Here’s What Customers Want From Direct To Consumer UX

If you hadn’t noticed eCommerce is on the rise and has been for a while now but alongside traditional retailers finding a way to get their store online, there has been another shift taking place. It is gaining momentum and there are more and more examples of it becoming a defining point of success for businesses.

What we’re talking about here is Direct to Consumer. More and more manufacturing brands are taking advantage of the benefits of taking total control of a sales channel and selling directly to the people that are using their products.

However, along with all the benefits and just like everything in life, there are a few challenges. One of which is the expectations of your customers. You might expect that they would be the same as what they would be for multi-brand and traditional retailers. And to be fair, that is not a bad assumption to make but new research from Baymard is letting us know that this isn’t the case.

The Baymard research team spent 1,440 hours usability testing and researching Small Catalog, Direct to Consumer website features, layouts, content, and designs leading to their latest research study on Direct to Consumer UX.

The research is based on more than 217 qualitative user/site usability test sessions following the “Think Aloud” protocol (1:1 remote moderated testing).

The test sites covered smaller Direct to Consumer brands with smaller product catalogues including beauty, apparel and accessories, cookware and fitness. Some of the brands included Allbirds, MVMT & Daniel Wellington.

What they found even with testing a broad variety of smaller Direct to Consumer sites, was that users would repeatedly abandon Direct to Consumer sites due to issues with the layout, content types, or features. In fact, the users encountered 1,370+ medium-to-severe usability issues on the smaller Direct to Consumer sites.

For the report, they analysed and distilled the results into 413 guidelines found within their research study. These cover most aspects of the Direct to Consumer experience, at both a high level of general user behaviour as well as at a more granular level of specific issues users are likely to encounter.

What you'll find here is some key highlights that’ll help when you’re working toward getting a Direct to Consumer offer into the market.

 

Things To Consider When Making Direct To Consumer A Success

 

• Customers Want to Get to Know You First

One of the things that Baymard discovered during the research is that where customers of traditional B2C businesses are likely to be looking at the product price, variations and returns policy, for example, when making buying decisions, consumers are rarely making buying decisions based solely on what they think of the brand itself.

In stark contrast, users on Direct to Consumer sites typically want to “get to know” the brand and products at a deeper level before they make a purchase decision. In fact, many users want to feel like the site shares their tastes, values, and goals.

And this is supported by research from Diffusion. They found that perception is driving purchasing with 44% of consumers believing Direct to Consumer brands produce a higher quality product at a lower price point than traditional competitors and nearly a quarter (23%) perceive Direct to Consumer brands to be an authority of what’s cool and on-trend.

All this dictates the type of information you need to provide on your Direct to Consumer site beyond just “the basics”. That being what is expected by users on almost all e-commerce sites. Things like product titles & images of the products. But it also changes where and how the information is presented.

 

• The Homepage is More Important Than You Might Think

What Baymard found during the research is that when consumers are visiting Direct to Consumer sites, a first step for them was to spend more time exploring the homepage than what’s typically observed or expected of users during general B2C testing.

As an example, consumers on more traditional B2C sites like John Lewis or ASOS, will often start by going directly to the search bar or the main navigation, to quickly drill down into the site to begin finding products of interest.

But, during their Direct to Consumer testing, consumers tended to first scroll through the homepage, considering the highlighted content, to determine if they should spend any more time on the site.

 

• They’ll Dig Deeper to Find Information Before Buying

Another thing that came out during the research was that consumers spent more time digging deeper for particular pieces of information. This included heading to About Us pages and for lists of faqs so that they could answer not only basic questions but also more specific ones.

Our tip here is to 1, make sure the information is on the site and 2, it’s easily accessible. This should help entice consumers to stay around longer. If they’re able to answer a question with a piece of information either about your brand or products it could pique their interest and engage a buying motivation.

 

• How the Site Looks is Just as Important as What is on it

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder and the devil may be in the detail but there is one thing that the research found that, for me, has always been a suspicion.

When it comes to big retailer websites, the ‘industry experts’ can point out the differences all day but to the standard end-user, they’re much the same. While some aspects of design differ, for most users the design aesthetics of larger e-commerce sites rarely have much impact on their decision whether or not to purchase from the site. For them, usability is much more of a driver.

