Andersen Consulting - The Aquarium Shopping Interface

Andersen Consulting was developing a new web shopping interface for their client. The goal was to force people to browse and shop rather than coming to the client's site just to "purchase".

In the brick and mortar world, this would be the equivalent of putting the hot-dogs on one side of the store, and the buns on another, and forcing someone to walk past the sale displays at the end of each isle. They decided to employ a drastically new interface model

 

 

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With this design the user would select a category such as cameras. They would then see a selection of available cameras float by on screen. They would also see related items and similar categories float by as well. Thus, they would see instant, 35 mm, and video cameras, and also film, batteries picture frames and possibly movies.

They would then select an item and manipulate the words on the right to indicate whether they were looking for something more or less like the selected item.

 

 

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This process would repeat until they found what they were looking for and they could either checkout or repeat the search process for another item.

The difficulty with developing a system as fluidly structures as this is that there are relatively few defined user tasks and criteria to develop tasks and scenarios to structure a classical / formal usability test with.

 

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By falling back on classical user system evaluation techniques from the Air Force and DoD world, we developed a post test questionnaire that utilized the concepts of subjective workload.

These validated and standardized techniques (NASA TLX, and Cooper-Harper Rating Scale) were then used to assess how relatively stressful the shopping experience was rather than just focus on time to complete tasks. We really wanted task completion time to be as long as possible, but needed a way to define a point where "too long" became "painfully long"

 

 

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Although the interface design was a relative failure - especially for extremely large inventories, the test methodology was quite successful and can now be used to assess other shopping or web site task designs where the tasks are only "fuzzy" at best

 

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