PlayStation Store Redesign
Building A More Searchable & Discoverable Store
The PlayStation Store has some well-known user issues. The purpose of this case study is to validate the known assumptions and redesign for a more optimized customer experience.
UX Research, Information Architecture, UI
Video Games Are a Rapidly Growing Billion Dollar Industry Worldwide
It’s no secret that video games are huge worldwide. In fact, the video game industry, as of January 2021, is a bigger industry than movies and North American sports combined, thanks to the pandemic. Currently valued at $178.73 Billion worldwide (an increase of 14% over 2020), it is projected to reach a value of $314.40 Billion by 2026, roughly 76% in growth.
The PlayStation Store is a critical component of the world economy.
Amongst all the major manufacturers in the worldwide video game market, PlayStation is the top-ranked in terms of sales. When the most current end of fiscal year (ending on March 31st, 2020) financials report was released for Sony, it indicated that the PlayStation Store is responsible for 69% of PlayStation’s revenue. And out of Sony’s $81.7 billion revenue, the Game & Networks Services segment (which operates PlayStation), was responsible for roughly 30% ($25.04 billion) of that, bringing in the most overall out of its 7 business segments.
Sony is ranked 88 on the Global Fortune 500 list and 7 on Japan’s most profitable companies list. Furthermore, if Sony were its own nation, it would rank #66 on the worldwide GDP list.
However, it remains to be fully optimized for its users.
Despite the PlayStation Store’s global importance, it still is very poorly rated amongst its users.
Gathered from a multitude of online articles & reviews, 3 of the most widely discussed issues are that the PS Store is:
• poorly customized
• incredibly difficult to navigate & find what one is looking for
• full of confusing UI
User Goal: a more searchable, discoverable web store, and experience so that they have a continued desire to return.
Business Goal: a better brand that improves on customer reliability and satisfaction, which would result in increased sales and customer retention.
With approximately 106 million monthly active users as of March 2022, the PlayStation Store is PlayStation's online marketplace. I chose to focus on the American desktop web store because that is the version that has received the most criticism. Also, that is the platform/version that I use.
Research & Define
After establishing the user and business goals, I recruited 6 interviewees whom all identified as ‘gamers.’
The questions focused primarily on:
• video game play frequency
• PS Store Sales discoverability
• PS Store exposure, frustrations, usage & client
• PS Subscriptions
• Purchase influences & motivations
After concluding interviews, the following takeaways were discovered:
"Sony is not focused on making the PS Store a gamer hub."
When asked further what participants disliked about the PS Store, the following was noted:
• “Sony is not focused on making the PS Store a gamer hub.”
• “So many good games are underrepresented.”
• “So many weird categories.”
• “I’m not sure what to buy with browse results.”
• "The site is slow and cumbersome.”
• “Search isn't intuitive because it isn't personalized.”
• “Versions of games are not consolidated, which makes the experience overwhelming.”
• “Why does the console store show game reviews and the desktop version does not??”
After analyzing the qualitative & quantitative interview data, all 3 assumptions were validated by PlayStation Store users.
The PlayStation Store is a site within a site.
A review of the PlayStation Store’s information architecture was next conducted. I discovered that there were indeed a lot of confusingly named categories, redundancy, and an overall mammoth of website. What was odd to find was that the PlayStation Store is nested inside of playstation.com, which makes navigation an exhausting task. Also, there is an overwhelming amount of second tier categories, which causes excessive amounts of scrolling.
After examining the information architecture, the UI was critiqued and annotated, highlighting multiple issues per page.
To validate my assumptions that the current PS Store is hard to navigate and find items easily and effortlessly, I conducted a tree test with 10 participants, giving each the same 8 tasks to complete. A replica of the PS Store's information architecture was used.
Unsurprisingly, the average success score was 5%.
Next, a card sort was conducted with 14 participants to determine what their mental model is regarding how they view PlayStation Store items and categorize them. They were given 42 cards to sort into groups and then name each group.
From the card sort, I then analyzed the following similarity matrix, which revealed that a lot of participants tended to organize items by console type.
Tree Test Round Two
With these new insights, a completely new site map was constructed to mimic participant’s mental models and a second tree test conducted with 8 tasks.
22 people participated this time to reveal an average success rate of 85% --a major improvement from the first tree test.
Design Part 1 of 2
With the new IA tested and mapped out, the design phase followed. Wireframes were designed to produce the new look to match the planned cleaner and more customized feel.
Low Fidelity Prototype
After laying down the foundations of the design, the low fidelity prototype was built, adding interactivity and user flows. Carousels were built with the intent to make the store customized for the user.
Test Part 1 of 2
I then did usability testing with 3 participants to gather their insights and to home in on any pain points with the early redesign.
• ‘Browse’ section is confusing. Should be rolled into ‘Shop.’
• Expected to see search bar in top nav
• Support should be last on top nav bar
Design Part 2 of 2
High Fidelity Prototype
I then incorporated all key takeaways into the high-fidelity prototype.
I also did not want to completely disrupt the entire look and feel of the current PS Store, so, matching colors and typefaces were incorporated into the design.
Test Part 2 of 2
The final round of testing was conducted using Maze, a Figma plug-in used for unmoderated remote user testing. Overall, a Usability Score of 68 was given to my redesign. It is not a perfect redesign, but, at least is an improvement over the existing PlayStation Store.
Despite this score, testers gave the redesign a 2.3 out of 5 for difficulty in accomplishing tasks, with 5 being the hardest.
After addressing my user's pain points in the final usability test, the redesign was tweaked slightly.
Below is the result.
One of the main complaints about the PlayStation Store is that it is not customized for the individual user. This was addressed with tailored recommendation carousels.
Finding games easily while browsing for particular attributes was a commonly addressed issue with the interviewees. I improved the browse tool and moved it into a new page called 'Shop.' I also cleaned up the sort and filter functions by moving them along the top so that users do not have to scroll up and down on the right pane. Users can also now favorite a game from the browse results.
Game Version Organization
Another major frustration that interviewees had was how disorganized game types are in regard to search results. A filer button was added to alleviate this issue.
What Went Well
• able to validate 100% of my assumptions with research
• Overwhelmingly positive feedback amongst interviewees
What Was Challenging, But Overall, A Great Learning Experience
• Preparing the prototype for upload into Maze was a learning experience with en masse image compression, as well as screen size responsiveness
• Finding the most ideal tools to use for video walkthroughs of this app took some trial and error