However, when it comes to the smaller Direct to Consumer sites, users tend to want to feel like a site is representative of their own individual taste, or at the very least that the site’s design aesthetics aren’t offensive to them.

And take note of this little insight. The research found that some users during testing were observed to abandon sites solely due to their dislike of the design aesthetics — not even venturing off the homepage to support their decision.

Now, what nobody would ever advocate is trying to cater to every individual user’s personal design-aesthetic preference because frankly, that is an impossible task. But pulling in some of the more eccentric design decisions and going for a simpler but still, bespoke approach was observed to perform well for most users.

 

Final Thoughts

Direct to Consumer sites have many challenging tasks facing them when it comes to perfecting the user experience.

There is no one size fits all approach, and each brand is going to face a slightly different set of challenges, but the good news is that the research is out there to help and even more importantly, there are experts out there that have made this their business and passion.

One of those businesses is us. At Eclipse we’ve got a team of experts in the Customer Experience team that can design, implement, test, optimise and further develop the customer experience for your business and drive continued growth through conversion rate optimisation and a long-term optimisation strategy.

Through user testing and experience testing, directly with the types of people that buy your products, the research and data help remove emotion and gets to the core of creating a great customer experience.

All you need to do is reach out to us and have a chat. We’re here to help you build, test, develop and optimise your Direct to Consumer channel.

And if you’d like a copy of the research, you can get access to all 413 DTC UX guidelines, available today via Baymard Premium access.


Things Customers Hate About Websites (So You Might Want to Avoid Them)

Websites have been around for what feels like forever at this point and people spend a lot of time online. The amount of time people spend online has only increased massively since the covid-19 pandemic changed the way we live our lives.

As a result, we’ve all been exposed to more websites than ever before and there are things that some of them do that really annoys us. So much so that people will turn around and get the heck out of dodge, not sticking around to take a look.

We’ve done a little research and found the things that annoy people the most. Hopefully, your site isn’t guilty of anything of these things but if you are, now you’ll know and you’ll be able to fix it.

As always, if you need a little help the team at Eclipse are here for you. So, let’s take a look at what we found. And so you’re aware, there is no particular order to these, you’re going to want to fix them all.

 

Multiple Pop Ups That Come Out of Nowhere

Don’t get us wrong, if used well it is a great example of a feature that can help drive positive visitor engagement and can often be a good User Experience. A strategic pop-up – such as an exit notice or notification of an event or specific piece of content that relates to the page they are on – can be effective.

The problem comes in when pop-ups are everywhere, repeat way too frequently or are just plain nonsensical. It causes distractions and visitors to the site don’t want to have to be dealing with having to keep shutting down intrusive mini windows. You can be assured that their next click is likely to be away!

You did all the hard work getting them there, why put up barriers and click tests all over the place that distracts from the reason they arrived in the first place.

Ensure the marketing team is thinking about what is there already before adding a new one and always ask the question, do we really need it?

 

Slow Loading Pages

This feels like one we shouldn’t have to talk about anymore. Surely everyone understands that slow-loading pages are annoying. Having said that, it is still a problem for a lot of websites out there.

Visitors to your site expect swift loading times, and responsive website designs that function brilliantly on all browsers and devices. If you’re offering a slow experience, the visitor is going to bounce.

Amazon found that just a one-second delay could cost Amazon $1.6 Billion in sales – head here to find out why.

You can always check your load speed performance and you should do it regularly. Just head to Google’s page speed tool and enter your URL.

 

Little or No Contact Information on the Website

Having contact forms across the website and on your contact us page is great, and it is definitely something you should be using, but it can’t be the only way to allow people to get in touch with you.

It should not be a quest for fire when anyone goes looking for an email address or phone number. If your visitor or customer needs help, they want it now. They don't want to fill out a form and wait to see when, if ever, they get a response.

Let people get in touch with you via email, phone, and social media, and make that information available on your website. And if you’re able to man it well, live chat can be a great way to deal with quick questions people may have.

 

Asking for Too Much Information, Too Soon

So, your customer has added some stuff to the cart and is ready to check out but now you’re asking them to give you their life story before they can hand over the money. This is the fastest way to drive up cart abandonment and drive your conversion rate into the ground.

