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Toys Et Cetera

The Original Problem

Toys et Cetera is looking to communicate their message through an Improved digital shopping experience. Shoppers need a way to purchase toys and feel like they have made an informed decision.

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Time Frame and Role

This ten-day design sprint was a mock client project as a part of General Assembly User Experience Design Immersive. This was a solo project but we compiled our research as a class. I led all aspects of the UX process.

The Client

Toys Et Cetera is a local toy store that was founded 40 + years ago to provide educational, developmentally sound, and culturally relevant toys. They are looking to support the growth of physically, socially, and emotionally healthy children through safe toys. They have three locations in Chicago: HydePark, Lincoln Park, and Andersonville.

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Initial Investigation

I began through scrubbing the Toys Et Cetera website:

  • Their development focused mission was lost between multiple pages, deep menus, dead ends, and redundant holiday ads.
  • Searching toys was difficult due to the complex generalizations of toy types and development styles.
  • Purchasing toys was complicated and multifaceted.
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Ethnographic Research

Our first step was observing following the POEMS framework. (People, Objects, Environments, Messages, and Services)

Each team went to a different location to explore the setting and interview customers.

  • The store is walkable, near other kid-themed stores and has a large selection of free parking.
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I conducted four phone interviews and we captured two in person shopping interviews. Some of the commonalities of these interviews were:

  • The allure of a toy store is strongly nostalgic with bright colors and sensory objects as the focal point.
  • Shoppers prioritize educational and developmental when browsing for toys.
  • Finding toy stores can be a difficult and a somewhat random process.
  • A toy store can be a chaotic and overwhelming place on its own and it is easy to get lost in the myriad of toys. Shoppers can quickly be overcome with decision fatigue and they need a way to connect with the store’s founding principles and goals.

Competitive Analysis

As we were analyzing other online toy stores we noticed they shared some principles in common. Every store was centered on education, safety and bright and colorful. Target is not a toy specific store led their toy page with, "Make a playdate with STEM toys." I started to realize education is important to every toy retailer large or small.

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The Golden Circle

Through looking at our affinity maps, we modeled a Golden Circle about the core principles of Toys et Cetera and their mission. We found that parents want to raise successful children through engaging them in educational play by providing developmentally focused toys. This statement was a focal point as I moved forward in my research.

Golden Circle


Synthesizing the Research

As a team, we pulled together our research and built affinity maps from our site visits. We clustered ideas into discernable actions and started to look for behavioral patterns.

affinity map
affinity map
affinity map

Users are looking for:

  • Quick access to location specific information (store hours, directions, inventories)
  • A way to understand how development types can affect the learning goals of their children
  • An easy system to browse, shop, and reserve toys without the chaos of the in-store experience.
  • A toy store can be an overwhelming place on its own and it is easy to get lost in the myriad of toys. Shoppers can quickly be overcome with decision fatigue and they need a way to connect with the store’s founding principles and goals.

Design Principles

Solutions Should...

  • Remove obstacles to provide shoppers a smooth online retail experience.
  • Provide shoppers an easy way to associate toys with development types and learning styles.
  • Simplify finding and reserving items for pickup in brick and mortar stores.
  • Evoke the spirit of play.


Learning Types and Development Styles.

Once we understood development types and learning styles were crucial to providing an ideal user experience we knew we had to bring them front and center. Toys Et Cetera initially had a description of learning styles and development types under the category of "FUNdamentals". This was a difficult mental model for shoppers to connect with. The challenge was to create icons that encouraged parents and shoppers tp interact with the hover state button.

Development Types

  • Language Development
  • Cognitive Development
  • Physical Development
  • Social / Emotional Development

Learning Styles

  • Auditory Learners
  • Visual Learners
  • Kinesthetic (hands on) Learners
original fundamental page

This was the original page describing the "FUNdamentals". Although this page was core to Toys Et Cetera mission it was hidden in a submenu, and failed to relate to the toys when shopping.

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Cooperative Play

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Motor Skills

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Logical Thought

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Individual Play

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Language Development

Mission Focused Product Page

It was important for the development types and learning styles to follow through the shopping experience. When a shopper has identified a toy of interest they can see how this toy will help in the developmental growth of a child. By clicking on the developmental icon they will be reminded of the growth opportunity.

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Explore by Age

Besides the learning styles and development types testers responded to being able to shop for toys by age range. These buttons are on the home page right under the development types.

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User Journey

User Journey

Katie was one of the people we interviewed. We took her stories as a model to visualize the user journey.

katie user flow


Aunt Katie needs to buy her ten year old nephew Kai a Christmas present but it’s two days before and too it’s late to order online. She knows that she wants to give him something educational but she is stressed out about the thought of a mega store like Toys R US. She is hoping for something more local. Katie Googles local toy stores and finds Toys Et Cetera. When shes arrives at the new toy store she is greeted by the new home page.

toys home page
toys product page
product page

Instore Pickup

From our design principles, we identified the importance of simplifying finding and reserving items for pickup in brick and mortar stores. On any product page a user can select the geo icon and these modals will help the guide users to reserve and pick up their item.

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Katie selects the reserve for pickup option and selects the Lincoln Park location. When Katie reserves her item she is provided an address that links to Google Maps. She is easily able to map her journey and avoid being a neglectful aunt.

Design Experience.

The microinteractions and hover states focused on evoking the spirit of play. We provided depth and texture to the learning styles, development types, and age ranges to mimic the colors and textures of children's toys. This was used to draw users in and maintain a clean stress free shopping experience.

Next Steps


This project was my first time executing the user experience design process. I did this as a part of the General Assembly User Experience Design Immersive. It was a learning opportunity in human centered design, iterative design, and user testing. Additionally, this was a initial opportunity in telling a story through frameworks and communicating design to an audience. The exciting part of the project is that all projects from here on out will be better informed and executed.

Additional Testing

  • My goal in providing an amazing toy experience left little room for ideation. I too quickly developed a high-fidelity prototype. For future projects, my intent will be to spend more energy in research and testing assumptions in a low fidelity solution. I learned here that iteration is key, and users make assumptions and mental leaps when testing a high-fidelity prototype. Testing feedback is crucial to making changes and building through a nimble process.
  • A focused test approach through stronger scenarios that attack my weakest held assumptions is key to getting user feedback that guides the design process.
  • It is important to learn the basics from subject matter experts. In this project learning styles and development types were not only important to parents but getting them wrong and representing them poorly impacted the project and eroded trust from the user.
  • The research needs to be clear and organized. Being able to show user journeys and visually display data through models and frameworks is important to communicating clearly and effectively.