UXing Argos.ie Mobile: Qualitative Research

Find below my qualitative research for Argos.ie mobile listed step by step; use it as a practical example of the theory I fully explain in my Quantitative VS Qualitative research post.

I believe in innovation and that the way you get innovation is you fund research and you learn the basic facts.

Bill Gates – thanks to Brainyquote.com


#1 Knowing the company

Disclaimer: Being this post based on researches I did as a school exercise I didn’t really get the chance to meet marketing chiefs, design staff or CEO of the company, therefore all the information come from the web and personal opinion based on experience.

What is Argos?

Argos Ltd, trading as Argos, is a British catalog retailer operating in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and a subsidiary of Sainsbury’s. The company trades both through physical shops and online, with over 845 retail shops, 29 million yearly shop customers, and nearly a billion online visitors per annum, making it one of the largest high street retailers in the United Kingdom. It has also franchised overseas to countries such as China. […] 

Argos was established on 13 November 1972, by Richard Tompkins […] 
In August 2013, it was estimated that 96% of the population of the United Kingdom was within 10 miles of an Argos branch.

From Wikipedia

Crazy the number of customers in shop and online every year. 
But let’s focus on Ireland only…

In January 1996, the first Argos Republic stores opened in Limerick, Nutgrove, and Dublin. In 2005, Argos launched its Irish website, which now has over 25,000 products online.

From Argos.ie

Over 25,000 products online!
This alone already explains the importance of giving the best web experience possible to the clients. 

But also it is important to get the essence of the company in order to create a new brand design that respects the way to think and work of the firm itself; it is indeed necessary digging into the organization a little bit more.  

How do they work in Argos? What is their vision?

Sure enough, both the purchase experience and customer service are quite peculiar:

Brief promotional video on shopping in Argos, from the online e-commerce to the digital experience in-store.

As you can see from the video above, the company is structured on delivering two ways of shopping: online and in-store, but the second one got closer to the e-commerce approach.
Argos indeed has installed in the stores several screens where people can navigate checking the range of products and the stock availability (you can see an example of these tablets in the video below).
They aim to give “a human face to the online system“, assisting their customers with the variety of advantages that digital technology brings with it and reinforcing the role of sale assistant in-store as the ultimate resource of the purchase.

In a nutshell, they push their customers to interact with digital technology, overlooking to the common relation between sale assistant and client.
Visualizing it in a scheme, the purchase’s flow would be like:

Flowchart drawn with to draw.io

As you can see, there are 3 ways to check the range of products and their stock availability through digital consultation, against 1 way to purchase guided by the sales assistant (and only if you are in-store obviously).

Then, isn’t Argos investing in the digital?

On 2012 a journalist points out how the digital overhaul of the Argos company caused 75 Argos stores to be closed. 
A brief overview of the digital investments of the company and their future vision of the  shopping experience on Argos stores

Yes, they do invest (particularly in the UK); however their Irish website still presents a lot of issues which are a real obstacle for customers to buy, and for the company to sell.
To be specific, my previous experiences as a user brought me to believe that above all the hardest operation to complete in the mobile version is indeed buying a product, because of confusing and contradictory information and several extra clicks which could’ve been easily avoided.

So, why should Argos invest more on the website (Irish branch)?

Or better, what values could bring to the company improving its online e-commerce?  

The answer is now pretty obvious:
The whole company is literally based on digital technology!
They promote themselves as a futuristic company which believe in technology now and ready to invest in a digital future; so how the current lack of design could ever fill the gap between reality and vision?


And that’s exactly why I choose Argos.ie (mobile version) for my exam: it perfectly emulates a real case firm that needs a re-design project.

Knowing the company is indeed important to deep understand strengths and weaknesses of the structure; this will be my starting line to design all the improvements.

#2 Online user reviews

After digging through the organization and the vision of the company, it is time to explore the net looking for opinions of real users who have recently used Argos’ e-commerce.

Several reviews online (those three above from Trustpilot.com) helped me to understand I do share bad experiences about the website with someone else, however, none of those could drive me to discover real specific pains (apart from the overall heaviness of the pages that is pretty much mentioned everywhere).

