Ideas and inspiration for a party planning site
User research • Information architecture • Interaction design • Prototyping + testing
A leading UK online party supply store wanted to help their customers plan and manage their parties. My brief was to design a new site that offered ideas and inspiration, planning and budgeting tools, and invitation management.
A website that allowed customers to plan every aspect of their party, not just the elements they buy from PartyDelights. Party bundles offer an easier way to buy the decorations and tableware they need. Checklists, recipes and DIY projects help them create a really special event, whatever their budget.
Techniques and tools
User interviews, competitive analysis, information architecture, user flows and journeys, Design Studio, sketching, wireframing, usability testing, Omnigraffle, InVision.
I started by looking at where Party Delights customers might be getting help with planning their parties. Online party supply stores offer a wide product selection, but no planning tools. Some online invitation services I looked at are branching out into fixed price themed party boxes, which gave me an idea for easier budgeting. Specialist planning sites aimed at the wedding market have great tools and inspiration sources, and it would be great if these were available to any party planner.
Talking to party planners uncovered their priorities: venues, guest numbers, budget, food and drink all come ahead of the kind of products sold by PartyDelights, with food and drink being the largest part of the budget. A party planning tool would need to include all of these items to be useful to users. There’s a lot of work involved in getting the details right, and speeding up shopping for the basics would allow people more time for the creative touches that make their party special.
I also spent time observing a user trying to locate items on PartyDelights; existing site. It proved challenging for her due to the number of items on offer, and the visual similarity of all the items, especially those designed for a specific theme.
Design and testing
To kick off design, we used the Design Studio technique. A group of us who’d been assigned the same brief worked together to generate ideas for a party planning site. I continued to evolve the design using more details sketches before moving into Omnigraffle.
Usability testing highlighted a number of areas that needed further development.
Patterns for a budgeting tool
Testers commented that the party plan looked just like a shopping basket, and found this confusing. I had a cart pattern in mind as I designed: this is a familiar way for users to see items, quantities and prices. If I revisited the design, I would look for some alternative patterns to try here.
Originally called ‘favourites’. Testers interpreted this as a way to save items they had bought in the past, not things they might buy. ‘My shortlist’ worked better.
Mixing content and commerce
The aim here was to highlight existing blog content to help customers create more interesting parties, and help in cross-selling additional products. Testers tended to mistake free content like recipes and DIY projects for things they could buy, and while more explanatory text did help, positioning of the free content needs further work.
The new site offers a host of features to help customers plan a great party.
A shortlisting tool for gathering ideas and products as you browse.
A planning tool, that includes all aspects of the party and allows the host to set and manage to a budget, alone or with friends.
Party bundles, offering tableware, decorations and other items from the Party Delights range, at a fixed cost per head.
A customer party gallery showing what can be achieved using bundles as a starting point.
Party ideas, tips, checklists, recipes and DIY projects, drawn from existing material on the PartyDelights blog.
An invitation manager to help keep the guest list under control.