The Pleasure Chest

Project Overview

The Pleasure Chest is one of oldest running and most iconic sex retailers in America. They were pioneers in helping drop the taboo of sex and continue to do so through their flagship locations in Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles.

They came to Blenderbox in 2016 asking for a complete redesign of their online web store. They also wanted direction on product photography which we were able to provide. During this process, I served as the Lead UX designer and front-end developer.

About the Pleasure Chest

What makes the Pleasure Chest so unique is their driving mission. From their mission statement, they state that "everyone has a fundamental right to pursue sexual fulfillment" and that they "support [their] community's sexual growth and exploration by pioneering a sex positive culture, with an emphasis on education, enjoyment, and inclusivity."

This was the basis of the project and a source of constant inspiration throughout.

Main Challenges

There were a variety of exciting design challenges with this project. The biggest for the team was not only dealing with Magento as our main e-comm engine, but also managing many integration points with specific business tasks (like shipping and inventory across multiple warehouses!).

We also presented our design team with a set of questions that helped set metrics for the redesign:

As we began thinking more about visual design, our art director Amy Hunt distilled these questions into an acronym P.E.E.P:

  1. Present the Pleasure Chest as a high end retailed providing the most unique and educational shopping environment.
  2. Establish an intimate connection with visitors through sophisticated design and streamlined purchasing experience.
  3. Educate by providing trustworthy resources gathered by credible experts and offering free online and in-store workshops.
  4. Promote sex positivity by inspiring a personalized sexual journey.

Sitemap & Navigation

Our first design task was to take a look at their current navigation system, assess any possible usability issues or concerns through Analytics, and come up with a revised solution.

Mobile
Through analytics it was clear that mobile users we're quickly overtaking the number of desktop users. As we went forward with wireframes we kept this in mind and began sketching out.

Below shows our initial wireframes alongside the final visual design.

Desktop
Our desktop approach was to make navigation items related to shopping as the primary navigation. Any other items, like "Contact" or "About" could be found in the top-most utility navigation.

Homepage

The goal for the homepage was threefold. We wanted users to explore new arrivals or featured products (through the promotion area at the top), showcase upcoming events in various Pleasure Chest stores, and also provide an easy avenue for users to begin shopping.

One great thing about the design of the homepage is that it can adapt to different colors based on different campaigns. The color changer was a custom Magento extension that can be administered in the backend. It rewrites and recompiles a .sass file variable on the server.

Below is an example of an alternative color scheme. Swapping out colors and product photography can really transform the site without making it unfamiliar and less usable, making it a great tool for their editorial team!

Product Categories

The product category page was important since this is one of the main differentiators from a big box online store like Amazon. By providing a custom-tailored, intimate shopping experience for this niche of products, we hypothesized that users would be more likely to come back.

Category pages have a header that can be customized to either include a video or photo. Videos are currently used to educate users about specific product categories.

As far as designing the filtering system, we didn't stray too far away from Magento presets, but there were a few plug-ins we used to make the experience a bit smoother.

Product Pages

These templates are the showpieces of the site, a beautiful way to show off the unique selection of products in the Pleasure Chest's catalog.

These pages allow for rich product imagery, "Expert" testimonials, comments, and a module for related products. Expert testimonials were particularly intriguing, as they allow for the Pleasure Chest's network of subject-matter professionals to offer unique insights on products.

Special Collections & Educator Picks

We implemented two different types of "listing" templates as an additional way for the Pleasure Chest team to better market their product suite. Groups of products can be bundled under certain themes and add customized descriptions if needed. This was achieved through a custom Magento plug-in that can be administered through the back-end.

These lists can either be "Special Collections", which are typically based on monthly campaigns, or "Educator Picks" which are geared towards provided more education-focused commentary on certain topics.

Below is an example of a special collection. You'll notice a stylized header image and a brief blurb before going into the full list of products.

This is an example of an expert pick. The template follows the same pattern as a special collection with the exception of a header for more information about the curator.

Other Fun Things

While we weren't able to include them in our production environment, we prototyped an easter egg that we felt would make Pleasure Chest stand out from its competition.

Using the HTML5 API, we were able to access the vibrate feature of some (Android only 😞) phones to create an actual vibrator within the phone. It works by offering 4 preset vibration functions and allows the user to adjust the rate at which these presets run. It would be accessed at footer of their mobile site.

Key Takeaways

Overall this was one of the most challenging projects that I had ever been on at Blenderbox. E-commerce platforms can be extremely extensible, for better or worse, and it presented a lot of unique challenges that we needed to work through.

One of the biggest takeaways I had was to avoid using Magento as a CMS for editorial content. For all it's power, Magento has a terrible back-end interface making it extraordinarily difficult for content editors new to platform to figure out.

This can be alleviated by using a platform like Wordpress or Kirby to integrate with the Magento product library and edit from there.

Project Team

Lead Developer - Adam Hochstetter
Lead UX / Front-end Development - Luis Queral
Art Direction - Amy Hunt
Project Management - Jessica Principato