Requiring registration or even an entire account set up, before any transaction is a terrible idea. Users will be at best reluctant and at worse highly suspicious. It’s far better to let them check out as guests and offer them the ability to create an account post-purchase, should they choose to create one. And why would they be likely to do it post-purchase? Shipment tracking.

A usability test run by Jared.M.Spool allowed customers to continue and purchase on e-commerce websites without the need to register and the results were phenomenal. “The number of customers purchasing went up by 45%. The extra purchases resulted in an extra $15 million the first month. For the first year, the site saw an additional $300,000,000.” – Read the full article over here.

 

Spelling Mistakes and Out of Date Information

This is a pretty simple one, just don’t do it. There is little to no reason to have spelling mistakes all over the place.

There are countless tools, such as Grammarly and Hemmingway that take the basic spell check and kick it up a gear. Spelling mistakes really are in the category of unacceptable and drive down trust with potential buyers. It is also just plain unprofessional. If attention to detail on the website is missed, just think about what impression you’re making regarding customer service. It does little to create ‘good faith’.

Out of date information falls much into the same category. You’re doing nothing to help build trust with both new and existing customer relationships by having it all over your website.

It talks about the attention to detail and duty of care. Personally speaking, I am not about to drop any money on a purchase with a website that gives me a moment to pause and think about its legitimacy.

 

You’ve Got Broken Links All Over the Place

It’s hardly a shocker that users want websites that work. Clicking on links that lead to a 404 – page not found is more than annoying. It doesn’t matter how cool or quirky you’ve made the page, visitors just don’t want to see it and in all honestly, there should be little reason to have broken links all over the place. It also creates other problems. Did you know broken links can also hurt your SEO?

When Google's search engine crawlers discover broken links on your page, it decreases your site's search rankings putting those sites with working links right in front of you.

It is common for links to break from a site migration, page update, change in site architecture, or even just a typo but before you make any changes make sure that you add link checking or re-direction to the task list. Don’t let it become an afterthought.

Broken links interrupt the user experience and ultimately translate to lost revenue for your business. A good web developer can do wonders in helping you fix your site’s broken links. You can also make sure your links are all working by crawling your site with a program like Screaming Frog or SEMrush.

 

This is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

The problems mentioned so far are undeniably annoying, but it just scratches at the surface of what drives people crazy and pushes them away from your site.

Things like difficult or broken navigation, out of date look and feel, bad cheesy stock images everywhere, not working on all browsers and devices and having forms with way too many fields that need to be filled in before they can be sent kills the user experience.

Getting a website audit done and starting a continuous programme of conversion rate optimisation that builds on driving iterative change and improvement to your site is the best way to tackle the problems, improve on the experience you offer and make sure that you’re making the most out of the customers that visit your site.


Conversion Rate Optimisation Statistics You Need To Know | Infographic

We spend a huge amount of time, effort and money getting people to our websites. This might seems like a pretty hard task at times but in all honesty, it is the easy part. The challenge comes in when you try to get those visitors to convert.

This is by far the most important part.  The smallest difference in your conversion rate can make a big difference on your bottom line. If you can increase your conversion rate a single percentage point from 1% to 2%, you could double your revenue.

We came across an awesome blog by Startup Bonsai where they pulled together a list of CRO Statistics and we took a few of the key ones and put it into this infographic. They're the stats you need when it comes to winning over the key stakeholders in your business on the subject of CRO and the benefits of an investment into a long term CRO strategy made up of continuous testing and improvement.

Give it a read, share it around and when you're ready to create a strategy and put it into action, come talk to us.

 

 

Keep an eye out for our upcoming infographic on CRO tips and tricks and our next eBook, the first in our 'How To' series, How to Take a Business Online.


Laptop in coders view

You're Not Thinking About Accessibility Enough

Broadly speaking, making a site accessible means accommodating the range of ways that users can interact with your product, regardless of experience, capability or disability. Often people think of accessibility in terms of extremes; how would a blind person interact with a site? 

While it makes sense to prioritise things that are going to take more effort to integrate and test, the truth is, your potential user base is almost infinite its combination of characteristics and capabilities, and a truly accessible site should be able to accommodate them all.

It can sound like an unachievable goal, and for product owners trying to apply accessibility standards to an already existing site, knowing where and how to start can be difficult. However, the key and most important things are to start. 

