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Dakota Art Store

An e-commerce redesign
with a commitment to the creative community

Project | Client

A desktop and mobile conceptual redesign for Dakota Art Store



Solo Project


My Role

UX Designer | UX Researcher


Timeline | Year

3 weeks | 2021


Personas | Task and User Flows | Site Map | Wireframes, Prototypes, and High Fidelity Mockups in Figma | Design System and Style Guide in Figma and  Zeplin 

Since 1994, Dakota Art Store has been an artist run hub that supports creativity in the city of Bellingham and far Northwestern Washington. 

An art supply store with adjacent classrooms and a gallery, they pride themselves in their dedication to the community.

Unfortunately, like many small businesses, Dakota Art Store has felt the impact of the pandemic.  While they’ve recently been able to fully reopen their store, they have not been able to run their classes since March 2020. 

In September 2021 they announced that their annual fundraising exhibit in their (still currently closed) gallery space will not be taking place this year.  And their sister store in Seattle permanently closed its doors in summer 2021.

The Opportunity

While many businesses have increased their online offerings during the pandemic, Dakota Art Store’s online presence has remained informational only.  With a stock of thousands of products currently listed as brand information only on their site, their online purchasing system requires placing a phone call to let the store know what you need and staff will gather the items for you to pick up.

DAS paints listing smaller GREY.png
DAS order form smaller GREY.png

As the largest fine art focused supply store in far northwestern Washington, there is great opportunity for a website redesign that includes e-commerce.  So the first question moving forward is this:

What could an e-commerce website
look like for Dakota Art Store?

The Research

Enter the research phase.  User interviews, affinity mapping, competitive and comparative analysis, and card sorting shed the light needed to move forward. 

My 6 user interviews were rooted in wanting to know more about the following:

  • Pre-pandemic and pandemic era art supply shopping habits- the what- the where- and the how

  • What works and what doesn’t work regarding online shopping for art supplies

  • How this compares to shopping in store for art supplies

  • What the expectations are for the online experience

  • How important / not important brand and price is

  • What the sources are for inspiration for new materials and techniques to try

User interviews and affinity mapping led to identifying:

2 distinct personas with different behaviors, challenges, and needs

5 trends that informed the

5 key elements of the redesign of

the Dakota Art Store website

Meet the Personas


The Professional Artist and Educator

Lawrence lives and breathes art.  He spends his days and evenings in his studio either working on his projects or teaching classes online.  He shops online for art supplies because it is convenient and he can research product details all without leaving his studio.  He prefers to shop by brand and price, appreciates extensive product detail and descriptions, needs access to product education, and expects a seamless checkout process.  Though he typically knows what he is looking for, he finds it challenging to find what he needs at the large online art supply stores because they have too many product categories and overwhelming spreadsheet style product listings. 

Lawrence needs a better way to access both the product that he wants to purchase and in depth product details.

LAWRENCE persona2.png


The Budding Artist

Johanna is new to the world of art making.  She follows artists on Instagram and appreciates when they share their process.  Inspired by these artists, she watches video tutorials and wants to dive in and try it- but then hits a roadblock when it comes to buying supplies.  She finds it overwhelming to navigate buying supplies online because she is not sure exactly what she needs to buy or where to begin, and gets frustrated by too many choices when you don’t know what you are doing. 

Johanna needs inspiration and project ideas and recommendations for what supplies to look for and purchase.

JOHANNA persona 2.png

In addition to identifying 2 distinct user types, 5 trends emerged from

the user interviews that shaped the key elements of the redesign.

5 Key Elements of the Redesign

A shopping experience that is both for the professional artist that knows what they need and want- and the beginner artist that needs guidance and inspiration

An educational component / access to education

100% of interviewees indicated that they want access to education

A feature dedicated to getting inspired

100% of interviewees either need or appreciate inspiration and project ideas 

In depth product descriptions

and information

66% of interviewees indicated that in depth product information is critical

A smooth ordering and checkout process that mirrors that of the "big box"

art supply stores

100% commented that they have had no issues with the "big box" stores' check out process and 66% indicated that they

expect a seamless process 

When taking the findings of the user interviews into consideration it was fascinating to review Dakota Art Store’s history described on their current website and summarized below:

Dakota Art Store Bellingham opened in 1994, styled as a small, customer service oriented art supply shop where customers could talk to real artists who knew their craft, and get personalized recommendations for supplies.

