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Simplifying the complex to deliver exceptional UX

Instilling best practices and adapting to a changing marketplace to convert a new wave of customers


Ashridge is a proudly independent business, established in 1949 and one of the early pioneers to begin selling plants online in 2003. Initially specialising in bare root products, they are driving further growth by diversifying product ranges to serve customers all year round. For over 70 years they have stuck to their core principles of providing high quality plants, excellent customer service and competitive pricing.

As a business, they were doing well and generating healthy revenues however, following a period of analysis it became clear that conversion rates on the site were declining. There was a risk that if they failed to adapt to a changing marketplace, they would not be able to attract new customers. Alongside their traditional customers, a new wave of younger, less horticulturally savvy online shoppers now demand that exceptional UX is a requirement of transacting online.

Ashridge invited Unfold, as a specialist UX and eCommerce agency to bring about the change required to deliver on the needs of both Ashridge and their customers. Their current site had obvious challenges and failed on many ‘best practice’ checks (e.g. information overload, confusing navigation and clunky UX to name but a few). It was clear there was so much more potential!

The challenge

  • Communicating a lot of information in a way that is clear and easy to understand.
  • Instil eCommerce best practice across the site.
  • Modernise the design and provide exceptional UX for customers.
  • Increase site conversion rate.

The outcome

  • By simplifying the complex, valuable content is displayed clearly and is easy to understand.
  • A fresh, modern design appealing to a wider audience.
  • Best practice eCommerce design delivered across the site.

Launch date TBC, stats to follow 


Research & solutions

During the initial stages of the project we conducted a series of immersion workshops, including spending a whole day on site with Ashridge, interviewing key members of staff to gain valuable insights about their business.

We worked closely with Ashridge’s chosen brand agency Brond, to define their key customer personas.  From this we were able to ensure we interviewed customers that represented each customer type to gain valuable insight.

We then carried out a full content audit of the site, as well as in-depth market research and competitor analysis which gave us a wealth of inspiration on how to move the website forward.

Once we had gathered all this information and findings, we were able to put together a full report of where the business was currently at, what the challenges were and where we could take things forward.

Ideation workshop

In order to approach solving the challenges identified in the understanding phase we entered a highly creative stage of the project. The aim was to broaden our thinking, running through exercises which would generate a large number of ideas, which could then be explored in the prototyping phase.

We focused each workshop on a specific area or challenge that Ashridge was facing, from how best to communicate seasonality and availability, through to considering the customer journey and expectations all the way from purchase to delivery.

Designing from insights gathered

Navigation; from our research a clear difference was identified in how different customers approached browsing the site, with the more experienced gardener appreciating a direct journey to a product, and the less experienced gardener preferring a more exploratory process, with guidance and inspiration.

Using this knowledge we built a menu that supports both methods of browsing, clearly displaying sub categories whilst also offering alternative ways, for example by soil type, lighting or plant feature. We also created a plant finder as a more accessible way of approaching filtering, guiding the customer through the key questions to find the right plant for them.

Delivery & availability; due to the seasonality of outdoor plants, customers may place their order and not have it delivered for many months until the plant is ready. From the customer interviews, this was highlighted as a key pain point that needed addressing, with improved communication and visibility around product availability and delivery windows.

So, we built delivery windows into the customer journey from the start of the purchasing process, including it in the filters as well as product previews and the basket. There is now a clear picture for the customer of what is in or out of season, with nothing left as a surprise at the point of checkout.

Prototyping & UI design

The next step was to define the site map, which we then reviewed and iterated. From this we were able to start prototyping, where we produced 3 design iterations, each following the same 4 step process of; low fidelity wireframes, high fidelity wireframes, user testing with customers and finally UI with constant iteration and regular reviews throughout the process with both Ashridge and their customers. 

At the UI stage of the process we worked with brand agency Brond to implement the new Ashridge branding closely into the interface designs. We ensured that the creativity and narrative of the brand was felt consistently throughout the whole website.

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