Customer Ratings and Reviews
Complete wireframe (PDF, 2.3 MB)
Full-size screenshot (new window)
The goal of this project was to add the ability for users of the website to read and write reviews of products. Because this was a new service, we needed to insure that it was as easy to use as possible in order to break down any barriers to entry. In addition, there was a significant public relations component to this project both from the perspective of protecting the Wal-Mart brand from criticism and also from the perspective of announcing this service which had been requested by users for years.

The customer reviews and ratings functionality would be mostly powered by third-party software, so the usual collaboration challenges existed in working with a remote partner. The vendor's off-the-shelf solution was not very customizable, which presented challenges in guiding the user through the review writing process. There were also significant challenges with communicating the offering to users at all levels of the site: homepage, department, category, shelf and the product page. This was complicated by the fact that some locations were already attempting to communicate many disparate types of information in a small space. Executive approval would be difficult to obtain due to the messaging challenges in these locations. Did users understand what the stars meant and where they came from? Did they understand the concept of their review nickname being different from their site login name? How did users want to see reviews on the product page? Additionally, in order to eliminate any inkling of bias, a system needed to be implemented to identify reviews written by Wal-Mart employees. How to best enforce this was a challenging question.

Using a version of the vendor's write review page, modified to be more user friendly, I built a prototype of the entire review experience using Axure. The prototype covered areas where the user could observe review content and manipulate it (sorting, clicking help links, navigating through paginated reviews, etc.), as well as the ability for a user to write a review (simulated). This prototype was tested with 8 users familiar with the concept of product reviews, and the results revealed that the IA was mostly on the right path. My conceptual model of the process deviated from other sites which used the same vendor, prompting push back from the vendor. I was able to have many of the changes accommodated in order to create a more simplified and friendly user experience. The PR concerns necessitated us to provide comps of several pages with differing levels of prominence for executive review. In addition, it was necessary to build functionality so that systems or individual reviews could be disabled in case of a PR debacle due to hacking or reviews slipping through the elaborate moderation process.