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User Experience Research

Project Overview

The project was undertaken by a team of six members over a span of around three months as a component of the User Experience Design course at UC Irvine MHCID. Its main goal was to enrich the user experience of the Hayneedle online furniture store website, ultimately aiming to boost Hayneedle's revenue. The project encompassed diverse user research methods, competitive analysis, and usability testing of suggested enhancements.


UX Research
Interaction Design


10 Weeks (2023)


Figma, Illustrator, Photoshop, Google Spreadsheets
Survey Monkey, Optimal Workshop, Maze, User Testing


Heuristic Evaluation, Card Sorting, Competitive Analysis, Usability Testing, Data Analysis, etc


What is Hayneedle?

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Hayneedle currently holds a modest 0.63% share of the US online furniture market, and the company has observed a high bounce rate, indicating that many visitors leave the site after viewing only the first page. As such, our three-month-long research focused on identifying opportunities to improve the website and enhance the user experience.



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Our research identified several areas for improvement to enhance the usability of Hayneedle's website, including website organization and layout, information architecture, favorites function, and sign-up process. We believe that implementing these improvements will contribute to a more positive user experience. Additionally, improvements in customer service accessibility and brand trustworthiness will further enhance overall customer experience.
Suggested Areas for Improvement
01  Website organization and layout
02  Information Architecture
03  Favorites function
04  Sign-up process
05  Customer service accessibility
06  Brand trustworthiness

1 Heuristic Evaluation

Usability Insights

The purpose of this evaluation is to capture points of improvement based on Jakob Nielsen's ten principles of interaction design, and to provide recommendations based on the findings. 

Ultimately, the group of experts conducting the evaluation identified 24 negative findings and 12 positive findings distributed across all ten heuristics. All negative findings are categorized under their violated heuristics and are paired with recommendations. The goal of this report is to create actionable steps towards enhancing the user experience by reducing cognitive load, employing more familiar conceptual models, and maintaining consistency throughout the user interface.

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Heuristic Evaluation Sample Pages
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Heuristic Evaluation Takeaways

01 Visibility of SYSTEM STATUS

  • Improve navigation
  • Increase visibility of signup

02 Consistency & STANDARDS

  • Set account creation constraints
  • Consolidate signup experiences

03 User Control & FREEDOM

  • Accommodate inevitable mistakes
  • Allow reconsiderations

2 Competitive Analysis

Understanding the competitors

A competitive analysis is an evaluation method for gathering and analyzing information about key competitors in the marketplace to generate insights for improving a company’s business strategy, product offerings, and innovative opportunities. To better understand where Hayneedle fits into the market and how they can improve their digital presence, this report summarizes the findings of Hayneedle’s competition.

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The goal of this competitive analysis is to identify Hayneedle’s position in the online furniture retail landscape. By identifying competitor’s strengths and weaknesses, our evaluation team discovered key areas of opportunity and strategies to enhance Hayneedle’s current offerings and digital presence. These insights and recommendations should be leveraged to continually grow as a business and to sharpen Hayneedle’s competitive edge.

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Competitive Analysis Samples

Strategic Recommendations​

1. Implement a Mobile App
2. Personalize the Experience
3. Ramp up Customer Support
4. Foster a Community
5.  Streamline the Experience

Key Improvement Areas
Product Offering
  • Customers are not incentivized to return to Hayneedle with any type of reward system, while similar companies offer loyalty programs to promote repeated shopping.
  • Hayneedle shoppers are not able to personalize their own shopping experience by ordering custom-made furniture or by visualizing items in their space virtually.
Customer Services
  • Hayneedle’s support is limited in channels and agent availability compared to similar companies.
  • The average rating of Hayneedle’s service reviews is lower than their competition, showing that there is a need to improve the quality of the interactions.
  • Hayneedle shoppers are not able to be assisted with interior design or installation, while certain competitors have expanded their service offerings to better tailor the experience to the customer.
Product Offering
  • Out of the 6 retail industry leaders evaluated, all of them have mobile applications in addition to a website. As Hayneedle does not offer an in-person shopping experience, it’s even more important to keep up with technology trends.
  • Improving the usability of the website is crucial to enhancing the shopper experience and increasing the amount of potential business.


Gather a baseline and understand user preferences

Surveys are used to capture standardized information across a wide range of participants.

90 participants
  • Recruit participants to later studies

  • Get a pulse on shoppers’ experience

  • Gather information about shoppers’ habits and preferences

  • Defined objectives

  • Created & refined questionnaire

  • Blasted it out to our networks

Survey Takeaways
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Out of 95% of people who indicated that they have shopped for furniture online... people have shopped on



Understand user mental models

Card sorts are activities in which participants match items to categories in order to evaluate the information architecture of a website.

