Timeline: June 2021
Role: UX Designer
Software used: Photoshop, Wix
Aurora is a local independent restaurant that opened in Edinburgh in 2017. The business opened as a cafè/bistro, serving daily brunch and lunch. The service slowly expanded into dinner service, in the form of “supper club” events serving themed tasting menus. The restaurant progressively strengthened its presence as a fine dining establishment in the local scene.
In 2020, the pandemic forced the restaurant to close for several months. When allowed to reopen, the owner of Aurora decided to make a dramatic change to their offering, becoming exclusively a tasting menu restaurant.
In this occasion, we decided to review the business’ website and redesign it to visually represent the new style, while cleaning up unnecessary information.
I had a chat with the client and compiled a list of initial business requirements. The goal of this project was to create a website that satisfies the users’ needs and reflects the new style of the business.
The client wanted the website to substitute some of the duties of the front of house staff, in particular related to email enquiries:
The adoption of an automated online booking system in late 2019 already helped in reducing the number of enquiries. However, this caused an increase in related enquiries, (e.g. dietary requirements).
A large number of gift voucher purchase enquiries involved front-of-house staff having to reply to emails, creating and emailing/posting vouchers.
In addition, the current website did not reflect Aurora’s new identity. It was defined by the client as “too colourful and cluttered”.
Initial requirements list:
Implementing an e-commerce page for gift vouchers
Including detailed information about catering for dietary requirements on the website
Implementing a clean, minimal visual style
Previous Website (mockup)
The project came with its own limitations.
Aurora is a small, independent business, and the client had a limited budget to spend on this project and a tight timeline. For this reason, we were forced to exclude the involvement of a web developer and decided to stick to Wix, as the client was already using the platform and was satisfied with it.
The process continued by researching local competitors with the goal of identifying trends and best practices in the digital presence of similar businesses. This was also an essential phase in understanding how the navigation structure and interactive elements reflect on a businesses’ identity.
In this occasion, the information was collected and presented to the business owner in form of a presentation. This included SWOT Analysis of 3 direct local competitors, and the analysis of two additional international restaurants.
Identifying the User
The business had access to social media and website analytics data which helped identify the target demographic of the business.
I started by analysing data from Google Analytics (which I set up back in 2017) and social media to identify who is Aurora’s typical customer. This information allowed me to have a clear idea of the website’s target users and seek relevant subjects for the user interviews.
The data showed that most of the restaurant’s website users are women aged between 25 and 34 based in Edinburgh and Scotland in general.
The restaurant’s staff provided me with the contact to some of their regular customers, whom they knew were avid “foodies” and would be happy to help and provide insight on their habits.
The goal of these interviews was to establish the context in which users interact with restaurant websites in general, and the type of information that is relevant to them, as well as points of friction.
While most of the questions applied to the customers’ habits pre-Covid19, I also included a question regarding the easing of Covid-19 measures in order to understand how and to what extent we should address this topic in the website.
The interview results were compared via affinity mapping.
Analysing the interviews, I collected the following insights:
1 out of 4 interviewees was interested in knowing a restaurant’s social distancing policy from their website. Not having access to this information would prevent them from booking
Users most commonly discover new restaurants through social media and word of mouth
All users want to see the menu before making a reservation
3 out of 4 users want to know whether the restaurant caters to specific dietary requirements
All users want to see pictures of the restaurant’s dishes
2 out of 4 users are interested in seeing pictures of the restaurant interior
All users prefer to book online
The collection of the insights allowed to create a User Persona that would function as a reference in the following steps.
Due to time and budget constraints, the sitemap was reviewed according to the business requirements, without involving users in this phase.
The first step was to clean up any information that was not relevant anymore. The previous version of the website included an "events" page, an e-commerce page for delivery orders, and other pages which did not apply to the new business model.
Once reduced the number of pages, it was time to review the structure of the website. The objective was to focus on a horizontal navigation model, reducing the number of subpages.
The sitemap included details of the internal content of each page, in order to give the client a complete idea of the placement and distribution of the information.
Taking into consideration the client’s feedback, I took the following steps towards refreshing the overall visual design of the website:
Identified new typefaces that would allow readability and a tidier, more elegant look (Oswald + SF Pro Display)
Created a high-fidelity wireframe for the homepage (mobile-first design), and sent it to the client for approval
Photography style - to maintain the clean, minimal style requested by the client, I proposed to have images of the dishes inserted on plain, white background
Once the design was approved by the client, I created high-fidelity mockups of one of the Menu pages, Vouchers, and Contact, and prepared a Copywriting brief.
Implementation and results
While waiting to receive the website copy, I started building the website with the platform Wix, as requested by the client. The platform has its own limitations, and I had to start building the website in its desktop form, rather than proceeding with a mobile-first approach.
The process of creating the desktop version and then adapting the mobile view created some difficulties in the way images are displayed in the background of each page in the mobile view. We decided to prioritise text clarity at the expense of the images.
The website went live on June 17, 2021 - two weeks behind schedule. The delay was caused by the client requesting to reschedule the photography session.
The client was very satisfied with the website, and confirmed that all their requirements were taken into account and their requests implemented.
In terms of efficiency, email enquiries have been reduced from an average of 20+ a day to 2, and now the staff can focus on other tasks. The website traffic doubled compared to the data from 2019, with 6885 sessions in July 2021 (2020 was not taken into account as the business activity was haltered by the Covid-19 lockdown).
You can see the current website at www.auroraedinburgh.co.uk
Aurora has been a client of mine for a few years now. When they asked me to work on a website redesign, I proposed to implement some UX Design principles in order to improve the website also from the user's perspective. The client accepted the proposal, and we agreed on a timeline based on the time and budget constraints.
This project was a great learning experience for me, as I got to:
Use Google Analytics as a starting point in the research, and use its data to inform design decisions and measure the success of the final result
Work with people: understand business goals and needs, making sure to create not only a website that would represent the place and its cuisine, but also provide a client with an asset to help the staff manage their time
Maintain a user-focused approach despite limitations
Compromise on the Design Thinking process to accommodate budget and timeline requirements
If I had the opportunity to work again on a similar project, I would love to do it alongside a developer to create a custom-built website and avoid the constraints of an external platform.
I would also make sure to include user testing in the timeline. In this case, I was not able to conduct a proper round of user testing, and I had to use Google Analytics' data to establish the efficiency of the site. Also monitoring the origin and entity of the email enquiries allowed to identify any issues in the website structure and information.