The Latest Trends in eCommerce User Experience

It’s finally 2016 and a great time to evaluate your eCommerce user experience. Holiday shopping is over, so you probably have oodles of analytics and data.  Now is the time to make some tweaks to your eCommerce site.  It seems like there are new trends every day. We’re here to break them down (note: this a list, not a ranking of importance).

Responsive design.

It’s the hottest buzzword in the techsphere because everyone is using a mobile device.  Shopping on a mobile device is more popular than ever.  Internet Retailer recently cited a report from Forrester that $1 trillion in purchases were influenced by a mobile device in 2015!  So that means a shift towards mobile shopping, making responsive web design (RWD) especially important.  Mobile shoppers quickly get discouraged if the process of completing a transaction is hindered by a messy, non-responsive eCommerce store.


Tailor your website and mobile website for your customers.  This might be a “Hello,” message, product recommendations, or anything that adds a personal element to the online shopping experience. You’ve made an effort to differentiate your customers and this makes the user experience unique.  As Practical Ecommerce notes, online shoppers want to feel like people, especially when it comes to things like product recommendations or “frequently bought with” prompts.


Your eCommerce store needs to have every form of contact information and all of it should be easily accessible. A phone number, email, and even social media should be clearly visible because customers always have questions.  If I can’t quickly find a phone number during my shopping experience, I probably won’t complete my purchase.

Now, don’t go and completely change your site from top to bottom!  That will just confuse your customers and search engines.  Rather, look at pain points on your site and use these tips as a guide to plan your strategy.


What is Relevant eCommerce?

With eCommerce booming ($1.5 trillion annual sales just for B2C), relevant experiences are crucial to target the right market.  The online experience shapes the way your customers interact with you — it’s the gateway for creating conversions.  Online shoppers demand personalized and engaging eCommerce website experiences.  This is where relevant eCommerce will connect you with your shoppers.

But first — what is relevant in eCommerce today?

Mobile commerce (m-commerce), for one, is a preferred mode of shopping since the advent of tablets and smartphones.  This is not just a fad — it’s a requirement of online shoppers today — 30% of online transactions take place on a mobile device.   If your customers cannot seamlessly engage with your store on a mobile device, you’ve put up a barrier and shopping carts never see the final checkout.

Speed to market is also relevant.  With new trends, changes in the marketplace, and seasonalities, adjusting to the market quickly is crucial.  Your eCommerce system should allow you to launch a new storefront or sell new products online to meet new demands in the marketplace.

Relevance can even pertain to finding a product online.  This means consumers should be able to visit your site and search by product name or attribute versus a SKU.  Faceted search is another layer of this concept: if I am shopping for full sized bedding under $150 I might click ‘bedding,’ followed by ‘under $150,’ followed by ‘full/double.’  I might also look for those products in a search box.  The point is to design your eCommerce system in such a way so consumers can easily find what they’re looking for and don’t leave your site.  Instant gratification.

Relevance also applies to your business role–it’s twofold.  Not everyone can write code and manage IT operations, so your eCommerce solution should be relevant to all roles — marketing, IT, sales, etc.  For example, a marketing manager should have the ability to adjust current promotions or marketing strategies in the back end.

This is not an exhaustive list.  Relevance for your business might pertain to APIs, a central admin, or endless customization options.  Whatever is pertinent to your online business, Znode’s Multifront platform can help your company develop a relevant eCommerce system.


Website Buttons And The Power of Perceived Control

One of the most basic rules of interaction is that every action should have a response. You click a button something happens. You click a link, you go to another page. You click the Facebook icon, there’s a pop-up to your account. You click “Save” and a spinner appears. It’s common to everything on the web so we don’t think much about it…but you should. Read more


Amazon Should Be Inspiration For User Experience, Not A Goal

Copying the designs and features of popular web sites is something we all do. I do it. You do it. It makes sense…why put a bunch of thought into something when someone has already done it for you? Making things familiar for your visitors is not a bad strategy but don’t use that as an excuse to avoid designing your web experience for your visitors.


Following the leader

When designing an ecommerce experience you will inevitably hear a reference to Amazon.

“That’s how Amazon does it.”

Everyone wants the success of Amazon so that means you should copy what they’ve done, right? Not exactly.

Amazon has millions upon millions of visitors every day and that means they piles upon piles of data about their customers…how they shop, what they buy, when they buy and what they use to buy. Amazon also probably has an entirely different strategy than you do, so why copy them?

You can read more about how Amazon’s business is different than your business, but the point remains the same – just because they did it one way, doesn’t mean you should do it that way.