The next video from Youtube also couldn’t give me the spark I was looking for, because it doesn’t share any feedback based on the newest features, but it is worthy of attention because (can’t believe it!) the UI design of the pc interface from 2010 is almost identical to the current Irish one. Haven’t Argos improved it during the years?

Pretty old video of 2010, shows how the website makes the navigation and the research of product very hard.

Without further delay, I changed direction opting for a face-to-face method of research, which allowed me to cover a wide range of topics and to gather enough feedback to proceed with the design process.

#3 User interviews (Guided conversation + Task to complete)

Therefore, I conducted two user interviews which had really helped me to brainstorm and, at a later time, create useful empathy maps and user personas (essentially, to structure the base of my project).

After typing down a brief script -which allowed me to keep the conversation in the right direction- I invited two acquaintances to talk about online shopping and Argos (we roleplayed a bit pretending not knowing each other to make the situation feel more professional).

The script appears as a dotted list where every line is a subject meant to discover the hidden aspects of online shopping for a common user; it starts from general questions about personal habits and competitors to the specific case of buying in Argos, going through all the steps of online shopping.
Also, the task is meant to determine if my deduction -the purchase flow is the main trouble of the website- is actually true for everybody or it is just a personal opinion – remember that we are designing for targeted users and not for ourselves, so testing out our ideas and solutions is now imperative.

The script:

  • A brief explanation of the interview – make the interviewee comfortable and aware of the goals 
  • ASK PERMISSION TO RECORD THE CONVERSATION AND UPLOAD IT ONLINEthat is essential if you don’t want to have future troubles!
  • Name, Age, Location, Hobbies – make the interviewee talk about themselves to break the ice
  • Tell me about your last purchase online
  • Common websites for you to shop online
  • What do you like or don’t like about those?
  • Where do you buy your stuff here in Dublin?
  • The primary reason to use Argos (if you already used it)
  • Expectations from the website/tell me about your personal needs
  • [TASK] COMPLETE A PURCHASE OPERATION – relieve them explaining they won’t spend money, but just go through the process of buying
  • Barriers or obstacles during the navigation/purchase?
  • Could you give me a few reasons why you would not buy in Argos? (Optional – Let’s see from the interview itself if it is worth to be asked)

I wanted to make them feel as much comfortable as possible because that is the best condition to let opinions flow, and also if it didn’t really go as I wanted – not good at it yet, ehm!– it has been extremely interesting how many ideas I obtained after only two interviews!
I discovered a lot of similarities on how my friends approach the shopping online, but also discrepancies with my personal way to use e-commerce.  

Both of the two sessions turned to be quite long, so I spare you from listening to the full records (feel free to do that if you want it) and I leave their summaries after the records. Also, none of us is a native English speaker, so please bear it if you can.


User interview with Valerio

Name, Age, Location

  • Valerio, 27 years old from Italy lives in Dublin, city center.

Common websites for you to shop online

  • Amazon, E-bay, Argos

What do you like or don’t like about those?

  • Amazon is his favorite because it’s easy to use, the color balance helps on finding immediately the information he’s looking for and to easily navigate through the sections, it shows useful reviews in which he trusts, the search bar is immediately visible, it suggests the right words to use for your research.
  • He doesn’t like Argos’ website because it is confusing, the website is overall heavy and sometimes it can’t load the pages, the widgets are not immediately visible making hard to look for info, the palette color is distracting and the bright colors give the impression of scam website, it doesn’t help on finding the products because you must know beforehand the specific name of those, otherwise it doesn’t give any result (create an obstacle when I do not previously know this info)
  • He likes the UI of Argos mobile more than the website because it shows plain colors that are not distracting
  • He doesn’t rely on reviews of Argos after previous experience of buying a product which eventually wasn’t as good as reviewed.
  • The mobile website is heavy and sometimes doesn’t allow the window to complete the load.

