Local businesses are the backbone of the economy. They are crucial to the community; many provide jobs to locals, are better for the environment, and donate more to non-profit organizations than their corporate counterparts. But, more and more consumers are moving away from local options in favor of the convenience of searching and buying their products through Amazon’s shopping platform. This is devastating to small businesses as they need their community’s support — especially now during a global pandemic.
Our browser extension aims to eliminate that gap by putting local businesses right at the consumer’s fingertips. Localize allows small business owners to freely advertise their business on most major online shopping platforms to increase traffic to their store, as well as incentivize consumers to shop local through the built-in reward system. It works by utilizing a pop-up that indicates when a product (or similar) being searched by a consumer can be purchased locally instead. The customer is then rerouted to the site of the small business where they can purchase that product for themselves.
We first tested our design using a paper prototype. First, we conducted an online usability test over Zoom, allowing participants from other groups to choose which paths to take while we pointed our webcam to our paper prototype and followed along accordingly. Afterwards, the participants gave us immediate feedback and later sent over additional feedback with incidents they noticed and corresponding severity ratings listed. Additionally, we conducted usability testing with three participants in person by giving each participant the same two tasks, allowing them to interact with the paper prototype without any guidance from us, and observing what they succeeded/failed at. During and after testing, we found that our participants acting as business owners wanted a more concrete homepage. We implemented this accordingly by including clickable areas to change offered products, look at relevant data, and change contact information.
First draft of digital mockup:
Final digital mockup:
Our first primary task was for a consumer to purchase a product (a star necklace) from a local business using our extension. This can be seen in the first row of our digital mockup where users start at the homepage of Amazon and end either at the “ConfirmationPage” or “RewardsPage”. We wanted users to be redirected from the corporation site to the local site with ease, so we streamlined the process to ensure they would be able to rapidly achieve their goal of purchasing from a local business.
Our second primary task was for a business owner to register their business with our site and post a product online. This can be seen in the second row of our digital mockup, where users begin at the Localize homepage and end either at their personal homepage or the statistics page.
When transitioning from our first draft to our final digital mockup, much of the effort went into improving the overall aesthetics of the pages. This involved removing unnecessary and distracting design elements such as bright colors, unnecessarily underlined or bolded texts, frame borders, etc., as well as adjusting different portions of some pages to match the layout of other pages. The end result saw much better use of whitespace and consistent colors, as well as a more cohesive look across all the pages. Some changes were also made in the “Enter Business Information” pages to create a more intuitive user experience (e.g. having address entry slots appear only when the user indicates that they have a physical store).
As small businesses continue to struggle and large corporations continue to grow amidst the current pandemic, it has become clear that these small businesses need something to help them stay afloat. Through our user research, we were able to learn that one of the main problems for these small businesses was a lack of an online presence. This is why we have come up with Localize. Through Localize, small businesses have the opportunity to create a free online presence that advertises their business on all major online retail websites and incentivize customers to shop local. We believe that our solution will help revitalize the small and local businesses that complete our communities and ensure that they can stay profitable during an age of online consumerism.