CJ’s Cottage

Bringing a business with a 30-year history into the digital space.

The Situation

Three years ago, when the current owner of CJ’s Cottage bought the business from its original owners, it already had 30 years of experience providing representation to manufacturers of products for the gift industry. As reps, CJ’s Cottage was an important link before the internet to the gift shops who stocked the manufacturerers’ products.

Although the wholesale and gift industry in general is still very much offline in many ways, many buyers want the option to place orders online. CJ’s had a public-facing website and a password protected website for registered buyers to view its inventory and prices. But only a tiny percentage of its buyers were using the site.

They asked our team to investigate why and come up with some suggestions as to how they could make the website more profitable.

My Role

Visual design

Content & design strategy



Cognitive Walkthrough
Contextual Inquiry
User Interviews




High Fidelity Wireframes

Now and the future

After the team interviewed the stakeholder and several of her current buyers, and conducted a contextual inquiry, I concluded that the redesign of cjscottage.com needed to accomplish two things:

1. Convince existing buyers to use the site for placing orders. This will free up time for stakeholders and staff to maintain relationships with current buyers—and cultivate new relationships with prospective buyers so that its business can grow.

2. Generate new business. The homepage can do some of this work for the company by demonstrating value to potential buyers and convincing them to register.

Explaining the process
Paper to digital

Branding Prototypes

Current Logo
Logo Prototype

New Business

Current clients are loyal to CJ’s Cottage. But like any business, CJ’s needs to grow and cultivate new business. The current website doesn’t communicate why a new buyer would want to work with CJ’s or what sets it apart from other reps. If a potential buyer was interested in registering for access to the online ordering system, the registration process wasn’t welcoming or clear.

By changing the user flows, applicants are given clear messages about what benefits registration will provide as well as how long it will take to be notified that registration has been approved.

Demonstrating value to current and prospective clients

Starting with the homepage, I wanted to discover what could be useful to current and potential buyers. After interviewing users, it became clear that it was useful for them to be notified about new products and trends in the market. This helps them make informed decisions as what to order next, but it also gives prospective clients a taste of the kind of expertise and service CJ’s brings as a rep.

Making the Sale

Buyers who currently order from CJ’s online are faced with an interface that doesn’t allow any branding customization and often there are no images to go along with the product. Many buyers won’t purchase anything until they can see an item in the showroom. If online sales are to increase, buyers need to have more confidence in what they are buying, which is only going to happen if they get a good feel for the product.

The redesign places an emphasis on images, product descriptions, and video as multiple ways to demonstrate the product in use.

Vendor pages were also optimized so that they communicate why CJ’s chooses to work with its manufacturers, many of whom are local and mission-based.

Interactive Tour

To wrap things up and help the client understand how the proposed changes might work together, I created an interactive tour.

Next Steps

It was clear that achieving the two goals above was going to extend beyond what e-commerce software to use or fixing some usability issues; the business needed a branding refresh and a content strategy.

Rebranding was out of the scope of this project, but I was unable to communicate the possibilities of where we could go with the website without doing a mockup of a modern version on the existing logo.

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