The challenge

When I first arrived at Express, the company had an iOS app available to shoppers, but there were issues with it’s outdated design and functionality. Years before, Express had contracted a third party vendor to create an app which mainly shared promotions.  Because it was built out-of-house, the Express team never had control over the app, and had to constantly be in contact with the vendor to update content.  There were also many pathing dead ends. Sometimes shoppers would arrive at a page with no way to get out, besides killing the app and starting over.

Also, in the years since the app had first reached the market customers expectations of what a shopping app could do had been raised. People expected a seamless shopping experience, along with single-channel promotional messaging, loyalty/rewards integration, in-store product scanning and more.

In addition to it’s functional and programmatic problems (or possibly as a result of them), the app also wasn’t being used by customers.  Frustrated with a lack of technical support, and low usership, Express wanted to create a brand new mobile experience with the in-house team that could make quick iterative improvements and provide customers with value. 

 

My role and the beginnings of the concept

I acted as UX lead on the project. Initially, I contributed to the direction of the project by interviewing real Express shoppers to determine what their needs were and how an app could support them. It turned out that users wanted the ability to shop directly on the app, check their Express Rewards accounts, and learn about upcoming promotions.

 

Prototypes and iterative concepts

Once we had direction for the project, I began the process of sketching and creating multiple Axure prototypes to put in front of users to test screen layouts and pathing. This process was invaluable because the testing helped us understand which navigation models best aligned with the customer’s desires and expectations.

The app homescreen went through several evolutions. Notice how the main navigation started with the iOS standard tab bar, then evolved to a message bar/button that would trigger the menu, and finally to a single menu button to open a full-screen menu.
 

The home screen interaction was super important as it could make or break the user’s experience with our app. We tested several (at least a dozen) prototypes of home screen interactions using in-store intercepts and virtual usability tests to determine what design best met Express loyalists' mental model of how shopping apps worked.

Just a few of the dozen homescreen interaction prototypes we put in front of customers in Express stores to find the most intuitive and engaging design.

 

Agile Process

I worked with other members of the team using agile methodology to work out each iteration of the project. With each round of the project, I measured our team progress through user interviews, user testing and heuristic reviews.

Once the primary interactions and overall structure of the app were figured out, I worked side-by-side with the visual designers to flesh out the entirety of the app. We worked in a lean workflow which sometimes had me sketching out interactions and layouts on paper that the designers would then build out and have ready for the development team in a matter of hours. It was hectic, but one of the most fun and rewarding experiences I’ve had as a designer.

Lean and mean, an example of one of my deliverables to the design and development team on the desired interaction and flow for the product scanner.

 

Documentation

Sometimes functionality was too complex for sketches or prototypes, in those cases it was necessary to do good ol’ fashioned wireframes. One such example was designing the ‘My Account’ content.  It was a simple concept with an incredibly complex execution. Making sense of the process for login/sign up for a company that mixes in-store account creation, online account creation, loyalty, and (branded) credit cards was a project in and of itself.

EXP-App-Wireframe.png
Wireframes were necessary to document all user flows through the app.

 

Release & Success Metrics

The final release (of this version) of the app was a significant improvement. Immediately we saw a huge spike in conversion coming from the app and high engagement with loyalty accounts. Shoppers now had the ability to scan their digital rewards card at checkout and get real-time promotions on Express clothing. We also opened up a new channel for Express social content.

Of course with all projects of this nature, as soon as you put out one release it’s time to start working on the next one. This major update set the stage for a whole new type of experience for the company. I am proud to say I was a part of it at the early stages.

The final product was a sophisticated shopping app that gave users easy access to shopping, their loyalty account, social and the latests deals and promotions from Express.

 

Role: User Experience Lead