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E-Commerce UX (User Experience) planning is important

3 February, 2012

With online shopping becoming ever more popular, it’s absolutely vital that your website (and mobile phone apps) provides a great user experience (UX) for your customers or clients.  This is especially important when you have a potential customer making a first visit to your site.  The easier your site is to use, the more likely it is that a casual visitor will become a customer or a first-time customer will return for more.  The user experience will determine how your customers perceive your brand/product and this is your chance to build a relationship with customers and tap into a community of online shoppers who could become future brand advocates if their UX is enjoyable, convenient and intuitive.  Website design should take into account the 7 basic building blocks in e-Commerce website design:

user experience e-commerce UX

  1. Content
  2. User Needs
  3. Business Objectives
  4. Look and Feel
  5. Visitor Behaviour
  6. UI Design
  7. Information Architecture

CONTENT

Content is the name of the game online – people use the internet to gain information on products and services and make an informed decision on where to make their purchases.  The more interesting and useful your website content is, the more people will want to visit it or share it with friends and family.  To make sure that it’s worth your users making repeat visits to your website, the content needs to be changing with regular additions and updates to the information you provide.

Your content needs to be original and relevant so that it has specific appeal to your target audience.  It needs to be creative and well-written with news and articles about the industry you are in – this means that your readers are likely to be interested in buying your products/services.  The articles should be easy to understand in plain English, with minimal use of jargon/technical language.

USER NEEDS

Your website is a showcase for your products or services and can often be a prospective customer’s first experience of your organization.  You need to make sure that the website is easy for visitors to use, whatever their level of technical ability.  Usability needs to be an integral consideration when designing the website so that visitors enjoy a positive user experience – this will help to build trust and brand loyalty amongst your customers.  If your website is difficult to use or navigate, visitors will soon feel frustrated and move on.  This needs to be planned for when building the website, as it will save money in the long term (by avoiding the need to test and fix your website later).  Some of the advantages of ensuring a positive user experience are:

  • Increased user success, productivity and completion of sales (conversion optimisation)
  • A higher rate of repeat customers which will give you the edge over competitors
  • Increased user satisfaction  which will foster brand loyalty and trust
  • Social media, word of mouth and free marketing
  • Reduced long term costs (avoiding the need to fix design mistakes)
  • Reduced training and support costs
  • Positive press coverage

BUSINESS OBJECTIVES

Your website should have a professional appearance and showcase your products/services, making them appealing to visitors.  There should be information about your organization with contact details (including a telephone number) that are easy for the visitor to find.  You need to provide information about any associations that are relevant to your sector and testimonials from satisfied customers.  There should be comprehensive product information with plenty of images – if you’re selling a product, make sure there are images of the product from several angles and detailed information on the size and weight of products and materials.  Including prices is a great idea as visitors often move on if they cannot see the price immediately.

LOOK AND FEEL

Make sure that your website has a consistent corporate identity running through all pages.  The layout should also be consistent with rational use of space so that it is not cramped – this will make the information easier for the visitor to find.  The colours should be consistent throughout and not gaudy and the fonts used should be plain and easy to read.  If a visitor comes across a website that is messy and chock-full of text in a fancy font, they are likely to pass on until they come to a website with a cleaner and more minimal design as it is easier to find relevant information on a website that is not cramped.

VISITOR BEHAVIOUR

visitor behaviour

Visitors to your website will initially scan the website to see if it is relevant to their needs.  If they cannot see something that interests them in the first second or so, then they’re likely to move on to the next website in their search results.  This means that you have a very small window of opportunity to grab their attention and keep them looking at your website.  If the layout is not appealing, if information is out of date or missing/confusing, they will quickly lose trust and move on.  You need to make sure that your website design grabs the visitor’s attention and leads them to want to explore further.

UI DESIGN

UI (user interface) is vitally important in website design.  You need to provide visitors with multiple views of products (with video if possible), details about the products and product reviews.  Make sure that you show related products, cross-sells and up-sells on the same page.  Provide your visitors with methods of sharing, making wish lists and receiving notifications if they sign up for them.  The navigational structure needs to be intuitive with multiples ways of sorting and filtering products.  Make sure that you have a comprehensive search option so that if a visitor is looking for a specific product, they will be able to find it easily.  Make sure that the checkout process is easy and don’t be tempted to force visitors to register with your website before buying – this can be the final hurdle in the shopping process and visitors will often pull out at the last minute if they resent having to register before they are allowed to buy.

INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE (IA)

information architecture IA

Basically, this is designing your website for the efficient and effective organization of the content (information).  The most common IA pattern for websites is a main page with subpages – or the Home page with links to the other pages on the website.  Whatever your preferences for web design, you must make sure that your website is designed with your users in mind.  Think about who the visitors will be and what they will really want from your website.  Researching user needs by asking for feedback is a great way of getting in touch with what sort of website design you need to use and tailoring it to your customers’ needs.  Consistency is of paramount importance in information architecture and you need to make sure that the information on each page is structured in the same way each time.  Choose a pattern and stick to it and this will ensure that there is little chance of confusing your visitors.

In the simplest of terms, User Experience is the emotional feeling a visitor gets when using a website.  If they are given an intuitive, enjoyable and convenient experience, they are more likely to buy, more likely to return and more likely to spread the word by sharing.

For advice on website user experience and e-commerce UX planning or for wireframe designs contact Setting up an e-commerce shop

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