The aim of this project is to carry out a competitor analysis of the marine map industry and conduct a Lightning Decision Jam specifically to answer the business question ‘How do we sell maps online?’. The objective is then to employee UX’s best principles and practices to design a new customer facing PDP (product description page) utilising our findings.

UX Lead

Lightning Decision Jam
Competitor analysis


What is the best way to sell marine maps online in a digital download and memory card format?

Re-design outdated legacy software that is extremely precious to the team at who developed it over 10 years ago.

Extremely challenging turnaround deadline.


How are our competitors currently selling marine maps and memory cards online? After a few days of research, it was clear the stance our competitors were taking and it was becoming clear to me how we might improve our design to bring ourselves A) in line with our competitors, and B) in line with user expectations.

Our competitors weren’t doing anything new, in fact they were all very similar in characteristics, despite a few custom attributes here and there, they all seem to adopt a fairly standard eCommerce PDP, not too dissimilar to an industry standard eCommerce template. This wasn’t surprising, it was called industry standard for a reason, right? This gave me food for thought and coupled with the competitors research, this was enough for me to work backwards, I’d start by looking at our site and our functionality, how did this compare to our competitors, what were we doing wrong?


After several years of experimenting with different collaborative group exercises, on this occasion we needed a fast and effective process to solve the business and design problems facing the C-Map website. I suggested a ‘LDJ’, the Lightning Decision Jam (courtesy of AJ & Smart) is fast and effective and leaves the teams with precise, actionable results.

Like a GV design sprint, the LDJ has similar characteristics, they both have a Decider and Facilitator, they also both adopt the How Might We and Heat Map Voting exercise. The outcome of the session is to employee creative problem solving and clear decision-making to agree on an agenda and set of targets moving forward.

The session starts on the white board, we draw a large sail boat on the board, the water line is clear, the sail is clear, and under the water is an anchor. With this complete the session begins.

The first exercise takes only a few minutes, the group each gets a stack of post-it notes and writes a series of statements, one per note. The aim here is to capture what website is currently doing well, these statements are then presented to the group and posted on the sail of the boat we drew on the board. A visual metaphor for all the things we are doing that is pushing the website/business forward.

We then repeat the same process, but this time, instead of noting the positives, the team notes the negatives, the problems and challenges the website is facing. These are then presented to the group, but this time attached to the boats anchor. A visual metaphor for all the issues holding us back.

Once this task is completed, we are then left with 2 areas for consideration moving forward, what we consider the website is doing well and what we consider the website is doing badly.

In order to align the group, we then use the heat mapping technique to bring the most relevant points brought forward for discussion. Each person gets 3 coloured dot stickers and places them on the points they feel are the most salient. Once the team has voted, we then move all these post-it notes to a new board, grouping any similar issues together as we go.

Now for the ‘How Might We’ exercise. This is the most challenging part of the session, here we have to reframe the problems as challenges. Once we have the problems reframed as ‘how might we’ statements, the next step is to find some solutions.

Taking a new stack of post-it notes, each member of the group then tries to come up with at least one possible solution for each HMW statement. Once done, we repeat the heat map vote to bring forward the most salient points.

Finally, we need to prioritise these solutions and decide which should be try out in testing, moving over to a new board we draw an effort / impact scale. From results we make the solutions actionable, taking the most impact and least effort solutions forward to prototyping.

With the results of the LDJ in and actioned, the next step is to balance the results against the requirement of the MVP and the acceptance criteria


After the initial competitor analysis, I was confident that overlaying UX principles to this project shouldn’t be too hard, but to do this successfully, I needed to go back and study our current website.

The first thing that struck me when viewing our website was Hick’s law – complete cognitive overload. The custom functionality and layout we had developed was incredible hard to understand and was not intuitive at all. There are of course some custom attributes and filters we needed to include, this was unavoidable, like Tesler’s law states, there is often a certain amount of complexity that cannot be reduced – this was true here.

I wanted to explore some UX principles to steer us in the right direction as I knew from experience that it helps to be able justify our design solution to the board and key stake holders.

My first point of call was Lev Vygotsky’s theory on the Zone of Proximal Development. How advanced and innovative can we make our website UX before it become overly complicated or has a negative impact on our users experience & do we even need too? To answer that question, we can use the principle called the zone of proximal development (ZPD), in particular the lower limit of ZPD = What you can easily learn by yourself, without help, without a manual, or without an instructor’s help. Clearly our current design was failing this principal, we need to be clear on what actions the user must take, our design must be intuitive and employee basic heuristics.

In addition to this, I felt that by designing with the MAYA principle and the lower limit of ZPD in mind we might just be on to something great. The MAYA principle “Most Acceptable, Yet Advanced” coined by Raymond Loewy says that by Including familiar patterns in the visual design helps users orient themselves easily. We must seek to draw on our user’s subconscious skills and mindset while presenting them with only a few carefully chosen options is key to this concept. A golden rule is that if we have to explain our interface design and if we need to include a manual or elaborate “help” features, our product is overly advanced or too complex to use. Clearly again we were falling down here.

Finally, I was convinced I was closing in on a solution, from the competitor analysis it was clear our competition was fairly standardised and following rank, they were even using very similar layouts, why was this? Did we need to be so complicated in our approach? Jakob’s Law may offer a solution here. Jakob’s law states that users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users would prefer our site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know and frequent, it seems people feel comfortable, safe and secure when in a familiar environment, even online.

In conclusion it was clear that eCommerce had come a long way since the development of the initial C-Map website, we were getting left behind the pack and if we carried on, our users would simply jump ship to a competitors website where they could buy the same product in a familiar and secure environment, an environment they felt comfortable with and would expect – and that where we were going wrong. For us the problems were clear, old technology, there was no ease of use, no mobile compatibility and no clear flow of events guiding the user on a clear path to buying out product.

After a week or so, I came up with a few solutions designed to align ourselves with not just our competitors, but the 21st century and luckily it was well received.

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