Legally required levels of accessibility are no longer things reserved for government organisations. Legal requirements mean predetermined standards and probably the most widely adopted standard are those laid out in WCAG. These are a set of standards created in cooperation with individuals and organisations around the world, to provide a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organisations, and governments internationally.

It’s all too easy to decide “this site will be AA accessible”, by which it meets the mid-range level of conformity, and work backwards and forward from there. Making a site accessible can simply become working through a checklist; do images have alt tags, are the contrast ratios high enough on the buttons? While this in itself can be a valuable process to go through, but it isn’t the whole story. At the end of the day, it’s crucial to remember the whole reason for undertaking accessibility improvements; your users. 

User experience is the ultimate test of success on your site. Better user experience often means a better conversion rate. Your user base can vary widely, and while you can follow best practices and accommodate the 95th percentile, at the end of the day, there’s no substitute for user testing. 

It can be achieved many different ways, at Eclipse we often use A/B tests to decide the best approach to design. However you do your testing, you can be sure of two things; one, that it will give you a better insight into how people interact with the site, and two, there will be results that you were not expecting.

In a recent example, we were looking at the design of a CTA button. By adhering to the brand’s guidelines, the button was bright orange and the label text in the button was white. 

Following AA standards, the contrast ratio wasn’t high enough to be considered accessible. On paper, the label text should be dark. But that’s not the whole story. A sample group of test users actually found the dark label less easy to read than the white version.

 

 

 

It’s not uncommon; there are numerous examples of similar tests producing the same result. The contrast ratio guide is supposed to ensure that the label is legible for people with visual impairments like colour blindness. But even when all the users questioned where colour blind, they favoured the white label over the “accessible” dark label. 

There could be numerous explanations for this, but it’s important to consider the human factor in everything we design. The way we see things is inherently imperfect and everything needs to be considered in context. 

In the case of the button label, the preference for the white label could be explained by the irradiation effect. In essence, when there is a border between something light and something dark, our retinas actually shift the divide towards the dark, so that the white seems to bleed over slightly.

In the case of the button label, the white text feels bigger or thicker to our eyes. Again, context is important; our eyes perceive colours differently depending on the colour around them. For this button, it was also being used on a light page. All the white space around the button increases the irradiation effect on the white button label.    

Obviously, standards and guidelines serve a purpose. Even in the button label tests, nearly 40% of the users favoured the recommended accessible colours. The fact of the matter is, users who struggle are often a minority.

 

 

Guidelines help factor the needs of a minority into our design choices. Design can be subjective and we need to agree on some ground rules. Particularly when it comes to factors or impairments that might not impact us directly. It’s almost impossible to preempt all your users' needs, but it’s important to try. 

However, it’s also important to know when to be flexible enough to break those rules, to accommodate your users. The only way to know that definitively is to be having regular interaction with your users. Guidelines help you start that conversation, but ultimately it’s user testing that will let you know if you got it right.


Conversion Optimisation Is The #1 eCommerce Challenge For Most Businesses.

Anyone who makes their living selling things understands the difficulty that the covid-19 pandemic has created. It shut down traditional selling channels and forced businesses to innovate, which has changed the face of retail for good.

eCommerce has become the shining light and the only real way to keep business moving but for those who thought it was as easy as just chucking up a website and waiting for the money to roll in has been the subject of a reality check.

eCommerce is absolutely the future of retail and it is going nowhere so truly understanding what it takes to make it work is vital.

 

A Website is Never Finished

The consumer is a fickle entity, and they shift and morph constantly. What you launch with as a shopping experience can very quickly become outdated and clunky. And more than that, for many when the rubber hits the road the potholes that appear ready to take you out are everywhere.

Understanding the challenges and preparing for them or making sure you have someone to reach out to when you hit them is fundamental to staying ahead of your competition and here at Eclipse, we do what we can to make sure we keep our clients, past, present and future, as well equipped and educated about eCommerce.

 

Challenges For Those in The World of eCommerce

This week Mollie, one of the fastest-growing payment service providers in Europe, published research unveiling the state of payments in retail today as well as the challenges and opportunities in the retail market following a turbulent year.

Some key highlights from the research when asked what the biggest challenges in online retail were, 65% of those retailers asked cited converting shoppers to purchase, 43% rated high costs for shipping or payment providers and 41% selected low margins. And for a third of online retailers (34%), cart abandonment is the biggest challenge with 30% reporting that 6-10% of carts were abandoned.

