I need a Paul Smith shirt: mobile app for shopping malls

What if you owned a big mall, say out in Kent, and you had a website that existed, but that you weren’t sure was very helpful? Maybe your stores listing was confusing. I’d love to poke around a mall’s google analytics data! Look at failed searches, where users quit, what they type in… Treasure trove of data-driven design!

What if someone with UX skills had a look, found some flaws, and while trying to redesign it, realised that what you really needed wasn’t yet another mobile website, but a mobile application to help your visitors navigate your mall better, so they’d be happier, stay longer, and spend more?

Every single person in the world will look up a shop’s website for one of two reasons:
– Do they have X product that I want? (usually by virtue of “do they have shop XYZ”) In which case stock checking or a product ID and phone number are helpful.
– Are they open? Bog-standard opening hours will give you that information.

Sometimes, people will want to know where you are located. They could open Google maps separately, but why not give them a helping hand, right?

So assuming your main website answers the main two questions: “yes we have that” and “yes, we’re open” (as well as “here’s where we are”. Then what? Well the visitor leaves the website and comes to the mall! And that’s where confusion and tiredness can set in. That is when you need to worry, mall owners!

My brief was to take this one guy who wants a Paul Smith shirt, and help him find one at Bluewater mall, in Kent. So I thought… Why do people go to malls? Or shopping?

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After you’ve made it to a mall, you know you’re there to shop most of the time. But what else could you need? Is shopping the only thing, really? No, we need more. We always do more. We just don’t notice it as much.

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Let’s go back to our guy and his shirt. What is he up to?

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Based on the four core behaviours of shoppers, I also wrote a few personas. They are crossovers of the behaviours depending on the day, with some strong traits. If they are inspired by real people… well… they’re all people I have shopped with a lot, and if they recognise themselves, they might find it amusing to read the profiles. These aren’t based on research, and if I had the chance to do some research of “why are you here” in a mall, that would be very interesting. I’d want to see what proportion fits into my 4 profiles, whether more exist, and if so how many people fall into them.
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Time to get cracking. So, what have we got? I found a few interesting things while thinking about this little problem. Like a brand isn’t a shop, and most people look for products not shops… And then I also thought… How would this go down in the era of Harry Gordon Selfridge? (ok, maybe with some tech) Well, you’d have a civilised discussion with a human, wouldn’t you?

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Funny thing is… the crux of visiting a mall is WHERE AM I. That was the first insight I got. No matter what you want, a pair of socks, a cup of tea, or a wee on the way to your car, the answer will always be WHERE, in relation to WHERE YOU ARE NOW. So the biggest technical problem we need to solve, if we allow the user to look at a map wherever he wants, is “where am I?”. Here is a small exploration of solutions, from wifi, through QR codes (stick some on the ground or on walls), Augmented Reality using image recognition (every smartphone has a camera), all the way to iBeacons (why hello low power bluetooth tech from Apple!).

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And I even made part of a mockup of a mobile application that could help with this scenario.
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Then, to finish off the “finding a paul smith shirt” scenario, I also made a “prototype on paper” version, to demo on my phone.
It is part hand-drawn sketches, and part high-fidelity prototype.

Or go open in a new page to play with the prototype

Thank you to POP app for that. POP prototype on paper app

Grab the full PDF: Bluewater

And because I’ve been asked how I make these pretty documents of mine… the secret is LucidCharts. Oh, and to all UX people out there? I’ve ditched balsamiq since installing LucidCharts… Try it and you might see why. You can put in flows and markup much more easily! If you do it often, it’s a much faster place to create all the starting sketches you need!