The Japanese Bar redesign
Redesign of a website focusing on Japanese alcohol with the goal of creating a platform for producers to market their products, integrating future content (ebooks), and improving overall usability. In this case study I will be focusing on increasing overall usability and the information architecture.
Brad Smith (Owner)
Pen & paper, Sketch
The Japanese Bar is a comprehensive educational resource for enthusiasts and professionals of Japanese alcoholic beverages in English. Japanese alcohol is still relatively new to the American market and information around products can be hard to find. The Japanese Bar offers a broad coverage of the most popular products available in the West. Currently the site is looking to expand its reach and create a more robust, focused experience.
How might we focus content on the website to provide a cohesive educational experience while adding a platform for future growth (ebooks, sponsored ads, Youtube content)? Who Is the user (a professional in the restaurant business or an amateur)? What does the user expect from the site? How does the user use the site (mobile vs. web)? When does the user use the site (at a bar vs at a store vs at home)? Why does the user use the site (to learn more about a product vs purchasing product)?
By taking a step back and exploring the primary user group, we can focus the interface on how people use the website and how they would like to see other services integrated while meeting business needs.
The breadth of work is quite large as the content needs to be migrated away from a blog architecture. On top of this, the business strategy is growing steadily with plans to add more media in the future as well as plans for paid reviews. Lastly, the primary user groups aren’t well defined, so the marketing for the site will need to be researched. Due to the wide scope, I decided to break up the work into sprints, with sprint 1 aiming to fix immediate usability issues.
The Japanese Bar website is a collection of information on all things Japanese alcohol related. Originally started as a blog and converted to a more traditional format.
The existing navigation is broad and includes a lot of information that users weren’t expecting to see. For example, the Sake category includes Brands, Distilleries, Rice, and Yeast options. However once clicked into a category, there is no additional structure to navigate with. The website is suffering from a loose collection of former blog posts that have been broadly categorized together.
Remnants of the former blog structure can be seen in the “Archives” section.
Similarities between “Sake Brands” and “Sake Breweries”. Information architecture will need to be examined.
Clean and beautiful pictures need to be supported by a clean and beautiful website.
Four users participated in an open card sorting activity to group all the existing features.
“Rice”, “Yeast”, and “Ingredients” should fall into a main “Ingredients” category
Confusion around the difference between “Brands” and “Breweries” / “Distilleries”.
“Regions” should be grouped with “Ingredients” to form a “Learn" category
The revised sitemap simplifies the navigation and removes extra dropdown options.
With the information from the new sitemap, I iterated upon the existing site and started sketching. During this step I consulted with Brad to make sure business goals were being met. Due to Brad doing all the front end development work, it was important that the design did not stray outside his capabilities.
I am currently working with Brad to implement basic changes to the site based on my designs. The next sprint will be focused on exploring mobile user behavior and the mobile experience. Once content and business strategy are further developed, design priorities will shift to media tie-ins (i.e., YouTube, ebooks). Paid advertisements will also be investigated.