Hardens

Improving customer engagement for a beloved restaurant guide.

Overview

For 25 years running, Harden’s has been collecting and curating tens of thousands of reviews from ‘ordinary’ restaurant-goers.

They tell Harden’s about their best and worst experiences of the last 12 months. These results then go to form a digital experience as well as a printed guide.

Harden’s is a stalwart of the restaurant industry and is described as the “Gastronome’s bible” by the Evening Standard.

Business challenges

Harden’s were facing challenges monetising their site traffic.

Their business model consists of providing market-leading restaurant reviews which attracted discerning diners, who provide an attractive audience for advertisers to buy display adverts and restaurants to buy premium listings.

This model required a high volume of page views to drive revenue and Harden’s revenue had levelled off.

Our high level goals were to:

  • Discover why Harden’s.com revenue had stalled.
  • Increase user engagement on the Hardens.com website.
  • Re-develop their website to drive visitors and create a mobile-first core user journey.

My role

I led the User-testing, UX Design and UI Design phases of the project.

I worked alongside a Product Manager, Marketing Strategist and Full-stack Developer.

The project launched in March 2016.

Constraints

We had several key constraints for this project:

  • No insight into why revenue had levelled off.
  • A limited budget with which to discover and fix issues.
  • An ageing technology stack that made redevelopment of the site time consuming.

Design process

For this piece of work I used the following process:
1) Problem definition.
2) Ideation.
3) Design execution.

Problem definition

Stakeholder engagement & business objectives

We started off by carrying out a deep dive into the existing business to get a thorough understanding of the state of the business.

This consisted of a one day workshop drawing out customer journeys, mapping marketing channels and conversion funnels, financial goals for the business and agreeing KPIs that would help guide our problem discovery phase.

Quantitive research

Stats analysis

I worked with a colleague to carry out a Google Analytics analysis to draw out patterns in the well-trafficked existing user base.

We discovered that traffic from Google Search was the primary source of site visits, that the site received a healthy number of unique and returning visitors and on key restaurant pages the length of visit averaged minutes rather than seconds.

Despite this, the bounce rate was very high (85%) indicating that users found the content they wanted on their arrival page, but then didn't engage with the rest of the site.

We also discovered that mobile traffic made up an increasing proportion of the site traffic, but the site was optimised for a desktop experience.

Qualitative research

User surveys
We conducted a Net promoter survey to give insight in to user opinion

We identified that the highest priority activity was to develop a deeper understanding of the Hardens.com audience.

To generate this customer insight, we ran on-site qualitative surveys on Hardens.com as well a Net Promoter Score survey.

The surveys gave us a clear picture of customer satisfaction levels. They highlighted areas for product improvement as well as areas of the product that customers were very happy with.

User needs discovery interviews

To add the final piece to the customer insight jigsaw, we ran remote user interviews. I carried out several of these interviews. These interviews allowed us to understand what jobs the users were trying to achieve and how a digital solution could help them.

The major pain points we discovered were:

  • Finding the right restaurant for the situation (e.g. impressing clients at a business meeting).
  • Being able to book a table easily at their chosen restaurant.
  • Being able to discover similar restaurants in their chosen area.
Personas

Based on the customer insights generated, I created a series of target personas:

  • A secretary booking a restaurant for their manager.
  • A couple booking a romantic meal.
  • A manager looking to impress clients.

These personas gave the team a crystallisation of the customer to help inform decision-making.

User flows & content
Jobs to be Done stories showing the different tasks users wanted to achieve

We used the Jobs-to-be-Done methodology to create 'Job Stories', a combination of user flows and customer needs, giving a problem-driven focus to our personas.

These Job Stories allowed us to consider the different problems that our real-life customers were trying to solve, and to map flows that solved these problems.

Ideation

Conceptual thinking

Concept 1 - An area-based online guide

With an understanding of the users and their needs and pain points, we brainstormed different potential opportunities.

This brainstorming took place in a half day workshop with the client where we generated and explored ideas.

Concepts we explored included:

  • Re-focussing the website to be an area-based online guide.
  • Creating a rating-based taxonomy, grouping unrelated restaurants together into useful categories (e.g ‘Best restaurants for impressing clients’ or ‘Most romantic restaurants in West London’).
  • Turning Harden’s into a personal concierge who would generate bespoke suggestions for you and book restaurants.
  • Creating an exclusive club with unique dining experiences.
Concept 2 - A taxonomy-based event based guide

As the primary goal was to increase revenue quickly, we chose to focus the website on becoming a trusted area-based guide.

The exclusive club was a favoured idea, so we agreed to develop this in the future.

Design execution

Information architecture

With our Job Stories completed, I conducted a restructuring of key pages on the site to help our personas complete the jobs they were tying to achieve.

This involved simplifying the search journey so that in two taps users could get to a search results page that would allow them to get a good idea of a restaurants suitability.

Prototyping

Annotated wireframe of key search results page

I generated sketches for the key users journeys ensuring customers could complete their tasks.

These sketches allowed us to rapidly test different approaches to searching for suitable restaurants, focusing on a mobile-first approach.

In addition we re-designed the key restaurant detail page with the aim of providing enough information for the user to decide if it was suitable for their needs but with the opportunity for restaurants to buy a premium listing and add in additional content such as menus, galleries and more detail about the restaurant.

I conducted a content audit of these key pages and suggested the best types of content to show on each page in the form of low-fidelity Balsamiq wireframes.

UI design

I created a component library of UI widgets ensuring consistency through the new pages and designed to work on mobile-devices first of all.

I designed a new look and feel for the Harden's website, bringing the colour palette, typography and graphic design back to the printed guide.

I introduced a new visual language for the restaurant scoring system and included this whenever a restaurant is displayed to reinforce the value of the customer reviews throughout the site.

Final responsive design for mobile and desktop

Results

After six months, the bounce rate on the website has reduced to 55%, average time on the restaurant pages has increased to 1 minute 60 seconds, and the number of pages per session has increased to 4.3.

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