Note: This is a redesign concept and I did not work for the Los Angeles County Fair. As such, I didn’t have access to the same information, rationale, and limitations that the actual designers and developers had. The purpose of this case study was a design exercise for me, not to give the impression that I worked for the LA County Fair or to claim my designs are necessarily better than theirs.
Los Angeles County Fair
Los Angeles County Fair (LACF) is your classic county fair – just bigger. It’s an annual 19-day event in September where over 1 million friends and family go to enjoy carnival rides, eat crazy food, shop at vendor booths, and watch concerts and performances.
With an event this huge, ticket sales can get messy.
Reduce crowded ticket lines at the door and increase overall ticket sales by increasing advance online ticket sales.
Facilitate online ticket sales by improving the ticket checkout experience.
This was a solo design project. I did all the research, interviewing, testing, wireframing, etc.
Questions to kick start my process
Who are the users?
What are current pain points with the website and ticket checkout?
What opportunities are there to improve the user’s experience?
To answer these questions, I performed the following:
I learned about LACF’s users by looking up LACF’s demographics and looked for patterns in Yelp reviews on what attendees liked and disliked about the fair.
I interviewed 9 people who have attended LACF or similar fairs – my interviewees ranged from recent college graduates in their low 20s to parents in their upper 40s who regularly bring their kids to the fair.
I performed 4 usability tests, which verified some anticipated points of friction as well as revealed new ones. I gave my volunteers a scenario and task to perform on the LACF website while I recorded the screen and audio (“You and a group of three other friends decided to go to the fair this Friday. You’re in charge of buying tickets. Purchase the tickets online along with anything else you might want to buy in advance.”)
To figure out how I might display complex ticket options like LACF has, I asked “How are others currently doing this?” I set out to compare LACF’s ticket purchase flow with that of other large county fairs, but there was a hiccup – being late September, almost all other county fairs were over and their ticket sales were disabled. As an alternative, I found comparisons for ticket sales with the complexity I was looking for – multi-day sales with different ticket types and packages. I found these characteristics in local amusement park ticket sales and seasonal Halloween special events (ex: Six Flags Fright Fest).
I performed an audit of the site’s navigation and information architecture by constructing a site map.
I took the demographic and behavioral information from my research and created a persona, used to represent primary characteristics of people who attend LACF.
I decided on a user flow, also based on situations I heard from my user interviews. What is Joyce trying to accomplish?
Joyce and a group of three other friends decided to go to the fair this Friday. Joyce is in charge of buying tickets. She wants to purchase the tickets online along with anything else she might want to buy in advance for convenience.
The problems our user faces
What makes this task frustrating for Joyce and might even keep her from completing the task?
I incorporated the pain points from my research into Joyce’s journey:
Confusing site navigation
Most users I interviewed attended fairs with a group – friends or family. I noticed LACF has some accommodations for groups, but relevant pages were scattered under three separate menus and labeled with “mystery meat” titles like “Party Boxes”.
Even though few options were relevant to small groups and families, it was just as important for users to quickly know those options were NOT relevant so they don’t waste time digging through menus and pages wondering what they might have missed.
I double-checked my suspicions with a usability test. Given a scenario and task, my user hesitated a lot and wasn’t sure whether he identified pages that might be relevant to his group outing to the fair.
The main challenge
My biggest challenge was handling the nuance of the two types of general admission tickets sold by LACF – “Single Day Admission” vs “Weekday Admission”. One can be used on weekdays only, while the other can be used on both weekdays AND weekends (AND costs over 40% or $6 more) – a pretty simple difference, but just complex enough that it would be incorrect to simply label them “Weekday Admission” and “Weekend Admission”.
In my usability tests, 1 out of the 4 users was confused by the two types of tickets sold by LACF and 2 out of the 4 users actually purchased the option that was excessive for their situation. This means the user needlessly spent ~40% more, possibly to realize this later and regret it, or possibly face upset friends or family members if the user is buying tickets on others’ behalf.
