Case Study: Hestan Cue
Client: Hestan Cue
Project Type: New Brand Marketing & Ecommerce Website
Role: UX Strategist & Designer
Tools: Dry-Erase Board, Pencil & Paper, Google Sheets, Sketch, InvisionApp, Zoom
Platforms: Shopify, Zendesk
Hestan Cue developed a new way for home cooks of all skill levels to be successful cooking Michelin-star quality meals at home. It was my job to determine the best way to position Hestan Cue as well as educate users on a new way of cooking while persuading them to buy the Hestan Cue Smart Cooking system.
Hestan Cue’s strategy was to generate sales for their products through their own site and be a place customers could come back to often for cooking inspiration. However, most retail consumers were not familiar with the Hestan Brand because: it is a newer brand, most of Hestan’s cookware & appliances were commercial-use, and its retail cookware was white-labeled as Williams-Sonoma private label.
Public sentiment was weary towards IoT kitchen gadgets and for good reason. Many do not solve real problems. So it was important to clearly articulate how the benefits of Hestan Cue stood apart from “smart” gimmicks.
These are some key tactics I used for research and determining a plan forward. You can walk through the project delivery process I created and that I have used with several teams and projects here.
I interviewed the head of Hestan Cue, the product owner for the Cue’s companion app, the marketing director, the technical director, call center personnel, and culinary specialists. From these interviews, I felt confident that I had a comprehensive list of business and technical requirements.
There was not a budget for user interviews so I read every product review available online as well as those of competitors. I captured the reviewers’ language so I could reflect that in the site’s messaging. The call center gave me a list of all the support calls and I used that information to preemptively address the most common issues.
I previously worked for Martha Stewart Living in the brand and product development that launched at Macy’s so I was already very deeply familiar with the cookware industry. Additionally, I put together personas based on my desktop research as well the demographic data provided by Hestan Cue.
Hestan Cue sent me a Cue system. I cooked several dishes on it and was delighted that the brand delivered on their promise. This allowed me to develop messaging and a content architecture that spoke to the user from a place of authentic experience.
The chief deliverable from my discovery phase contains a problem statement and a high-level path forward. It also serves as a high-level scope of work estimate. Additionally, this document gives me the chance to confirm with the client that I’ve thought through everything and we’re on the same page about what we’re going to solve. It also details all the work it’s going to take to move forward so clients understand the value in what they are paying me to do and what work is going to be on their plate.
I started design for this project with messaging concepts. It was important to find the one succinct line that users could grasp with immediacy. So I wrote Hestan Cue’s USP over and over again until I had a line that was tight and would be the foundation for messaging throughout.
I knew most users would be coming to the site from PR and digital strategy efforts such as product reviews from Wired and Bon Appetit as well as our own social campaigns. I wanted the first thing on the site to continue a conversation started outside of the site. So it was also important to put together personas, user stories, and user journey maps.
Having this helped me understand how people are going to come to the site and what they’ll already know and what they are coming to the site to learn or do. I put together a digital campaign that we were likely to deploy so the client and I could understand how the site would fit into Hestan Cue’s overarching digital strategy.
Content Flow & Wireframes
I like doing a lot of the ‘thinking’ work without a computer so I’m more connected to what I’m doing and much less distracted. Below I started working on the content hierarchy & flow.
I love paper prototypes. Since this product was a brand and product site, I used note cards to represent the messaging “tiles” for desktop wireframes.
For design inspiration, we took inspiration from brands on par with Hestan Cue (introducing a new technology to a legacy industry) such as brava.com and getquip.com. It was also important to maintain consistency with Hestan Cue’s companion app which already existed as well as the other Hestan family of brands.
Below is a breakdown of the home page. My hypothesis was that users coming to the site were coming from reviews they read in publications as well as efforts resulting from our digital strategy campaigns.
Stakeholder interviews were constant throughout the project as I was helping the business define their identity and how they’d position themselves. New businesses of innovative products can solve many problems and it’s tempting to want to speak to all the things it can offer since there is not yet a proven dominant audience. For example, Hestan Cue’s technology also makes learning to cook incredibly accessible without having to go somewhere to take cooking classes. Through stakeholder interviews and research, we decided to go after the core audience that had originally inspired them.
There was a lot to explain. And the site map started out with more top-level pages explaining all the certain aspects of product and technology. However, as we moved through the design phase it just made more and more sense to pare it down to the basics and then grow the site as it was truly warranted by growth of the brand.
Defining key messaging and benefits are critical. Of course, the product really does need to be beneficial. A scathing Wired article denouncing smart kitchen appliances and gadgets mentions Hestan Cue as being one of the few standouts doing it right. I attribute this to both having a good product and also strong messaging and positioning in the marketplace. This further validates I started the project on the right foot.