Aims and Objectives
Brother is a multinational company based in Japan who produce a wide range of products for home and business. They are probably best known however for their printers which are sold worldwide. Currently each country in Europe has its own website and a range of products that they support. The websites they used were outdated and over the years each country had developed its own slightly different set of templates which made supporting it very difficult. Therefore a new set of universal templates was required which would work for each country and also be easy for them to support and update.
Research Gap Analysis
Brother had commissioned a great deal of research in the past from various agencies. However there was little overall strategy or direction to the work done or any quality control so the first task was to go through it all and sort the wheat from the chaff. Thankfully the majority of the work was of a high quality but there were still some gaps in our knowledge that needed filling so we recommended some follow up research work that needed to be done.
The majority of the previous work had centred around focus groups in various countries and also some detailed work into the analytics on the sites and comparisons with competitors. We used these findings to develop some rough personas which would help us later on in the project.
Interestingly there were slight differences from country to country, mostly around how much detail the customers require when they go through the buying decision making process. Germans apparently look for much more information than people from the UK who tend to spend as little time as possible buying printers!
This was a great start for us as it meant we were able to draw out a good set of initial user requirements which we could validate later in the project.
To help clarify our understanding of the user goals for visiting the Brother website we also ran a web survey for a month. The results of which helped flesh out some of the findings we had read about in the previous research and also unearthed a couple of new areas we had not considered in great detail such as the older than expected average age of the visitors.
To get a better idea of the requirements for the new site we conducted interviews with key stakeholders from each of the key countries. To save time we conducted the interviews over Skype and also took the opportunity to introduce the project and get to know them. As we expected there were slight variations in requirements from country to country but nothing that would cause huge problems for us.
The European head office is based in the UK so we spent time there not only conducting interviews but also some workshop exercises to help us get a better understanding of the business requirements and objectives.
On the surface of it the Brother offering is quite simple but when we started it digging it unveiled quite a lot of complexity around the various printer models (both current and legacy), the support website, consumables and a plethora of micro sites and information pages that existed.
Following a small content audit exercise with the client we discovered that we could archive quite a lot of content which left us with a set of content that would need to be organised into logical order. We started by designing a simple over arching site structure for the content which would be flexible enough to allow future product lines and models to be inserted without breaking anything.
We also worked on developing some simple user journeys based on the initial set of requirements that we extracted from the previous research and mapped those to the site structure.
Finally we worked with an external SEO company who advised on the labelling for the sections and offered some guidance on the over all structure of the site.
Card Sort Exercises (multiple countries)
Once the IA had been established the next step was to validate it with users from each country to ensure that it made sense to them. We worked with a recruitment company who were able to help with the recruit for each country. We recruited 4 users from each of the key countries and conducted an online closed card sort which was facilitated by native speaking researchers who helped facilitate the testing.
We found that although the structure was sound there was quite a lot of difference in the translation behind the labelling and its meaning from country to country which would need work later on.
Design testing (multiple countries)
Alongside the Card Sort exercises we also did some testing of mood boards which would help the designers establish a design direction for the new site.
The designers developed a series of mood boards of contrasting styles and we used Bipolar Emotional Response Testing to look into how people perceived the mood boards. There was some variation from country to country but on the whole there was a broad agreement which gave the designers a good steer when it came to thinking about the visual design.
Wireframe modules and components
Now the IA and design direction had been agreed the final stage in the design process was to develop the page templates.
Because longevity was a requirement we designed a flexible set of 6 basic templates with 12 or so reusable components that could be dropped into each one via the CMS. This meant that each section could be given a different look and feel and to allow for the countries to tailor each section to their own requirements without breaking the site. We paid special attention to the labelling to ensure that longer words would fit to overcome any language problems that might arise.
Usability Testing (multiple countries)
The final stage in the project was to conduct usability testing with people from each of the key countries.
Using the user journeys we had developed earlier in the project we designed a series of clickable prototypes for the new site and produced a discussion guide for the testing. This was then translated and we then set about producing more clickable prototypes in the different languages.
Again we engaged the services of native speaking researchers to help with the testing in countries outside of the UK and in total we spoke with around 20 people from different countries and differing levels of technical expertise and requirements. The findings from this testing was then incorporated into the wireframes which were then annotated for the external developers to work on.
By taking this through approach to research across multiple countries we were able to provide the client with a robust IA and a set of website modules and components that they could reuse across all of their markets.
Develop a set of templates which would work for each country and multiple languages
In the cut throat world of printers SEO is paramount for success and would need consideration
Development and SEO would be handled by an external agency so communication would be critical
Regional differences for the way that people go about researching and buying computer hardware is important
Not only would the templates need to sell printers effectively they would also need to sell the consumables which go with the printers.