Case study - eCommerce sites - Indiatimes

Navigating the Changing Times: HFI helps overhaul Indiatimes.com to optimize user experience and establish a clear brand identity

Indiatimes.com is the largest e-commerce site in India, having launched in 1997 with a vision of becoming the "destination portal for everything Indian." The site gets over 400 million page views per month and is the country's third largest online property, just behind Rediff and Yahoo.

As traffic has increased over the years, however, Indiatimes.com and its 70 key channel sites swelled with new content and features. Even savvy users were unable to easily navigate these sites – which included email, movies, astrology, blogs, dating and chat, as well as e-commerce sites for travel, shopping and mobile value-added services. Moreover, the channel sites faced steep competition from all directions. Indiatimes needed a major site overhaul to maintain its market edge, so the owners turned to HFI for user experience design expertise.

Challenge: Re-establishing a cohesive brand identity

Most Indiatimes users couldn't recognize the 70 different websites as being connected to one another. Inconsistencies in navigation and design made it difficult to move from one to another. Within sites, the organization of content was inconsistent and often confusing. As a result, users were migrating to competitors' sites that had fewer offerings but better usability.

HFI collaborated on a massive redesign effort to reestablish a cohesive Indiatimes brand identity. This effort focused on nine primary websites, each with unique business requirements that had to be met without compromising user needs. Yet while the individuality of each website needed to be maintained, consistency and overall brand identification for Indiatimes required strengthening. Early in the redesign process, the following high-level objectives emerged:

  • Provide seamless navigation on the home site and across various channels
  • Present uniform branding throughout
  • offer an uncluttered presentation, with clear demarcation for advertising and content
  • Increase portal visitors, page views, site "stickiness," conversion, and ad revenue
  • Cater to both domestic and international audiences

HFI's Approach: Research, rebrand & redesign

HFI evaluated Indiatimes' existing sites to understand the inherent issues and bottlenecks, then conducted extensive user behavior research, including over 100 face-to-face interviews in key Indian cities and remote sessions via phone. Special attention was placed on understanding the cultural issues and motivations of Indians and nonresident Indians. Based on this data and usability best practices, HFI recommended specific improvements for navigation, interaction, terminology, color, and layout.

HFI also proposed a new information architecture for each site. The process was completed by creating and implementing reusable page design templates (or standards), which provide guidelines for navigation, interaction, and detailed design.

These templates helped establish a uniform brand identity and ensured that future Web pages would be created with greater speed, less cost, and better usability.

Benefits: Less clutter, improved user satisfaction

The redesigned Indiatimes portal now presents content and applications in an intuitive, consistent, clutter-free way. Users can easily find articles, audio-visual content, opinion-gathering tools, and special offers on redesigned sites. They can also navigate seamlessly between different Indiatimes websites, which is crucial to expanding awareness and developing brand loyalty.

An online survey showed that users greatly appreciate the new navigation, clarity of visual design, and breadth of content available. Preliminary data gathered by Indiatimes confirmed an increase in page views and visitors (20-35%), plus an increase in click-through-rates and revenue from Google ads (50%).

HFI and Indiatimes plan to move beyond traditional usability research and launch studies using HFI's PETscan methodology. This new approach assesses how Persuasion, Emotion and Trust affect users' online decision making and interactions.

vineet

Vineet Jain
Chairman
Times Internet Ltd.

In the words of Times Internet Ltd. Chairman Vineet Jain, "The Internet
business is no longer the domain of a company; it is the user's demand for uncluttered content that has paved the way for the evolution of usability on the Net. The new look of Indiatimes.com and its associated sites reflect this philosophy. It will redefine the way we do business and the way users can navigate with ease, get credible news at a glance, and transact with trust and confidence."

By collaborating with HFI, Indiatimes is putting users first – and successfully navigating the waves of change.

Unifying the brand

indiatimes

Before - Logos appeared dated and each site had a different logo with no consistency in terms of font, graphic treatment and overall style

indiatimes

After - HFI redesigned the logos to look more contemporary and maintain

Indiatimes portal

indiatimes

Before

  • Unclear identity and value proposition
  • No seamless experience when moving between the Indiatimes portal and its verticals
  • Left navigation is too long with overlapping categories
  • Does not provide user terminology and sync with the real world scenarios
  • Cluttered layout of ads and content leading to monetization conflict (between ads & content)
  • Overwhelming and distracting content
indiatimes

After

  • Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
  • Structured and organized layout with strong focus area, which helps users to find information with ease
  • Relevant services that can increase "stickiness" of the site
  • Established transparency in the transaction system by providing accurate and non-misleading content
  • Accessibility to a seamless service and support system
  • Clear personalization options and access to localized information
  • Created a new look and feel for the portal and verticals

