I joined a new team as a contractor to help gather requirements and flesh out the interactions for a new site feature that centered on providing shopping and gift advice. Users would be able to ask questions such as, "What's the best tablet for gaming?" or "What is the best toy for an eight year old girl?" Other users can then respond with their advice and a link to the product. Users can also comment on each other's advice and up- or down- vote recommendations.
I began by researching other sites that offered product and gift recommendations, commenting, and advice, including similar functionality already in use on Amazon’s site. I listed out the various themes and features and realized we would need to address two similar, but different, scenarios. In the first, users know what product they want but not necessarily the exact item. For example, I’m buying for myself and I know I want a tablet, but I need advice on the best brand/model for my purposes. In the second, users are buying for someone else and don’t know what to get them. I recommended mapping out both directions, with the idea we could test both and see if there would be a good way to combine them somehow or if they needed to remain separate features. The product manager agreed, though we opted to focus on gift advice to begin with. The next step was to narrow down and identify the key interactions for the v1 prototype.
The biggest challenge for the engineering team was figuring out how to provide meaningful recommendations from freeform text input. While they worked on that challenge, I worked on the nuts and bolts of providing recommendations. Using the feature guide above, I created the steps a user would take during this process.
WAIT A MINUTE...WE CAN'T GIVE ADVICE UNTIL WE HAVE ADVICE TO GIVE
As with all great product ideas, the next step is getting people to actually use what you build. So while the building was going on, we tackled getting actual data to use in surfacing results for the gift advice. My marketing background came in handy and I developed an email and landing page campaign to get that started. After all, we wouldn’t be able to make this live until we had some results to share. We were given the green light to utilize customers who had checked the “Is this a gift?” box during checkout. The first contact was to show them a page after checkout that encouraged them to give us some information about the gift. The second contact would allow us to email them if they skipped that step. I brainstormed some different options for giving customers an easy and quick way to give us some data, realizing they were probably ready to move on to their next task and wouldn’t be in a mood to fill out any more boxes. I came up three options that utilized some different input options to test.
I also wrote a variety of subject lines and calls-to-action to use in A/B testing, and designed the email template.
The email and landing page campaigns went live and data started flowing in. I finalized wires and prototypes for both shopping advice and gift advice for the team to begin building. With my contract work completed, I moved on to my next position. To my knowledge, the feature never went live on the site. But it was a fun project to have worked on and I would have loved to further explore the freeform text input and how that evolved.