The Bicycle Repair Shop homepage on a laptop

Background


The Bicycle Repair Shop is a small bicycle rental and repair business in Seattle, Washington. Its website provides information about the shop and enables customers to book bike rentals and repair appointments online.

The Bicycle Repair Shop

Challenge


The website at thebicyclerepairshop.com* suffered from several usability issues that often translated into employee time spent fielding inquiries from confused customers. Additionally, the owner was unhappy with the visual design.

I was tasked with:

Identifying the issues that cut into the business’ bottom line

Redesigning the website to fix those issues as well as better reflect the business aesthetically

*Note: The client is still working on transitioning away from the old design on the live site.

My Role


I was the sole researcher and designer for this project, responsible for the website’s usability, interaction design, UI design, and integration with the business’ existing third-party systems. I was not responsible for generating content, which was simply transferred over from the original website.

Research


To start, I drafted a plan with my initial research questions and methodology.

Initial Research Questions

What are the business’ biggest pain points?
What are the customer red routes?
What is the website’s role and what do people expect to be able to do on a bike shop website?
How do they choose which shop to go to for their needs?
How do they find out about The Bicycle Repair Shop and which channels are likely to bring in potential new customers?

The answers to these questions and more would inform the eventual design direction.

Methodology

FIELD STUDIES (Direct Observation, Contextual Inquiry):
During visits to the shop, I observed the behavior of both the customers and the employees, occasionally asking the employees about particular interactions. At other times, I was a fly on the wall. These visits helped me mentally connect the online experience to the in-person one. A slow day also gave me the opportunity to have an impromptu stakeholder interview, which allowed me to better understand the business goals and constraints.

COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS:
I evaluated features of similar shops in the area and their websites to discover the standards and expectations for what a bike shop and its website should provide.

QUALITATIVE DESK RESEARCH:
Looking at online reviews by users, I analyzed for patterns and found some once I had a large enough sample size. For example, I learned what people tend to like about the shop and who the core customer base is. This method has limited use on its own—one glaring problem is the bias baked in from the fact that online reviews are only reflective of the views of people who write online reviews—but combined with other methods, it can lead to valuable insights.

Baseline Usability Tests

 

After my initial research, I had a pretty good idea of who the customers were and how the website might work in tandem with the in-person experience. To help determine which usability issues should be prioritized, I conducted usability testing with 5 users who had never seen the site before. I used the following prompt:

Imagine you commute to work by bike. One day, a spoke on one of your tires breaks. You want to get it fixed pretty quickly since biking is how you’d normally get to work. A friend of yours recommends a shop to you, giving you a link to The Bicycle Repair Shop’s website. Navigate to the website. Do what you would do on this website to go about getting your spoke problem fixed.

I instructed each participant to use the “think-aloud” method, reminding them of it when necessary but not providing any further guidance. I recorded the sessions for later review.

Although the task completion rate was 100%, actions like extra clicking, scrolling up and down, and looking in the wrong places for the next step revealed areas for improvement.

Research Findings


From Preliminary Research

Throughout the year, the shop does more repair for commuters/regular cyclists than they do rentals. In the summer (and on weekends with nice weather), demand for rentals increases. As for merchandise sales, people most often purchase items just from browsing.

Repair jobs are often single-issue. The shop routinely does same-day repairs.

The number one question people ask on the phone is “Do you rent bikes?”

About half the people who book service appointments or rentals use the online portal, but they will also frequently call anyway with questions.

People find the shop via online search and some word of mouth. They choose to come in based on Google and Yelp reviews.

Customer loyalty is related to positive perceptions of customer service, quality work, fast turnaround, and cheap/reasonable prices. People also like the personality of the shop (friendly, down-to-earth, not snobby or salesy) and the convenience (location and hours).

Most bike shop websites include “about” and “services” sections as well as rates, hours, address, map, and phone number. Some also include an email and/or contact form. Including an online booking tool is a differentiator.

 

 

From Usability Testing

Users clicked on the two prominent images on the homepage but they weren’t linked to anything.