50 participants
  • Analyze the website menu structure

  • Understand the intuitiveness of the terminology

  • Inform further usability tests

  • List items and top-level categories

  • Conduct pilot test and revise

  • Send out to participants

  • Analyze results

Card Sort Takeaways

52 %

Were confused by at least one category

72 %

Struggled to categorize the menu items

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40+ new categories Created

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Sample Images


Uncover user pain points and when they occur

Quantitative studies are used to test if users can quickly and accurately complete a series of tasks (defined by the researchers).

34 participants
  • Uncover how users are currently using the website

  • Inform qualitative study

  • Validate or invalidate proposed changes from previous studies

  • Define tasks

  • Create prototype

  • Conduct pilot test and revise

  • Send out to participants

  • Analyze results

Key Findings 

Users Struggled to Sign Up

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67.5% Missclick Rate

27% of users were confused by the layout of the “Sign-In” and “Sign-Up” screen.

Locating Favorite Icon Was Difficult for Users

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52.7% Missclick Rate

65% of users clicked around the ”Add to Cart“ button

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Sample Images


Gain deeper insight into user behaviors

Qualitative studies are used to gain a deeper understanding of how users complete the previous tasks using a workable prototype.

6 participants
  • Uncover how users think when they interact with the website

  • Identify pain points that emerge while completing the series of tasks

  • Create and implement interventions in prototypes

  • Construct testing guidelines

  • Conduct pilot test and revise

  • Send out to participants

  • Analyze results

Key Findings 


Users expect essential features when signing up:

  • Upfront password instructions

  • The ability to view password inputs

  • The flexibility to select or deselect promotional emails

  • A one-click sign-up process enabled by third-party account integrations

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Brand Trust

These are curated selected choices, which doesn’t mean anything and feels like the brand is trying too hard, and not in a good way.
It is a website trying to boast for itself.

Nothing here catches my eyes, I’m automatically not trusting the
Trending Now feature.

Look & Feel

My first impression is that the text is small and the choice of colors may not be the best, as it is very difficult to read white text over white background.

The [navigation] bar is too crowded, there is not enough spacing or padding with a large font. The categories go to the end... you could bundle the categories together so it is not too busy.

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Sample Images




Shoppers want a more intuitive way to navigate through the site.


Shoppers want account creation to be intuitive yet simple.


Shoppers are thrown off by unfamiliar placement or formatting.

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Shoppers also shop with Hayneedle’s competitors.

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Shoppers want to buy furniture from websites that they trust.

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These are curated selected choices, which doesn't mean anything and feels like the brand is trying too hard, and not in a good way. It is a website trying to boast for itself.

Nothing here catches my eye, I’m automatically not trusting the Trending Now feature.


Shoppers have a certain level of expectations for customer service.

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Reconfigure top navigation.

To improve the intuitiveness of the shopping experience.

  • Update information architecture

  • Add categories for Office, Kitchen, and Baby & Kids

  • Rename the categories in the top navigation

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Add reasonable constraints to the sign-up process.

To prevent future login errors

  • Have users verify their email address

  • Allow users to view their password as they create it

  • Enable third-party verification with single sign-on integrations

  • Consider adopting industry convention layout for sign in and sign up


Upgrade overall design structure and usability.

To improve general look and feel of the site

  • Adopt to a consistent grid

  • Enforce coherent guidelines for hero images and text


Make the favoriting experience more consistent.

To better match the users’ mental models

  • Maintain iconography and functionality throughout the website

  • Research further to identify workflow improvements

  • Improve the placement of the favorites icon to be more intuitive and consistent with industry conventions

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Strengthen the trustworthiness of the brand.

To improve Hayneedle’s brand perception and market positioning

  • Ramp up customer support

  • Personalize the shopping experience

  • Remove the feeling of curated content for more transparency

  • Tie in Hayneedle’s parent brand (Walmart)

  • Research further to investigate leveraging cookies



  • Change the names of the “curated” sections such as ‘Just For You’
  • Add top-menu categories for Kitchen, and Kids & Baby
  • Apply a consistent grid structure to the website content
  • Expand customer support hours and channels
  • Develop and apply a consistent brand voice across the website
  • Incorporate options and constraints into the signup process
  • A/B test moving the favorite icon next to the cart button
  • Look into cookie usage to personalize the shopping experience
  • Consider further examination and research into marketing strategies
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