Usability study for REI: purchasing online gift cards

Project At-a-glance

A collaborative usability study with REI which identified key issues in the online gift card purchasing experience.

Findings + Business impact

The most important discovery during the usability study was that participants missed important key steps in the gift card customization page, including choosing a gift card design. For a physical gift card, this led to an error that was unseen by some participants who could not continue without additional help, leaving them frustrated. The recommended usability changes based on the study would decrease abandonment of customers purchasing gift cards on REI's website, leading to increased sales.


  • Usability study plan
  • Script for moderator
  • Moderating
  • Study results report
  • Presentation of study results
  • Video highlight reel of key issues


  • Morae (usability testing software)

Usability study plan


The usability study plan, and subsequent study kit, outlines the purpose of the study. It also includes who we intend to recruit, when and where we plan to do the testing sessions, and (in the study kit) includes the moderator / note taker script.


Recruiting participants


We recruited participants through social media and Craigslist, with the screening criteria being (a) online shoppers, and (b) gift card buyers. We offered a $25 REI gift card as an honorarium for participation.

With over 60 respondents, we were able to select participants with a mix of:

  • age (distributed between 20 and 69)
  • gender (5 female / 4 male)
  • familiarity with the REI website (from several times a month to once a year or less)

Usability testing


Testing was conducted in the LUTE Lab at the University of Washington with all 9 participants. In the lab there was the moderator, who sat with the participant (see image on right, Kat with participant), and a note taker; in the observation room (below, left) the other two team members watched the study and took notes.


Results presentation

We made a 15 minute presentation to capture the most important results from our study. It includes our methods, major findings with supporting quotes and video clips from the usability testing, and changes we would make if we were to conduct the study again.

We also wrote a 25-page usability report for REI, detailing our findings (see below).

Please find the full presentation deck below.


Usability report

Our final report, handed off to REI at the end of the project, included 26 pages on our findings and an additional appendix.


The team


Many thanks to my great team, who made this study possible!