In the appointment booking tool, there was an undesirable “frame within a frame” effect because the user has to scroll within the iframe but sometimes accidentally scrolled on the page where the iframe was embedded instead.

In the appointment booking tool, one user got stuck on an irrelevant time zone selection window that came up.

In the appointment booking tool, the date selector didn’t provide the user a reference point for today’s date.

In the appointment booking tool, the saved information appeared as a list of links in a side pane. The links looked as though they would lead to different steps in the booking process, but if any of them were clicked, they all brought the user back to step 1.

The content underneath the appointment booking tool iframe was viewed as excessive and poorly formatted. It also didn’t seem to provide value to the user.

 

Design Solutions


Before starting on the redesign, I quickly sketched out a basic user flow and site map.

One challenge of designing the new website was that content generation was out of scope, so I was stuck with using old copy that was often verbose and/or outdated. This made it difficult to design for content first. As is often the reality of design, I focused on choosing a few things that would make the greatest impact.

Decisions and Rationale

Normally, if I’m starting from scratch and expecting an eventual developer handoff, I’d sketch out some layout ideas, make a few wireframes, then start low-fidelity prototyping. For this project, however, I did all my designing within a Squarespace template. The reasons for this are that 1) that’s what the client had, 2) there will be no developer, and 3) the website needs to be easy to edit and maintain by people who have limited coding experience.

PROBLEM:
People call and ask whether the bicycle shop does rentals.

SOLUTION:
I removed the phone number from the upper right corner of the homepage (it could still be found in the footer and on the contact page) and instead lead the eye to the two images, which are now clickable and point to their respective pages. “Bicycle Rental” is displayed under the first image along with an obvious “Reserve Today” button to cover different linguistic mental models. Additionally, the first link in the main navigation (which is now more discoverable by convention of its position in the upper right corner) is “Rental.”

PROBLEM:
The flow for using the repair appointment scheduler isn’t smooth.

SOLUTION:
I scoped out a few different tools available and settled on Acuity Scheduling for its intuitive flow on the front end, ease of use on the back end, and straightforward customization options. I didn’t design this part other than some styling tweaks to look on-brand. Using this scheduler resolved some of the issues the old one was having, including the “frame within a frame” thing and the oddity of the sidebar links as a roundabout way to track progress.

(The first screen above may present too much information up front. For a future iteration, I think it can be further simplified visually by hiding the details behind a “More Info” link or similar concept.)

PROBLEM:
The content under the appointment scheduler looks long and convoluted.

SOLUTION:
I trimmed some of the fat here for better legibility and message focus (this was a rare exception with regard to content; the client had given me information that made a large amount of the original copy no longer true, so removing it was no trouble). In addition, I threw in some custom CSS on the table of package deals to clean it up while using brand colors for a more balanced and cohesive feel to the page.

OTHER DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS:
Redesign the “self-guided tours” section and the contact page.
The decisions I made for these were based on usability heuristics, particularly consistency and standards, efficiency of use, and aesthetic and minimalist design.

Before

After

Results & Takeaways


Reception has been positive, though we’ve only done informal preliminary testing with a handful of stakeholders and users. Proper usability testing will be crucial to improving the design for future iterations. I’m confident the new design will have no negative effects on business, but whether it will have tangible positive effects remains yet to be seen. The client is still working on transitioning to the new design.

Potential impacts include:

Reduced calls from customers requesting information that can be found on the website
More automated appointment-booking
Higher customer satisfaction from being able to move smoothly between the online and in-person experience
Improvement in the overall online impression of the business (though the shop’s reputation is already stellar)

Some areas to explore further design work include:

Content (removing outdated copy, clarifying messaging, enhancing readability, replacing low-quality images)
Inclusion of social media

My hope is that future integrations (e.g. an online store synced with the shop’s inventory database), additions (e.g. blog posts), and other changes (e.g. adding new self-guided tour routes) will be easier going forward. I hope the redesign enables the employees of The Bicycle Repair Shop to spend less time on administration and support and more time focusing on running and growing the business.