Danny Hearn

Digital transformation at Fitflop

This is the story of how, over seven months, I helped lead, consult and guide the Fitflop team to redesign, re-platform their website and begin their journey of digital transformation. While initially I was asked to provide UX on a website redesign, it was soon apparent that the challenge was much more complex and would need me to dig deep and stretch across several roles.

The impact

The hats I wore during this role

Starting from scratch

Fitflop was a growing startup, and they had achieved significant growth from their early days in 2007 to 2016. The increase was mainly due (in my opinion) to the strength of the product and proposition. The founder (Marica Kilgore), who had driven a strong customer and brand narrative, had stepped away, and the business was now needing to outgrow its shadow. In terms of focus, Fitflop had been very much on a sales and acquisition footing. They lacked the experience and resources to research and understand the experience for users or how to design digital journeys. The digital team and broader business had very little exposure to ‘User Experience’ as a practice. The marketing, brand and comms team held the design practice. The design practice had fallen into a ‘creative director signs everything off’ culture vs an autonomous, evidence and testing culture. The team also lacked experience in digital development and what that looks like when embarking on a website redesign.  

I had to start from scratch. Firstly, I needed to ensure that UX as a practice was understood at the leadership and programme level and that I had the right conditions to succeed. I set about influencing and educating the teams around me by sharing and presenting stories that communicated the value of user experience research and design. I began to forge relationships and trust with both the Digital Director, marketing and broader digital teams. 

White board collobrative working with stakeholders
What does this look like?

Generating insights

While the team had lots of performance and reporting based data, they lacked insights into customer needs and behaviours. To make design decisions and shape the new website content and journeys, I needed to generate my insights to understand the Fitflop customer.

I visited the store in Harrods, talked to sales reps, and observed customers shopping. I started to pick up cues and insights that built a picture of the shopping journey and consideration for FitFlop customers. To understand the digital journey, I planned several user tests to complete various scenarios with participants browsing the existing site. Building on the in-store research, I built a mental journey map of the purchase journey, which also became a valuable asset to share with the team.

The insights indicated that new customers who hadn’t seen the initial marketing and brand story (key to Fitflop’s early success) struggled to understand the proposition. Customers weren’t exposed to ‘who’ or ‘why Fitflop’ when browsing the website. The new design would need to communicate the brand messaging throughout the purchase journey. I transferred these insights into a series of broad customer goals. I paired this with business goals to show the digital and brand teams; I understood their objectives and the customers. I felt this was key to establishing a foundation for my design decisions and reasoning.

Customer goals, Business goals

A focus on design

Having understood the customer needs and behaviours, I could now start to design the core journeys. I kicked this off with a collaborative design session with the core digital team. Drawing on their input and reflections, I was able to begin sketching mobile-first page flows and designs. Using wall space in the office, I created a map of insights and page concepts. The wall soon became a topic of interest and intrigue as the digital team could see the design process in action.

workshop

Prototyping

As the business was very focused on brand and visual design, it was essential to reassure that this deeply informed the new designs. After sketching the core journeys, I transitioned into high fidelity prototyping in Axure.

This served three purposes; 

  1. To conduct user tests and learn from feedback
  2. Show stakeholders the vision and provide reassurance about the direction of the design.
  3. Guidance for interaction, design and layout for the development team.  

Interactive Axure High fidelity Prototype demo walkthrough

User testing

The high fidelity prototype was invaluable in user tests, as it gave a solid level of confidence before committing to the build phase and that we were on the right track. The tests identified minor tweaks and areas we could improve. Such as the interaction around the image gallery, language, content on product pages, and checkout signposting.

Video highlight reel of user tests became a powerful tool to demonstrate evidence and reason-based design.  (Video has been sped up for this post)

Measuring emotion

A tool I had found to be very useful when reassuring stakeholders focused on branding and the visual side of the design is the Bipolar Emotional Response Technique method. A simple survey I would present to participants at the end of user tests to gauge the sentiment of experience.

BERT

Development phase

As the confidence built in the design, we shared the prototype and specifications with the development agency (TACIT knowledge). We worked in 2-week sprints moving through core page templates and functionality of the site. I needed to work with the developers ensuring that the functionality I was designing was feasible and viable on the new e-commerce platform. 

Bringing the business along

While developing the designs, it was essential to bring everyone along for the journey. I created content and material to educate the business on agile, UX, and user research throughout the process. This effort culminated in presenting the new website at the annual all-hands meeting. It was essential to project confidence, clarity for the business. I needed to demonstrate that I wasn’t a ‘consultant or an outsider’ anymore.  I aimed to communicate that I understood the Fitflop brand, culture and its customers with the designs.

My final reflections

The design challenge felt fairly intuitive as a retail site, and I had great UX/UI support from the amazing Ahillian. Instead, the challenge was the organisational relationships and developing a clear understanding of user experience design. I had to find a way to position and protect the user experience design process from subjectivity. I did this by embedding and working alongside the culture and understanding the relationships that drove the business decisions.

I learnt a lot about working with senior stakeholders and considering the right level of information was. Sometimes the objective truth wasn’t what they needed and could confuse or create unnecessary distractions. So striking a balance of what was vital to share and what could make noise became essential. The result was a fantastic retail website designed and shipped in a phenomenally short time. I would also credit some great colleagues that supported me in what was a very challenging environment

Client feedback

Danny brought fantastic and such valuable insight to the Fitflop Digital re-platform. His approach to understanding the required customer experience and interpreting it through our digital platform has been first class. Through his presentation, he brought his understanding and approach to understanding customer experience to life in a way that engaged everyone in the team at Fitflop. I hope at some point I will work with and see Danny at work again !

– Simon Wright, Chief Operating Officer at Fitflop