REI Co-op: Improving the e-commerce experience for outdoor gear


REI is a national retail co-op selling outdoor gear since 1938. Their longstanding company is devoted to environmental stewardship and living a life of outdoor adventure.

REI mockup.jpg



Redesign a responsive website based on user research
1 week team research sprint
1 week solo design sprint


Usability Testing
User Interviews
Competitive &
Comparative Analysis
Contextual Inquiry
Heuristic Analysis
Card Sorting
User Personas
User Journey
Rapid Prototyping


Carly Liebman
Sandie Samuells
Leo Sumulong
Tenzin Yangkyi


UX Researcher
UI Designer


REI Co-op shoppers are passionate about REI's quality of products and brand values. However, finding the correct product to meet very specific technical needs is no walk in the park.




When outdoor enthusiasts are looking to purchase new gear, there are many options available. Users are frustrated and overwhelmed by the number of irrelevant products and information.

How might we earn trust by increasing product relevance based on product functionality?





We interviewed about their outdoor gear purchasing habits. We learned:

  • Purchases are considered long-term investments

  • Reliability and durability of materials is key

  • Products match the intended use

  • Users research the product on external sites

  • Cost is a factor, though not at the expense of quality

User Interviews


Usability Testing:
Current Site


From the usability testing of the current site, Half the users did not feel confident enough to purchase a product. 4 out of 4 users were overwhelmed by product choice and content.

“If I'm going to invest in outdoor gear, I want the product to perform well.”


Contextual Inquiry


From our contextual inquiry, we learned customers assess the material for quality, and often ask rely on the staff as product experts. 


Competitive Feature Analysis

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We looked at REI's competitors (Paragon Sports, EMS and Patagonia) and also comparators: specialty e-commerce sites in other industries. Many sites provided more features to view and engage with products on the product pagewhich aided in confidence in making purchases.


Heuristic Analysis


We conducted a heuristic analysis on REIs website to evaluate the efficacy of the interface using the ABBY criteria: Findable, Accessible, Clear, Communication, Useful, Credible, Valuable, Learnable and Delightful.

Findable: We found minor flaws in the search algorithm. This presents an opportunity to potentially design solutions with our user in mind to facilitate easier searching and browsing.

Accessibility: There is opportunity to improve the product by increasing the size of shopping icons and altering home page images for colorblind users.

Delightfulness: Usability testers also validated that there was nothing surprising about the site, but also nothing exciting. There is an opportunity to make the website and shopping experience more visually compelling experience for the user.


To access the global navigation, we used remote card sorting via OptimalSort. We created a list of one hundred items from site and two rounds of card sorting (one open, one closed) we found users were confused by the navigation item “REI Garage” and “Deals” which we consolidated into item on the global navigation, “Sale.”

When testing this with a final round of closed card sorting to validate the new global navigation, we found that users were able to categorize items with 100% accuracy.

Card Sorting





Persona Development

The primary persona is Ted whose pain points include when outdoor gear doesn’t work for intended use, unfindable products, low-quality items and too much text.

Ted trusts the REI brand and mission. He trusts REI’s products: quality, reliable, durable products. The opportunity to build trust is in the online experience.



Research to Design


Develop a responsive website that gives Ted the trust and confidence to purchase products. Ted should have the assurance that the product meets the requirements for his activity. The interface and supportive content should be simple and direct.

The design strategy was targeted on the three areas:

  • improving global navigation

  • increasing the speed and confidence to find the right products

  • providing additional product details to clarify purchasing decisions




Prototype I




Usability Testing

Users were tasked with purchasing a tent meeting specific criteria on capacity, intended use and price.

  • 4 / 4 users completed the task

  • 4 / 4 users found their product with the global navigation

  • 3 / 4 users filtered results with the faceted navigation

Overall, users had difficulty navigating throughout the site, they used the breadcrumbs on the product page and had to re-select their search criteria.

With this feedback, I added navigation options on the filter column to clear the search, and affordances to adjust the search criteria if need be. I reordered the filter based on product function, and the price slider was the third items. I also added additional product details that users requested, including reviews and more images.


Mid Fidelity Prototype II


“I'm not really a quick decider. I'd need to do my own research on a product.”




High Fidelity Prototype

REI Product: Half Dome Tent.jpg
REI final mockuo.jpg


Next Steps

Our user desires validation from experts to inform decision-making. One feature could be expert ratings from external sites, in addition to REI's consumer rating system to verify products. However, dependent on the  REI’s business goals, cost of the feature, and if it would provide significant value.

Testing additional tasks are needed for to validate the changes global navigation, to make sure it fits multiple use cases.

We can also look into additional featured content on product category pages to speak to the secondary user Danielle's need for guidance.


While the amount of research collected from different methodologies was initially difficult to synthesize, it provides a more hollistic sense of the user and the problem to solve. This project solidified my interest and the value of user research.

Since working on this project, REI has deployed features I designed including using icons to illustrate a product’s functionality and renaming "REI Garage" in the global navigation. It is validating that REI’s UX research team found similar findings, and integrated them into their site.