Other key findings included:

  • EU and UK merchants rely on a multitude of channels to sell: As bricks and mortar shops closed their doors, online has become far more important. Specifically, 46% of all revenue now comes from an online webshop. And on average, 37% of sales occur via third-party marketplaces such as Amazon. Finally, as much as 16% of annual revenue now comes through social media platforms like Instagram.
  • Two-thirds of retailers had revenues impacted by the pandemic: The pandemic has had both a positive and negative effect on retail sales. 23% of merchants saw sales increase last year. Conversely, 29% either saw no change or had sales decrease somewhat. And 17% saw sales decrease significantly. Of those who reported an increase, revenues went up on average by 29%. The average decrease in revenues was 27%.
  • Issues with the payments process can hurt sales and growth: 31% said that an issue with the payment service offered or the range of payment service options provided was the reason for abandoned carts. 41% cited a lack of innovation in payment systems as hindering growth.
  • ‘Buy now, pay later’ now offered by more than a fifth of retailers: With many consumers looking for more flexible ways to pay during the pandemic, 22% of retailers now offer ‘buy now, pay later’ or Apple Pay payment methods. And 20% offer Google Pay. This is set to increase with 31% looking to improve payment systems to help grow online revenue within the next 12 months.

You can get access to all the results, based on responses from 2,500 European retailers, in their report: ‘How a growth mindset leads to higher profits’.

“The retail sector has had a difficult year and this is reflected in the findings which expose a multitude of challenges and areas for development,” said Josh Guthrie, UK Country Manager at Mollie. “As the market also comes to terms with the Brexit deal, the ability to adapt and grow under pressure is paramount.”

 

Facing the Challenges Head-On

The first step is to identify if you’re facing these challenges and if you are, reach out for help. At Eclipse we’ve got eCommerce experts in all areas including conversion rate optimisation, design, user experience and the day to day running of eCommerce operations.

They know the industry inside and out and are here to help navigate you through these challenges and onto continued success.

Creating a conversion optimisation strategy that builds into a programme of continuous testing and improvements, for now, and into the future, ensures that challenges are highlighted early and fixed.

Our team of business consultants can work alongside the strategy and guide and advise you on ways to make improvements around returns, shipping and operations that can lift margins.

So, whether you’ve identified these challenges in your business or you suspect they might be lingering in the data, your next step should be to speak to us.


Poor Product Discovery is Losing You Business. A Lot of Business.

We all know how frustrating it can be when we can’t find what we’re looking for. It doesn’t matter whether it is something you’ve lost at home or something you want to buy in-store or from an online retailer it doesn’t take long before you’re at the end of your tether, and ready to give up. And the research tells us this is exactly what people are doing.

And as much as you’re able to send in support for in-store visitors, it is much harder to do online and once they’re gone, they’re gone. The key is to make it easy for people to find what it is they’re looking for.

New research from AI-powered discovery technology, Klevu, found that a majority of eCommerce websites fail to deliver results when processing complex search queries, which account for 17% of all searches, causing £8m of lost revenue.

 

Complex Search Queries or Just How People Shop?

The research by Klevu into product discovery methods on retailers’ websites reveals that there are usability and accessibility issues with the search experience on 80% of UK eCommerce websites. And yes, you read that right. 80%!

The main issues are around the ability for these sites to process complex or natural language phrases such as those involving price range or product attributes, or even to handle misspellings.

In the most critical cases, 26% of eCommerce websites couldn’t process simple misspellings and were unable to return relevant results and 30% showed zero results when faced with a query such as ‘mens jacket under £100’. This signifies that a vast majority of retailers are unprepared for the future of product discovery, including voice search, bots, and other zero interface interactions.

The eCommerce Discovery Report by Klevu also showed that 17% of all searches are considered complex, using three or more words costing retailers with poor UX £8m per year.

The data is based on an average number of sessions per month, average order value online in the UK, typical search-led sessions are around 20% of all web traffic, and conversion rate from search is often 5%, bringing potential lost revenue per month to £671k and £8m annually.

