt far away from an ideal experience.
One reason for this spinning of wheels was the hesitation to deviate too far from the REI norm. REI is a retail marketing powerhouse by nature, so most new product concepts were limited in tech complexity to limit scope creep and fear of negative stakeholder feedback.

 

This product required a more advanced technical solution to achieve our customer and business goals though. I and the content strategist were strong advocates for designing a “northstar” experience that looked past current technical restraints. We wanted to iterate and test northstar prototypes with customers to gain more understanding of their needs. Whatever we came up with would then be our leading product vision, and we would work with our dev teams to ensure feasibility and execution.

 

As with any northstar design, we would also need to work with product to define an MVP and phased roadmap to the final product.

 

Product agreed with this approach. We got signoff to do a deep dive on a northstar, as well as a round of user testing to learn and iterate. Here is where the magic really started to happen!
Sitemap v4

Sitemap v4

Onboarding flow

Onboarding flow

Get Outside Hub v4

Get Outside Hub v4

Trails search + results v2

Trails search + results v2

Quick view explorations

Quick view explorations

Deliver

Solution

We ran 2 rounds of user testing (8+ participants each) with the mobile prototypes on UserTesting.com. We received great feedback on the hub “onboarding”, as well as navigation/usability across the flow. Enhancements and iterations were explored based on feedback.

MVP Release

The MVP officially shipped in June 2018. For various reasons, the scope of the MVP was limited to trail search only. The personalized hub was designated too complex on the back-end for the initial launch but was slated to be tackled in future sprints.
View MVP site on Wayback

Retro

This was my first large-scale product design at REI. It was a great opportunity to understand our customers at a deeper level. I also made valuable connections in the research, marketing, back/front end devs, SEO, search, and design system teams.

 

Unfortunately, I left REI for a new opportunity shortly after the MVP release. I would have loved to iterate the trail search based on performance metrics and continue to build out the personalized hub with the team. REI has gone through a re-org since this project, so it may or may not be a priority item at this point.

 

I hope you enjoyed this project summary. Now take a break to Go Outside for some fresh air, and come back to check out some of my other projects when you’re fully rejuvenated.

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