I was originally referred to this pool table retailer because they wanted someone to “clean up” the product copy on their suite of websites. After a review, I found that it wasn’t badly written or riddled with errors, but you could tell that a lot of the copy had been copied and pasted between products, and in general it just needed to be tightened up and polished.
For items within the same product line or style, the content should be identical when describing features. However, Google likes it better when you have unique content on each page.
My solution was to draft an accurate list of the various product features and benefits (approved by SMEs), polish and tighten the writing, then rewrite the copy for each product slightly so they retained accuracy, but were slightly different—enough so that Google would be pleased.
After I finished polishing and standardizing the product copy, I noticed that the other informational pages needed some love too. Again, the information wasn’t terrible, it just needed some better organization and editing, to make information clearer to customers.
For example, there was some information about how big of a room each size of pool table needed, but the information wasn’t very easy to parse. I put all the information into an easier-to-understand table. Also, the installation and shipping information was missing some important details.
As I was editing the site copy, I noticed that there were some opportunities to improve the UX.
For example, when a customer orders a pool table, the company wanted them to choose the “white glove” installation option, vs. the “no installation” option. However, the installation option information was buried in a footer link. People were trying to save money by choosing “no installation,” but having a professional install the table is crucial; it’s not something you can figure out how to do by watching YouTube videos.
It was very important to put the information about installation/no installation right in front of customers in the shopping cart, after they’d chosen a table. So I worked with the engineering and design team to make an installation popup with both options (but with the white glove in the first position). The company was in between designers so this isn’t as elegant as we would have liked, but it got the job done. More people were choosing white glove installation after the change.
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The owner put me in charge of driving the effort to make this and other UX improvements.
Whenever a new table or product was designed and made by the company, it went into the photo studio for lots of product photos. What I noticed they didn’t have ere pool table “lifestyle” photos.
Challenge: Getting lifestyle photos from customer homes wasn’t working
When I asked the owner why the site didn’t have “lifestyle” photos of the pool tables and other furniture (like their competitors), I was told that they had previously sent photographers to customer’s homes (too expensive) and asking customers to send photos from their own homes didn’t yield professional-looking results.
More often than not the pool table was put into a family room that was not conducive to pretty product shots.
This is the sort of photo that people would submit.
Pooltables.com e-commerce setup was a series of sites built on top of a proprietary CMS. More correctly, they’re customized instances of a proprietary CMS for ecommerce. The trouble with customized proprietary systems is, knowledge on how to use them is usually in the form of “tribal knowledge” stored in just a few people’s heads.
Challenge: Proprietary software information was tribal knowledge
I had heard early on at my time at the company that the owner was looking to sell the company in the next few years. If knowledge was stored in people’s heads, how would the new owners know all the ins and outs of the CMS and all its customizations?
Solution: Write an administration manual
I’m a big proponent of documenting operations and processes in any company I work for, and, having worked for more than a few startups, I knew that if a company/service is run with proprietary software, having everything documented will make it more appealing to buyers. So I proposed a project documenting the admin backend, and the owners agreed to it.
It was a good thing I did it too. While certain functionality was straightforward (e.g., entering product details), once I started delving into the software and interviewing the engineers and other users, I discovered there were many parts of the platform whose functions couldn’t be figured out by just “poking around.” And there were integrations with external software that hadn’t even been mentioned in my initial scoping discussions.
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