Why there's no such thing as best practice in user experience.

User experience is what can make or break a website and is a fundamental part of ecommerce. Designers are developing numerous interactions and animations to modernise and simplify ecommerce shopping processes, while experimenting with user interface (UI) to enhance user experience (UX) for both customers and retailers.

These design experiments are just that – experiments in UI to enhance UX. When designers create these types of experimental treatments there is one big caveat – there is no client – meaning there are no client requirements and the data is completely customised to suit the design.

While these modern interactions are nice and show a simplification and clarification of ecommerce processes online, they are set in a perfect world created by the designer. One elephant in the room is that we do not live in a perfect world – far from it –  and each client has their own specific requirements that must be met.

To get the caveat and the elephant out in the open we have to think about how the client’s needs can be shaped to fit the user’s needs. In years gone by that would have been done by using best practice – see who is doing it well and emulate that. That would then lead to designing a solution that might have some sticking points that need to be refined. The next step would have been A/B testing to see what the best answer was.

A/B testing involves creating two working prototypes of the same page(s) that have different design options on them and watching people use them to judge the best one. As long as the design on both of the pages is good, then there is a trap that can be fallen in to here.

Are the results of your A/B testing a true sample? Sometimes not, as discovered by the colleague who did A/B testing on a project, and then decided to do A/A testing as a measure against the A/B testing. Surprisingly, the results were not much different when it came to the user experience. This highlights the diversity of users in the world today and to do true A/B testing it would need to be done in a live environment and captured online from thousands of users with user tracking software.

User tracking software can show where users click and reveal hot spots on your webpage – using this you can also try live A/B testing and see what results you get on a call to action or navigation item. This only paints part of the picture.

On a recent project when a team of 8 was discussing the ways they liked to shop online, not one person thought about or used an ecommerce website in the same way. This creates a challenge.

Users have a lot more to think about when they are browsing a range, and they won’t just be shopping for shoes either. There are significant challenges to complex online sales. So it’s important to bring in data that users can search against to give them the information they need – even if it is as intangible online as smell, texture, or good calls to action like 1 or 2 left, and whether it’s in stock near them.

The more data a product has attached to it the better. Then sorting the information hierarchy means interface elements can be stacked in the correct order, and some levels hidden. UI is then simple and the UX not harmed by an overload or lack of options.

The modern UI/UX goal is to create a simple to use, flexible, powerful and deep system. The modern retail goal is comprehensive product data, customer harmony and transparency across all channels.

So the evolution of UI/UX is not a silver bullet – more of a rubber band. It is about giving users options to use a website the way they want to, while also suiting the retailers range and logistics.

There is not one right design solution except for a complete design solution.

How that translates to mobile is another step in the evolution that has shifted user experience to the next level. Just like web design these days, the user experience should be responsive, not just to a screen size but a user’s needs.  For a company to provide that, their own solution needs to fit the business requirements and their customers’ needs. 

Images via Muzli https://medium.muz.li/