Also, I was surprised when seasoned event goers in my usability tests asked “Wait… do Fridays count as weekends?”, explaining that some event sales do consider Fridays as weekends.
How do I help the user feel confident in their selection?
Based on my earlier comparative analysis and some brainstorming, I considered the following options/features to help our users confidently select the right ticket for them:
- Step-by-step/page-by-page based on the user’s situation – For example, “Do you plan to go on a weekend or weekday?” A longer process, but some people prefer being guided – it works for tax filing software! (But are we filing taxes here?)
- Calendar – Display a calendar and post the ticket price for each day. Easy-to-use, but doesn’t help the user understand the difference between the two ticket types, plus ticket prices aren’t based on just the day – it also depends on if the ticket is for an adult, child, or senior.
- Accordion menu – Like “step-by-step”, this shows the user just what’s relevant to them, plus no need to “go back”.
- Comparison table – Allows users to compare details, but possibly visually overwhelming. And honestly, not very sexy.
First Solution Attempt
Instead of showing them all the options, why not just guide them toward the one that’s right for them? I wanted to try the guided step-by-step approach but make it easy to “go back”, so I thought I could achieve that using accordion menus. And honestly – they’re so dynamic and sexy! I wireframed the concept in Sketch and printed those out as paper prototypes.
I performed usability test on two users… enough to tell me it wasn’t working. Among a handful of smaller issues, the biggest problem with the accordion menus was both users ended up expanding every menu anyway because even though they could identify which product was right for them, they were curious about the costs of the other options.
I discovered from accordion menu usability testing that users wanted to compare their ticket options. Even if I tried to give them just the info they needed, they wanted to see the other info. Furthermore, one user felt other options were being hidden – he valued transparency. So how can I help them compare their options?
I went back to my options and decided to try the most transparent option that puts it all out there, yet organizes and facilitates understanding of the information – the comparison table.
I performed a couple usability tests on a paper prototype. Users paused at this menu but selected the option appropriate for their situation.
Improved Navigation for Groups
The biggest change was creating a “Groups” category for any user who was attending as part of a group and interested in deals and accommodations for groups.
The new “Groups” page reduces ambiguity with pages listed on cards so users can get an overview without clicking into the page. Each card also displays the minimum group size so users don’t visit the page just to find out it doesn’t apply to their own group.
2 out of 2 users were able to find the information relevant to their group situation or confidently determine there was no relevant information on the website.
An improved checkout form
I addressed users’ issues of a confusing and “scary-looking” checkout form by following established convention and best practices for forms and other standard e-commerce elements.
I did a few more usability tests with this final design. Although the users would pause a bit at the comparison table to examine the difference between the two adult ticket options, all 3 out of 3 users made the ticket purchase most appropriate for their situation with confidence and without signs of frustration or other previous pain points.
For 2018, LACF’s theme was Route 66.
I felt LACF’s design implemented the theme very thoroughly, but was over-the-top in a distracting way and clashed in some places. For these reasons but also to practice my visual design skills, I attempted a visual redesign following the same branding.
Using my mood board, I condensed these visuals down into one idea: The open road.
I also wanted to challenge myself to preserve some of the “carnival” feel of loud and fun that the original design exuded, but being careful not to become obnoxious or cause accessibility issues.
(Scenario: You are going to the fair this Friday with 3 other friends. Buy tickets and parking – all four of you are taking one car.)
Prototype is desktop version using new responsive design that’s currently being usability tested. (Responsive mobile prototype near the bottom of this document.)
Presenting my redesign to classmates. (After my first presentation to my class, I thought to record future presentations for my own improvement. That’s the original purpose of this video.)
The better solution is found and validated through testing – and the winner might not be the sexier solution.
A responsive version of the ticket checkout is crucial, since about 50% of web traffic is mobile, and it’s likely the user might think of purchasing a ticket when not in front of their computer, possibly even when arriving at the fair and seeing a long ticket line at the door.