The primary reasons to use Argos

  • He now buys in Argos, because it is overall cheaper than his favorite e-commerce (Amazon and E-bay) considering the price plus the shipping cost – which is pretty high for Ireland-
  • He also buys in Argos when he needs to have the product in a short time.
  • The home shipping is unavailable for a lot of the products online, but the collection is easy for him because he works close to an Argos’ store.
  • One of the advantage to reserve the product for pick-up collection is that it is given the chance to physically check the product in store before buying it.
  • The return policy is very flexible and allow to take time to ultimately decide about the product.

[TASK] COMPLETE A PURCHASE OPERATION

  • He needs a new HD for his pc, so he tries to find it on Argos.
  • He finds annoying the search bar because it is not regularly displayed (it is cut in the top edge).
  • He tried to look for the item, searching with different words and typing “memory” but he got mattresses instead of HD.
  • Just putting the basic words in Amazon the website suggested him all the categories and products which could’ve matched with his research (HD comprises)

Barriers or obstacles during the navigation/purchase?

  • Once, trying to buy through smartphone he got confused with the stock availability information (at first it was giving available for Dundrum, but during the purchase process he discovers the information was wrong) so he does prefer using the pc when he needs to buy. Overall, he felt REALLY FRUSTRATED.
  • It is a pain to search for products with the smartphone because it requests a lot of clicks/actions. He finds useful the mobile when he already knows what to look for.
  • The categories are ambiguous and it wasn’t easy for Valerio to find the HD at the first attempt.
  • Every time he needs to go back to the previous window, the display starts from the beginning of the list, forcing him to find again the product scrolling and scrolling again. HE IS BOTHERED BECAUSE IT IS A WASTING OF TIME.
  • For some products, he couldn’t find the technical information he was looking for because not well displayed -those were hidden in the textual description.
  • He was unsure about the other product (a table) he was looking for because on the website there were no information or images which could have suggested the quality of the product and its stand once positioned in the room.
  • He tried to reserve the item but the information of stock availability was showed only after repetitive actions of choosing the stores to be checked. The item was actually out of stock everywhere, so he complained about wasting time in this silly loop of useless clicks.

Could you give me a few reasons why you would not buy in Argos?

  • It is not convenient apart from furniture and storages. Electronic and digital products are a lot more expensive than their competitor, and also the range of product is small.
  • Not always happy about the quality of some products.

Expectations from the website/tell me about your personal needs

  • He likes buying online because it’s handy (don’t have to spend time in-store physically, and the home delivery reduces the amount of effort to shop).
  • He usually researches for a product online in order to find the best deal comparing different e-commerce and shops.
  • He expects to find the products by researching with the search bar, and he usually considers researching by the categories as the last resource.
  • He expects to find technical information about the product methodically listed (measures, materials, etc)
  • He expects to find the availability info immediately displayed in the article detail page
  • He expects to find the information about the restock of an OutOfStock product in the detail page
  • He would like to have a smaller range of shops to choose when trying to check the stock availability: “Why are you showing to me Galway if I live in Dublin?”
  • He prefers to reserve the item in order to check the quality in-store before buying it.
  • He often uses filters to sort his researches, so he expects to be free to select the range of price for the products he wants to check

User interview with Lais

Name, Age, Location, Hobbies

  • Lais from Brasil, 24 years old, currently living in Dublin.
  • She is an architect and loves DIY and art&craft.

Tell me about your last purchase online

  • She had a terrible experience with Wish: she is still very upset with the delivery timing that was unexpectedly long, while she needed her Halloween dress within a specific date. She eventually bought another one in a different store.

Common websites for you to shop online

  • Amazon for everything.
  • Sephora for makeup.
  • Boohoo, Asos, Missguided.ie for clothes.

What do you like or don’t like about those?