25 years later they boast thousands of products, an adjacent classroom, and art gallery.  Dakota Art Store is still entirely staffed by artists, and their dedication to the community is unchanged.

This clear alignment of user needs and business goals led to the question of...

How might we re-envision the Dakota Art Store website not only as an e-commerce site, but one that highlights their commitment to learning, showcases artists’ work,
and supports their customers?

At this point in the research phase it was critical to conduct competitive and comparative analysis.  I looked at 5 big box art supply stores including Blick and Utrecht, other small business art supply stores in Washington state, non art related e-commerce sites that also boast thousands of products, and arts and education organizations that offer classes and highlight artists’ work.

Conducting a competitor plus/delta analysis after creating the user personas allowed me to experience likes and dislikes through the eyes of our users- Lawrence and Johanna.

Competitive Research


The "big box" art supply stores have everything you might need, but the online shopping experience is overwhelming.



Product and "how to" education is often limited to written information within the product description or otherwise difficult to find.



The "big box" art supply stores do provide project and inspiration ideas, but these resources are often buried at the bottom of product category pages with no direct navigation to this information.


According to our users, the "big box" art supply stores notably excelled in 2 areas:

  • Thorough product description pages

  • A seamless checkout process

To ensure that user needs were filled regarding a seamless purchasing and checkout process- I conducted a task analysis using direct competitors’ processes- specifically those that my interviewees indicated were seamless to them.

With the research and analysis complete what I found was this:

While the insights gathered are not groundbreaking news- the website redesign is a matter of addressing overwhelm with finding products, easier and more straightforward access to what our users need, and ultimately creating something for Dakota Art Store that aligns with their history and purpose… and highlighting that!

Dakota Art Store

A place to shop, learn, and get inspired


The Solution

The Dakota Art Store redesigned website is more than bringing e-commerce to their online presence.  It is a place to shop, learn, and get inspired.  The shopping experience is for both the professional artist that knows what they need and want- and the beginner artist who needs guidance and inspiration- and all those in between.  Often not knowing where to even begin regarding what supplies to purchase, the beginner artist can look for sources of inspiration through artists’ work and demos, “how-to” videos, and even get a supply list for projects to help determine what to purchase.  While the professional artist also appreciates having access to inspiration, new ideas, and techniques, the focus is on quickly getting to the products they need and providing thorough product information.

The User Flow below demonstrates the journey that both personas take to purchase a product through Dakota Art Store.  Lawrence- knowing what he wants to purchase- takes a direct route of shopping through the Painting categories and Acrylics pages to ultimately purchase a tube of acrylic paint.  Johanna, on the other hand, needing inspiration and guidance regarding what supplies to purchase- visits the Featured Artists page for inspiration, is provided a suggested supply list, and then armed and ready with a supply list she finds and purchases what she needs.


The information architecture of the site shows 5 primary navigation areas:  Shop, Learn, Get Inspired, Gallery & Store, and About.  Through these

focus areas user needs are met and business goals and values are highlighted.


The images below show sample screens of the prototypes, emphasizing that the focus of the redesign included simplified product categories and drop down menus to reduce overwhelm for users, in depth product descriptions and information, and feature dedicated to getting inspired-  with support in making decisions regarding what products to purchase.

Reducing overwhelming shopping experiences  and providing in depth product descriptions


A feature dedicated to getting inspired


Usability tests of the prototypes provided both feedback for immediate iteration (which are reflected in the final prototype) and next phase improvements.  I feel that in the next phase I could really improve upon the “suggested supplies” portion of the experience by making the supply list a checklist where the user can select the supplies they need that would then automatically go into a wishlist- rather than having to write down the product names or print the supply list.


The redesigned site gallery


Parting Thoughts

The Dakota Art Store website redesign project was both overwhelming and exciting.

I could feel the overwhelm of my interviewees as I tried to take what has become an industry standard in e-commerce art supply store product organization- and simplify it.  And although I believe I successfully did so, I fully acknowledge that this was only for a sampling of products that art supply stores typically carry.  The reality is that when dealing with thousands of product offerings, organization is a massive undertaking with complexities that I did not face with just a sampling of a few 100 products.  

And finally, the Dakota Art Store redesign project was exciting because there is great satisfaction in seeing that user needs and company goals and values align so closely.  To redesign with that sort of alignment is a creative endeavor that was an absolute joy to take on. 

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