Taxonomy & Site Redesign for a rising name in lightweight hunting apparel

iA / UX
Information Architecture / Wireframes / Taxonomy / User Testing

KUIU was founded with the goal of supplying the lightest and highest performing Mountain Hunting clothing imaginable. Grounded in valuing uncompromising quality, performance and complete manufacturing transparency, KUIU has become one of the most favored brands amongst consumers in the industry. Through their openness and industry leadership, KUIU brings their premium products straight to the consumer online while simultaneously sharing the latest in research and design of their products. Continuing with their already established customer relationship, we began this project by contacting many existing customers to participate in Taxonomy testing so that we could clearly identify current pain points with the current site navigation.



Before we could begin testing a new taxonomy and navigation schema we needed to gather all the details of content and product that would be used to build out our site navigation. One of the more difficult factors for KUIU was how much content was routinely produced on the site, in contrast to the smaller and more refined subset of products available. KUIU has done tremendously well in sales while only having ~20 or so products for sale online. The demand has been so overwhelming that production couldn’t catch up with the growing customer orders, resulting in a massive back-order of customers waiting on their products. We had already established that customers wanted these products, but one of the key goals of our team was finding out why customers chose which products as well as how they approached the purchasing flow for those products. With the mixture of supplemental content that showcased the technology and features of the various products as well as the widely renowned hunting stories and in-the-field research being done for these products, we needed to find out how users were arriving and progressing through the purchase journey and what problems needed to be addressed.


Because of the niche market that KUIU is a part of, much of the current site navigation suffered from “proprietary” naming conventions that were rarely understood by their whole audience. Categories such as “Base Layer” or brief mentions of a “System” contrasted with “Accessories” and “Packs”. This inconsistency or lack of clear understanding was one of the first assumptions we had set out to test, both in terms of nomenclature as well as on-site content creation. 


The current site experience did not fully prepare the user to be able to understand what each “Layer” of clothing was specifically used for or what unique components made up the patented “Systems” that KUIU offered. The varying level of specificity of category naming also lead us to question what naming conventions worked for which shopping habits or needs.


Though we initially had set out to test our newly proposed taxonomy with as many users as possible, we ran into a roadblock when less than the ideal number of participants were capable of completing the taxonomy surveys. Due to the smaller subset of participants (compared to average site Users), the margin of error was greater. While this was in no way an ideal scenario, I’m of the opinion that any amount of user testing is better than none. So in order to best utilize our testing data we needed to approach the client with a mutual clear understanding of both Quantitative and Qualitative studies.


Provide data that can be expressed in numbers, that can be used to apply statistical tests in making statements about the data. Statistical analysis provides insight into trends, group differentiation and much broader demographics.


Provide details about human behavior, needs, use cases and personality characteristics. Qualitative data emerges in the form of patterns, pain points, observed behavior and other types of information without yet fully understanding what data is of a priority.

This combined approach suited our resulting survey data that consisted of both behavioral data as well as statistical success/failure of navigation paths (with a lower confidence level due to the yield of participants). We used both types of research methodologies to pin-point and prioritize key problem areas within our proposed navigation designs.

Some of the more prevalent areas of concern were related to the more “Ambiguous” category naming that most users were accustomed to (e.g., Clothing, Rain Gear, Insulation etc.) as well as the clear misunderstanding of the more proprietary KUIU “System” and “Layers” naming conventions. Based on the survey results, there was an immediate need to surface more “obvious” or universal category names that more clearly identified the preceding category of products. This meant reducing the names of categories to their root identity (e.g., Shirts, Jackets, Pants etc.) so that at the very least if a user was shopping for “Pants” they wouldn’t have trouble finding where in the site navigation those products would be found. Much of this was deduced from some of our more open-ended questionnaires that sought to understand how customers were first engaging with the site while having a situational purpose in mind. Participants avoided using any sort of ambiguous naming and instead clearly referred to “Pants” or “Jackets” when considering a specific use-case for such products. 

Another piece of evidence that was brought on by the survey results was the inability for users to clearly understand what KUIU offered in each “Layer” or “System” of products. These categories were created to identify specific use-cases for different types of products as well as which products were meant to work with other products, but there had previously not been any way for the user to engage with this content unless specifically looking for it on product pages. We definitely wanted to utilize a lot of the existing content on the site that accompanied these different categorizations but in a way that didn’t take away from the more product-focused categories. We had designed specific landing pages that walks through the various qualities and use-cases that each “Layer” contains as well as providing “Layer” specific refinement options within the product categories that would cater to users who were more familiar with that terminology. By establishing a certain level of “redundancy” we wanted to make sure that both new and brand-loyal users had a sufficient means to navigate the new site, along with the awareness of new content and category pages that could be used to educate new users about the many benefits of KUIU products.



One of the most important messages we needed to make users aware of was the sophisticated “Layering System” that each type of product was a part of. Each layer within the system was made up of specific characteristics that were made for the expected scenarios and use-cases when in-the-field as an outdoor hunter or enthusiast. Proper layering of different articles of clothing meant that no matter the condition of weather a customer would face, they would be fully prepared thanks to KUIU’s defined layering system. It was important that we convey these characteristics at various touch-points in order to guide the user to product based on their specific needs as well as reassure purchasing decisions when choosing between a specific set of products.

The most immediate method in which we conveyed the key characteristics of different layers was within a category landing page. Here we could clearly identify and narrow the resulting product search to a specific use-case and need of the user.



Once a user selected a specific layer, they would then be shown the various “Collections” of products that lived within a specific Layering System. This was another point in which clear distinction in both fabric qualities and how a specific product fit with other “Layers” within the system was most vital. We designed the Collection landing page to showcase the quick identifying characteristics (e.g., Good for warm, cold, rainy weather etc.) through the use of iconography as well as offered supplemental content such as video that featured the founder of KUIU demonstrating a real-world use for each of the different collections.


With the idea of total transparency in mind, we wanted to showcase the real-world benefits of the technology that made up KUIU’s product offering. Many of the various fabrics and key differentiators between Collections of products are unique to KUIU products so we wanted to provide the user with a clear understanding of why they would choose this product over another. 

Since each of KUIU’s products was tested in-the-field by KUIU’s founder himself, we also were able to showcase real-world product photography that highlighted the specific uses each of the products were for. This ranged from photos showing the products being worn in a torrential downpour for KUIU’s rain gear as well as photos of vast mountain trails that showed just how light and packable KUIU’s products are.