  • With Boohoo and Asos the delivery service is very fast, and she can have her products in a matter of few days.
  • She is upset with the customer service of Wish because she received answers for her complains after several attempts. And also she couldn’t have the refound he was hoping for, because the shipping rules were written only in the term of use and policy (that -let’s admit it- nobody read!). She felt cheated.
  • Her favorite e-commerce is Amazon, followed by Sephora.
  • Amazon is for Lais trustful because it erases any doubt about shipping time or quality of the product before you buy it. Also, the customer care is participatory -they always try to fix a bad situation; you never get a plain email which informs that the company is not going to do anything about your issues with the purchases.
  • She says “Amazon is safe” also because the products come always on time and the customer care is proactive, anticipating a courtesy email where it is asked you about concerns, issues with the item or delivery and general feedback.
  • Amazon also encourages their customers to keep buying through personalized gift discounts and incentives. (Sephora does that too, through points promotional campaign).
  • She gets always convinced to buy a product online (taking the risk it might not be as expected)if it is given the chance to return it in a physical place(stores or agreed upon).
  • Of Argos, she likes the quality/price ratio of home appliances. She doesn’t like that she can’t see the product before buying it (opposite of Valerio, so there might be a wrong communication of the policy)
  • In the Argos website, it’s hard to look for products because the stock is huge and with the search bar you can find products only if you type the exact name of the article (ex. Hoover/Vacuum Cleaner, Mixer/Blender –> the association of the synonyms is missing). When looking for a vacuum cleaner, she had to proceed the research through categories, but it wasn’t overall easy. She was pretty annoyed.
  • In Argos website, she likes they give technical information (opposite of Valerio, who would’ve liked to have those more methodically listed).

Where do you buy your stuff here in Dublin?

  • She usually buys in Eason stores for her DIY material, because she wants to check the quality.

The primary reason to use Argos (if you already used it)

For technology’s products or kitchen/home appliances she usually buys online because it is cheaper, but sometimes -when she needs the item immediately- she buys on Argos, looking on their website before for an overview of the stock and then in-store to complete the purchase.

Expectations from the website/tell me about your personal needs

  • A good customer care is essential to building trust between customer and seller; everybody likes that the seller looks after you taking care of your issues and being proactive during the sell purposing more and different options.
  • The shipping must be on time.
  • She likes that the website gives you the chance to add products to your wishlist or in a Buy-Later section because it will save time when you decide to finally buy the articles.
  • The reviews are essential; she always looks at those because she believes that every customer is going to complain about a product if they find troubles with it. Not always a successful and positive purchase is reviewed, but you can be sure everybody always reports issues.
  • She likes when she finds the measures table on clothes website.
  • She thinks that is important to have the most significant buttons [buy/save for later] and information well displayed and visible in the screen, in order to catch your attention and make the navigation easier.
  • She would like to be free of choosing the filters with which to sort the products (price, sizes -for furniture product-, alphabetical order)

[TASK] COMPLETE A PURCHASE OPERATION

  • First she looked for boots, then for a fridge.

Barriers or obstacles during the navigation/purchase?

  • She couldn’t find the filters widget, which would’ve been useful to sort for the price.
  • Without filters, she had to scroll until the end to find the cheapest product, and she found it annoying.
  • The information about “the cheapest product” is confusing because it is given to items that are actually not the lowest on price.
  • She found annoying that she had to go to the full website to complete the purchase, and the pieces of information were confusing (not good displayed).
  • She couldn’t find the buy button at first and spend a lot of time trying to understand why.
  • She couldn’t understand how to put the item in the online cart.
  • She didn’t see at first that the item was out of stock.

So I can definitely affirm that:

  • mapping the navigation in order to make every product visible and easy to search
  • saving the time of the customers during their research
  • push the purchases to boost the profit 

are not only essential for a good e-commerce but also requested and expected by their customers.
And as it is now, unfortunately, none of these goals are reachable on the Argos website.


Hope the article was of any help for your personal research. Also, let me know with a comment if you use other interesting strategies to design your projects.
Have a wonderfully productive day!!

Disclaimer:
1. Because of the nature of this project (i.e. fixing a website for study purpose through UX methods), I decided to focus the energy on the qualitative method, skipping the quantitative research which may be more useful in case there are numeric data online yet or you already work for a company which can invest resource on general surveys.

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