Indiatimes Times of India

indiatimes

Before

  • Homepage overwhelming and cluttered
  • The long left navigation made it difficult to locate news categories quickly
  • Top navigation offered nothing that supported users frequently accessed tasks
  • Advertisements added to the clutter and were perceived to be a big distraction
  • Overall dull and unexciting look and feel
  • Pop-ups & fly-ins were irritating
indiatimes

After

  • Redesigned homepage helps users find latest news and important site offerings up front
  • Improved navigation structure to get the overall content categorization
  • Enhanced information grouping to differentiate various news content
  • Developed a strategy to present advertisement and promotional content across the site
  • Simple and appealing overall look and fee

The Economic Times

indiatimes

Before

  • Links took up prime content space, pushing important market information below the fold
  • Information scattered across the page
  • Key information lies hidden within links
  • Difficult to access related information
  • Page design did not aid in visual scanning
indiatimes

After

  • A single page shows stock quote snapshot without having to scroll
  • Table summarizes stock performance
  • Interactive chart tracks stock performance over a period of time against key competitive stocks
  • Direct access to stock-related news, research, discussions, interviews and expert comments
  • Persistent menu provides company’s complete market/financial information

Indiatimes Broadband

indiatimes

Before

  • Unclear identity and value proposition
  • Low interactivity
  • Lack of exclusive content
  • Difficult navigation and misleading information scent
  • Unsatisfactory organization of content
  • Disturbing animated advertisements
  • Lack of engaging features that users expect to find on such a site (e.g. blogs, podcasts etc.)
indiatimes

After

  • Clearly communicated brand objectives and value proposition
  • Redesigned the information architecture
  • Improved the layout, look and feel of the site to showcase the best content
  • Presented extensive, most recent, and upcoming content in an attractive and uncluttered way
  • Provided for building user communities
  • Enhanced user experience by providing tools like Upload Video/audio, embedded media player, Webcasts, Podcasts, Live Interactive Graphics, etc.

Indiatimes Cricket

indiatimes

Before

  • Unclear categorization in the main navigation mechanism
  • Scorecard is difficult to find
  • Live scores are slower that competitor sites
  • Pop-up advertisements tend to annoy users
  • Too many micro sites with different navigation and structure
  • Only basic information is provided
  • Teams of other countries, domestic cricket and women’s cricket are not covered
indiatimes

After

  • Clearly communicated brand objectives and value proposition
  • Redesigned the information architecture
  • Improved the layout, look and feel of the site to showcase the best content
  • Presented extensive, most recent, and upcoming content in an attractive and uncluttered way
  • Provided for building user communities
  • Enhanced user experience by providing tools like Upload Video/audio, embedded media player, Webcasts, Podcasts, Live Interactive Graphics, etc.

Indiatimes Mail

indiatimes

Before

  • Access to important tasks missing on the landing page of email
  • Navigation does not give sufficient "You are here" cues to provide sense of place
  • Tasks related to e-mail are mixed with others in the left navigation menu
  • No consistency in the way logos, brand name and brand colors are used and placed on the pages
  • The mechanism to search an address in the address book is complex
  • Lack of visual hierarchy
indiatimes

After

  • Addressed the strategic vision of establishing Indiatimes Mail as online home-base for the customer
  • Fully utilized functional capabilities of Zimbra and Zimlets in particular
  • Designed two interface options; Ajax-based for users with high bandwidth and HTML-based option for users with low bandwidth
  • Futuristic look and feel

Indiatimes Shopping

indiatimes

Before

  • Inefficient showcasing of breadth of products provided
  • Cumbersome navigation and categorization
  • Purchase and checkout task flow not in accordance with users' mental model
  • Visually cluttered design
indiatimes

After

  • Self-evident site framework to ensure seamless, logical and simple buying experience
  • Clear navigation container helps user understand the site structure and easily find products
  • Categorization is streamlined based on user research
  • Optimum space utilization for navigation as well as promotional content

Indiatimes Movies

indiatimes

Before

  • Brand identity and relation to the Indiatimes portal were unclear
  • Inconsistent navigation and categorization
  • Inconsistent link behavior
  • Lack of rich, detailed content and many cases of redundant information
  • Page layout de-emphasized important information
  • Poor browser management
indiatimes

After

  • Created a new look and brand identity that is visually pleasing and adds glamour
  • Redesigned the navigation to display the breadth and depth of the site
  • Organized the content in meaningful categories
  • Provided for current, engaging, and exclusive content
  • Enhanced interactivity of the site so that people stay engaged and visit more often

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“Our partnership with HFI has given us access to a vast storehouse of knowledge in the field of user design engineering. This has helped us in revisiting the brand, keeping user focus in mind, and creating a product that is not only user-friendly, but promises to set standards in the industry.”

Dinesh Wadhawan

CEO

Times Internet Ltd.

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