In the playground of the web, user intuition is the primary driving force of how well our content gets delivered. Putting this into the realm of e-commerce, that directly translates to the amount of sales your site will generate, as well as how likely customers are to continue using, or come back to the site again. Asking yourself these basic questions can help eliminate UX issues during your design process.
Does the user have to think/decide?
A classic example from Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think”, is the first and most important thing you actually should think about. While seeming like a pretty mundane question, it is probably the most commonly forgotten principle for consideration during the design process. Content that makes sense is content that will be delivered to the user.
In your main navigation, let’s say you have functionality that is meant to be a primary method of selecting from your various types of products. You could name that section “Categories”, or simply name it “Products”. What do you think gets delivered faster? If a user is looking for a product, they will see “Products”, highlight or click it, and then perhaps categories will be displayed as a drop down to select from, or a filter could be applied from that point. In that case, the experience is seamless, and the content comes to the user as is necessary. In the example of simply naming it “Categories”, the same content is delivered nonetheless, however, the amount of time in between when the user sees it and comprehends it is totally different. The user wants a product, so they look at the navigation, see Categories, decide they want to search by category, and proceed to move through the content. Not a whole lot more was required on the part of the user, but it is small interactions like that which can make a difference in the fluidity of your site’s experience. You want your site to drive the user to the content; you don’t want the user to be floating aimlessly through a pool of content.
Is the user seeing what I want them to see?
This is one of the most important things on e-commerce sites, and if you ignore this question, it is very detrimental to your content flow, or sales in this matter. If you have a featured item, or a large sale you are trying to push, where do you think that content should go? Don’t blend that content in with the rest of the items on the page, and especially do not put that on a secondary page. Your home page is your ace here, and how you make that content seen determines how well you play it. Make use of touts, or use a heading or container that pulls attention away from the filler content. More importantly, bump it to the top of your page. Content that has to be scrolled down to see is probably not going to be seen, as there are a myriad of other things the user can click on or view instead. Do you want to push that popular brand new item that just came out, or do you want the user to see the same product that has been in your store for the past five months? Priority is the name of the game here, and higher priority always comes first.
Does the interface make sense?
As designers and developers, we sometimes forget that we are designing/dev’ing for the average person sitting at their personal computer, with no knowledge of the technologies we use, the complexity of our code, or the finesse of our design. You can design the coolest looking website, code up all these insane interactions and scripts that control the way the site loads in content, with a bunch of ways that could potentially make finding content a lot easier, but all that demonstration of skill is in vain if the user doesn’t understand what they are even looking at or doing. A great example of this being done effectively is seen on Amazon.com. Their design is simple, and their interactions are tasteful and quick. You have a huge search bar spanning the top of the page, a shop by department bar to the left which is emphasized by a drop shadow, and all the content in the middle. Everything you need to navigate the site is readily available and intuitive to use. Following the principle of simplicity, it doesn’t matter who it is that is using the site, there is no sense of complexity to roadblock a potential sale.
While the examples I’ve used can be loosely interpreted, and a large amount of user experience also depends on the demographic/systems you are targeting, I find that it is generally better during the UX design process to make things as simple as possible. Keep exploring new ways to deliver content in a way that is digestible by the common user. In holding these principles in high regard, you can be sure to create a page that people will really enjoy using, as there is nothing more enjoyable on the web than a great user experience.