AZZO is a premium home interiors and furniture store based in Delhi, India.
Post pandemic in 2020, due to new regulations around social distancing, and months of uncertainties in business through continued lockdowns, it became imperative for brick-and-mortar stores to go online for a new way of attracting customers. The project, therefore, was to expand the brand’s digital presence and build a WordPress website for AZZO.
Keeping the website’s digital identity in line with the brand’s unique aesthetics, the challenge was also not only to design an appealing website but also to keep its interface young, bold, vibrant, and fun. Additional feature requirements included product galleries, an e-commerce store plugin, contact forms, and payment gateways.
About AZZO Modern Furniture
AZZO was born in Delhi, India, in 2011 and is today a premium modern furniture brand. It is known to design, produce, and sell a range of contemporary design furniture, accessories, and lighting for the living room, dining room, and bedroom. AZZO furniture store offers everything within modern design ranging from designer beds, sofas, coffee tables, and armchairs to practical wall units and dining sets. It also helps its customers to create a personal home with a comprehensive in-home or in-store Interior Design service, including options in materials such as leather, velvet, or any other fabric choice.
Playful and bold visual design
Nitish Gulati, the founder of AZZO, was keen on having an eccentric website full of bold colors and a memorable visual impact. He didn’t want an ordinary furniture store website, but rather something playful to match the quirky vibe of the physical AZZO store.
“I also want the website to be a complete directory of all my products. For years, I have maintained picture folders to show different categories of furniture my customers want, but it is pretty tedious and I can’t share those folders with them for security purposes. Also, they are huge files and too many images. I want you to develop a ‘gallery’ feature to eliminate my Google Drive and let the website be a storehouse of all my images, such that it’s easy to access for both the parties.” – added, Nitish Gulati.
Since Azzo is a premium brand and the users spend a hefty amount to buy any piece of furniture, it was difficult to establish the same trust online. After talking to some regular and new customers of AZZO, a few common themes of user ‘fears and motivations’ emerged:
Shifting consumer trust online
The key challenge faced in the initial phase was to set the right balance between the user’s expectations and the owner’s vision. It was clear through our primary research that people weren’t favoring an e-commerce platform for a luxury furniture store — but COVID-19 was obstructing the sales otherwise. We, therefore, knew that we had to develop a step-by-step process to shift the consumer trust online entirely which can only come with time and a strong digital marketing strategy.
Low fidelity wireframes
After studying the competitors and exploring similar websites, we performed a crazy-eights activity to decide the structure of the website.
Considering that AZZO had 5 different product categories, along with other sections, resources, and information to attract the target client, it was essential for us to design a well-planned information architecture for a smooth user experience.
Visual Identity through a strong “Homepage” design
The homepage gives you a first indelible impression of a website and hence the store you are about to enter. With special emphasis on the homepage, we spent quite some time designing it with a series of iterations to get the look right.
Mockup 1: The neon color overlays on images didn’t look visually appealing.
Mockup 2: The images provided by the client were too busy for an impactful design.
Mockup 3: Stock photos looked pleasing but didn’t match up to the client requirements of a bold and impactful homepage design.
Designing bold Vector Imagery for homepage
One of the biggest constraints while designing the homepage was the lack of high-resolution imagery to be used for the homepage. To overcome this challenge, we chose to design different vector icons for each product category with solid neon backgrounds for visual impact.
Mood-boarding for a consistent site design
To keep the UI of the entire website consistent, it was important to achieve a cohesive visual identity, while keeping all the design principles in mind. Considering that our homepage was now based on vector imagery and bold solid colors, another constraint was to balance the look in the subsections, which were rather photo-heavy to show the brand products. To cater to this challenge we started with a mood board exercise to come up with a layout that stays consistent with the homepage.
Creating balance with a defined style guide
Moving on, we defined a fixed color palette that has been used as a powerful identifying symbol in the entire interface. We further created balance through the right contrast between the background of the website and content, a consistent icon library, buttons style and sizes, and the use of typography principles for headings and body content.
Solution to Azzo’s unique e-commerce constraint
E-commerce is a tough choice in the luxury furniture industry for both the manufacturer and the end-user. Transactions involve high price points and exclusive design customizations which are hard to achieve securely online. But owing to the pandemic, it has become inevitable for a brand to include an e-commerce platform in its digital presence.
Finding a temporary solution, we decided to disable the ‘Add to Cart’ feature on the website, for now, enabling the customer to use the e-commerce store as a virtual window shopping experience instead. Consumers can visit the AZZO website to surf for all available products, explore all their options, save them as their wishlist, and then contact the store for further customization and pricing.
This decision was based on the mental model of a typical e-commerce user which is formed around a cart and check-out, and therefore we retained the entire process in our design until the stage of being able to save products in the cart. However, to avoid any further confusion that the customer cannot really check out and place the order — we designed big bright ‘disclaimers’ as modal popups specific to our theme to keep the user informed at all times.
This way the new AZZO customer can now visit AZZO online as a virtual store and still find security in placing their order later in-store through pre-booked appointments. We also added a ‘Contact Form’ to the website for a customer to easily reach out to the store manager through email, other than the contact page details.
The navigation of the respective ‘Gallery’ and ‘Product Pages’ is also interconnected to help the users find individual product details easily, along with an easy switch to the gallery to explore more products in each category. To be specific, while the product pages detail each product with a name, description, color, and material type; the gallery is centered around exploring all possible available products in one place.
We hope that AZZO will soon be a full-fledged e-commerce store with secure checkout and payment in the future.
Making it mobile responsive
According to research, mobile accounts for approximately half of the web traffic worldwide. In the third quarter of 2020, mobile devices (excluding tablets) generated 50.81 percent of global website traffic, consistently hovering around the 50 percent mark since the beginning of 2017.
As more and more people use their mobile phones to access the Internet and shop online, creating a mobile-optimized website for AZZO was another necessity.
Depending on the response of the users and changing market trends, the website can be made more transactional by the complete integration of e-commerce if and when required in the future.
Personally, I would love to work more on such website design projects, where the client is open to ideas, experimentation, and an unconventional design approach. This gives me and my team an opportunity to explore more styles and make something truly unique to the brand identity.