It highlights a lack of understanding of how people are looking for products and information. Long-tail search or ‘complex queries’ have become the standard way people use Google. And in most cases, Google is presenting related search results to users in the long tail format and as a result, people expect all websites to be able to do the same.

 

The eCommerce Discovery Report

These results are from the Klevu Ecommerce Discovery Index which includes a comprehensive review of 50 major UK retailers over 40 criteria including mobile search, voice search and natural language processing, personalisation, product recommendations and more.

Retailers covered in the research include a selection across sectors and using a variety of enterprise eCommerce technologies including Oracle, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, IBM, SAP Hybris and more.

You can head over to here and download a copy of the report if you want to dig a little deeper into the results.

 

Next steps

The first thing to do is to identify if the issue exists for you. It isn’t hard to perform a couple of searches on your site to discover if it is leading people straight to the exit.

If you think there might be a problem, come talk to us. We have experts in UX who can help you assess the extent of the challenge and if we think it needs some fixing, we can help you connect to Klevu and enhance the search experience for your customers.


Couple working in coffee shop

The Continuing Evolution of Digital Design

Design as a whole has gone through rapid transition since the internet first came around. It’s really easy to look back and laugh at, what used to be, a playground of expression and opportunity for new sales channels without any real guidelines or understanding of users, but it was a different time. Internet speeds were much, much slower. People were still pushing the boundries of what was possible (and still are), but they were also much tighter boundries. So we thought we’d take a look back and see how a couple of the online giants did things back then, how they do it now and how design generally will likely change in the future. We will keep this pretty high level otherwise we may as well release a book.

GOOGLE

Google Beta screenshot

Everyone knows who Google are and what their core service is for now, but do you remember when Google first appeared? Firstly let’s pay attention to the fact there are so many links on the main search page in a bizarre array of turquoise boxes. We couldn’t imagine such noise on the Google homepage now, but back then, remember not many people even knew who they were so this was partly education for new users – some of which would have had very little exposure to the internet before. Clearly they’ve tried hard to further highlight the search bar with an additional grey fill behind the search bar, just in case you didn’t see it. Clearly they still had a playful side back then as they always had the ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button, but realistically it doesn’t add any value other than encouraging people to search and discover more of the internet.

Also note the serif typeface – yes people still use serif fonts now and you can create some beautiful experiences with serif typography, but the selection is much larger now and screen resolutions are significantly better, but back then you didn’t have much choice. Accessibility wasn’t really ‘a mainstream thing’ when Google came about so elements like the contrast between between the link colour and the background wouldn’t have been considered anywhere near to the extent we do today.

When we look back, we should also look at their logo. The emergence of drop shadows, colour and embossing – look at all this cool stuff – let’s use it all. But to recap, as much as we can look back and laugh or cringe, this was all new technology. This was stuff no-one had seen before so it was in some ways, educating the world as to what we can do. And that’s still happening today.

If we look at Google today however, they don’t even need to establish their brand clearly – everyone knows who they are and what they do. In fact, in June 2006 ‘Google’ was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s true – Google it. They don’t even use consistent site branding, instead opting for abstract representations (Google Doodles) of which there are plenty. This is to both further demonstrate their creative muscle and encourage users to actually search for something they may not have considered searching. Other than that however, the page hasn’t actually changed all that much. The search bar is still the hero on the page, but you don’t need to be told what to do anymore – you just do it. Additional links have been down-weighted to the footer and other services hidden in a menu. Developments such as the integration of voice search have made an appearance and now they have user accounts that store huge amounts of data to provide more personalised experiences to users.

Google homepage 2021
Google homepage 2021
Google Doodles
Google 2020

They still have the ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button which I believe is purely for nostalgic reasons. If people come to this page, they’re coming to search for something in particular – they don’t need their hand held in the process. The key difference is the education of how. Users no longer need to be told how to do the basics and the rate of learning is almost second nature too many users. It’s on this basis, that companies will inject more of their own personality and unique experiences in to their sites. Their dominance in the space is evidenced by the fact they don’t even need to show their brand anymore – their Google Doodles have become almost as synonymous as the core logo itself.

AMAZON

The behemoths of online shopping. Love it or hate it, the journey they’ve been on means they can do pretty much anything they like to their site and users will still use it. Much like Google is that dominant force in online search (although Microsoft, Apple and many others are trying to change that), they are the ‘go-to’ marketplace for many online shoppers. They are so dominant, the largest of businesses also sell via their platform due to the sheer number of users visiting their site every day. So let’s see how it’s evolved over time. As before, we’ll focus on the homepage as we could release a series of novels if we went in to too much detail.

