Featured Project: Smallflower

User Research
UX Strategy
E-commerce Design

Beloved Chicago icon Merz Apothecary is a wonderland of products—and expert staff—from around the world. When their website, Smallflower.com, started to show its age, they came to One Design to figure out how to bottle that brick-and-mortar magic and compete online in the age of Amazon.

Know thyself—and thy customers

The folks at Merz are on a first-name basis with many of their regulars, so it came as no surprise that they already had a great understanding of their customers. We kicked things off by categorizing those customers to uncover the target audiences for Smallflower.com, and the areas of opportunity.

Always learning. Always discovering. Always validating.

With audiences identified, we dove into research. We conducted in-store immersions, reviewed best-in-class online retailers, and got cozy with the site’s analytics. We asked users to keep journals about their health and skincare regimens, we shadowed customers getting advice and making purchases at Merz, and we interviewed Smallflower shoppers about where, why, and how they buy online.

We learned that Smallflower patrons were always learning, always discovering, and always validating their decisions. And a key finding emerged early on: The website shouldn’t try to replicate the store experience exactly; users needed different things from each.

Online, utility is king

The online shop would succeed best if it prioritized utility—helping users learn about products and validate purchase decisions—over the kind of organic, staff-guided discovery that happens in the store. Discovery became a second (though still vital) priority for the site.

With this conclusion—and a detailed understanding of user behaviors—we designed product pages with immersive photography to showcase product textures, scents, and packaging. And we created a value-based tagging system for terms like “vegan,” “organic,” etc. to help users assess products at a glance and build trust in Smallflower.

One in 15,000

We then turned our attention to helping folks find and purchase the perfect cream, herbal remedy, or perfume from among Smallflower’s 15,000+ products. Our search tool design features drill-down filters for ingredients, scents, values, and more. Users can even exclude ingredients in case of allergies. An updated checkout flow simplifies and streamlines purchases.

An updated identity for an updated UX

Along with our modernized site experience, we developed a flexible identity system applicable to everything from favicons to social spaces and large-scale environmental signage. Custom type, delicate lineweights, and thoughtful curvatures create a dialog with Smallflower’s parent organization Merz—all while modernizing the brand with an eye toward flexible, functional application.

Now in development: A modern apothecary

We’ve handed over our work in a tidy toolkit to Smallflower’s development team and we’re looking forward to seeing the new, modern apothecary in action later this year.

The author's avatar

One Design Company is a research-driven design and development studio. For over a decade, we’ve explored the intersection of experience and technology—where powerful brands come to life. Want to learn more? Let’s chat.

Most Recent Issue