A tailored experience

The experience of any web site should be tailored for your audience. If your audience is broad then you need a broad design (like Amazon). If your audience is more narrow then you can make certain assumptions and design accordingly. Every case is different. There’s no silver bullet.

Amazon isn’t “doing it right” because there is no right answer (of course, they’re not doing it wrong either). It’s working for them and that’s great…for them…not you. Don’t copy Amazon feature for feature because you’ll either miss something important or you’ll work a lot harder than you need.

Using Amazon as a starting point to talk about what will work and what won’t is the right tactic. Use the likes of Amazon for inspiration. If you find a step in Amazon’s path that makes sense, then copy it. Use it. But think about each step and decide if it really works for you, your customers and for what you’re selling.


One size does not fit all

And as is common for my articles thus far…lets not forget about responsive design. Amazon’s website isn’t responsive. They have a separate website for mobile devices and they also have a native app. When you’re designing responsively, some interactions just don’t translate well between “large” and “small” device sizes (namely dropdown menus), which means you have to come up with alternate solutions.

Yes, Amazon is successful and part of that success is due to the web experience, but that experience was designed for their customers and only their customers. Same goes for Target, Walmart and other big online retailers. They’ve made choices that are best for their customers and their business. Use success examples like those as a starting point for your own experience design discussions but don’t just copy them blindly. Your business deserves it, your products deserve it and your customers deserve it. 


Responsive Design: Crafting an Experience for Everyone

The phrase “responsive web design” is still somewhat of a buzzword when it comes to building web sites. However, responsive web design is not a feature that you add on to your web site to make it mobile-friendly. Responsive design is just how you build web sites in a multi-device world. The question of “should we go responsive” shouldn’t even be a question because the answer is always “yes,” and that’s why the new MVC version of the Multifront ecommerce platform includes an example storefront that was built from beginning to end using responsive techniques.

Responsive design is not a feature.

The obvious advantage to responsive web design its ability to display well on devices of varying size, from phones to tablet to desktops. Of course, there are thousands of different devices out there in the wild – even in your office – and it’s impossible to account for them all…and you’re not supposed to.

The big difference with responsive design over how sites have been designed in the past is that you cannot worry about tiny details. The term “pixel perfect” is no longer valid when it comes to web design. You’re shooting for “usable” when it comes to a responsively designed web site, but that doesn’t have to mean boring or generic. It just means that you can’t worry about the positioning of an element between two different Android phones. It’s not going to look the same and it’s not intended to. Ultimately the design needs to be usable and communicate clearly, so the extra whitespace that appears on the big phone and not the small phone is not a concern, bug or problem.

Separating your concerns

Depending on where you sit in the development chain, the fact that responsive design relies on a single code base could be a good thing or a bad. I favor the former because managing two separate code bases for the same product is just more trouble than it’s worth. Before too long you’ll find one version is way out of sync with the other, giving your customers a very inconsistent experience between devices. You may also find yourself with two different products going in opposite directions, and that’s not going to help anyone.

Using the same code base for every experience doesn’t mean you can’t selectively load data, it just means you handle it all up front rather than having the server sniff a browser and do a bunch of domain switching and project loading. And when we’re talking about an online store, there’s probably little reason to have different markup for different devices. When going responsive you design and build once, but that means you have to consider every part while you work.

A tailored experience

The one aspect of responsive design that makes a huge impact on the user experience is that it requires you to think about the design and usability of your site on many devices. But since you’re considering device sizes from the beginning, you can be confident that the content on your site will be treated properly regardless of screen size. You’ll find yourself with a much better web site in the end when you build this way, but there are some trade-offs.

The need to consider different sizes does require more design effort from your staff but it’s to the tune of weeks, not months or years. There is little-to-no extra overhead when building a responsive site compared to a non-responsive or separate code base sites. Plus, the work flow for responsive design is going to get better and more efficient as we all adopt it as the correct way to build a web site. Don’t avoid design discussions and decisions. Embrace them for what they are – a chance to make your web site and your product better for everyone.

Designing for performance

Last but not least, the one thing you can’t skimp on when talking about building responsively is site performance. It’s no secret that a web site needs to be as fast a possible, and responsive doesn’t change that. But going responsive does mean you have to consider the performance for every page, every view and every interaction because you don’t know if the customer is on their phone standing in line at the grocery store, or if they’re on their couch watching television.

Performance needs to be part of the design process, not an afterthought or optimization routine applied when you’re all done. Think about the size of files, images and consider every plug-in and add-on you’re thinking about using. The question should always be asking is, can we do without this?

If anything, building and designing responsively is about whittling away the things you don’t need until you get to the true needs of your customers. Once you get there you’ll find you have a great experience for everyone regardless what type of device they’re using.