This talk was given by Cassie Kaiser, UX Research Lead of Shopify at SaaS Connect 2019 in San Francisco, March 26-27, 2019. Get the slides

Redesigns should never be taken lightly. That’s why Shopify put together a UX research team to inform the redesign of its App Store.

Cassie Kaiser led that research team, and she spoke about that experience at SaaS Connect 2019.

Anyone in the business of building software should pay careful attention to the lessons Shopify learned about user experience during the redesign of its App Store.

What does a UX research team do?

A UX research team’s job is to understand the needs and behaviors of users. Cassie’s job as the team leader is to ensure product developers are making insight-driven decisions. As a team, they’re able to put a process in place to make informed decisions regarding UX design.

That approach allowed Shopify to reimagine its App Store in the context of what end-users actually need — and not just what the company thought people need.

What drove the need for the redesign?

Cassie says Shopify recognized three things that suggested an App Store redesign was needed:

  • More merchants were using more apps. In 2012, merchants were using one app on average. In 2016, they were using three. By 2018, they were using six. Merchant activity was getting more complex, and the App Store wasn’t equipped to handle it.
  • The App Store wasn’t scalable. The challenges of complexity, then, were only going to get more difficult.
  • The App Store was dated. As Cassie puts it, the Shopify App Store was “designed for a different era of web products.” The design needed to be updated to reflect changing technology.

How do you go about redesigning an app marketplace?

Cassie and her team applied a systematic approach known as the GSD method. GSD (Get Shit Done) is a six-phase process that is used for redesigning. The phases are as follows:

  1. Idea. At this point, Cassie ran a workshop with the entire team. This identified any gaps in their knowledge. She also worked with a data analyst to truly understand the behavior taking place in Shopify’s App Store. At the end of this phase, Cassie put together a research plan.
  2. Think. Cassie interviewed internal teams as well as merchants. She identified pain points so that the development team would have a better idea of where to start. Throughout this process, she shared her knowledge with everyone.
  3. Explore. At this point, people began to work on solutions to the pain points identified. This was a collaborative process. Usability tests also began during this time.
  4. Build. During this phase, the solutions were finalized and created. Cassie notes that while this would be a good place for certain projects to begin a slow rollout, Shopify couldn’t do a slow rollout for its App Store.
  5. Launch. This is when the newly designed app was launched to the general public.
  6. Tweak. Based on feedback from users, the team continued to refine the redesign.

What can SaaS companies learn from Shopify’s App Store redesign?

Cassie left her audience with some key takeaways.

  • Define the goal and desired upcoming outcome upfront, and make this really clear to your team.
  • Understand the value that a researcher can bring to your team.
  • Ship boldly and improve incrementally.