The snapshot above is from 1999 and it looks as though the hyperlinks are partying together like it to. What started out as predominantly an online bookshop, has tried desperately hard to highlight they sell other stuff too. Links to music, clothes, software, DVD’s (anyone remember those?) were all on show to entice people into their site, but a clear lack of hierarchy makes it painfully difficult to navigate or understand what to do. Suddenly we are seeing different font weights and sizes which are starting to introduce hierarchy, but structurally it’s all over the place. The times when pages were built with tables were still rife across the internet. But wait – remember users weren’t really familiar with navigation like we are today. We see tabs, burger menus, mega menus and the like – these are second nature to us now, but back then the mainstream may have been just getting used to this. Again – as much as we can look back and cringe, Amazon were also taking the user on an educational journey. Look at all this stuff – you don’t need to leave the house to shop. The whole idea of being able to see physical products on a web page was novel, but the ability to find the products was key. Unlike Google, back then Amazon didn’t really make much of search and it was tucked away in the corner.

The use of gifs, flashes and product images starting to test your 700kbps internet connection but at the time Amazon hadn’t really understood the importance of search as much as Google. And why would they? It wasn’t their primary business, at least it ‘wasn’t’.

Now let’s look at Amazon today.

90s screenshot of Amazon
Amazon 2020

Suddenly Search is clear and prominent right at the top of the page. They realise now that their product catalogue is so large, it would be insane to try and highlight everything to users. People want ‘stuff’, so let’s have them tell us what they’re looking for and we’ll find it. Using the analogy to their origins in books, it’s a bit like asking the librarian if they have a particular novel in. Too much choice needs some assistance. People aren’t patient – they just want to be told how to find what they want in as little time as possible. There are just as many (in fact more) links as there were 10 years ago, but now there are graphics, rich imagery, clean typography and stripped back navigation. But then that brings us to something that Amazon do particularly well – upsell, cross-sell and personalisation. Just to clarify, I’m not a big fan of Amazon. I truly believe if Amazon was created today, it would look and behave completely different. Product names are painfully worded for the search reasons and the gargantuan level of information is daunting and often hard to read. However, they have such an abundance of traffic and data, they have the luxury of running hundreds of experiments at a time, learning more and more about users every second and customising experiences to get users to spend more money faster. Go on to the site now – you’re probably seeing several experiments running at the same time.

Now we’re seeing suggested categories and products, bright vibrant offers, gift ideas, seasonal deals – the list goes on. Users know that an image will usually link to the product. We also have user generated content in the form of reviews and own images – day to day these experiences are both used and expected as a way to buy with confidence. This goes even further when you’re logged in to your account. The level of personalisation is immense from browsing history, to order status and suggested products based on your search history. There are flaws in this however – once you’ve bought a product, you don’t need 100 suggestions of the an alternative product that does the same thing.

Amazon 2020
Amazon Desktop
Amazon screenshot on Tablet
Amazon Tablet
Amazon iPhone screenshot

Then we obviously have the abundance of resolutions across mobile, tablet and desktop. Much more considered thought is now put in to how sites are designed. We wrote a piece a while ago about how users buying behaviours have changed as smartphones hit the mainstream. Desktop shopping came down, mobile shopping went up. With the current climate they are now at around 50% in terms of traffic split as more people work from home. It’s common practice now to create a responsive site that optimises the experience of mobile users. In Amazons case, they’ve done this well, but also have their own native app that ensures you can stay logged in all the time. Spending money has never actually been easier and people have built trust in these retail platforms to do that.

But to recap, as much as we can look back and laugh or cringe, this was all new technology. This was stuff no-one had seen before so it was in some ways, educating the world as to what we can do. And that’s still happening today, but expectations are higher than ever and they’ll continue to rise in the future and we can’t wait to see what’s coming next and push the boundries of the possible. The internet used to be a tool for research and very quicky, became a $3.5 trillion tool for commerce by 2019 and is expected to grow year on year.

THE FUTURE

So what about the future? It’s an old reference that’s been used for years, but the UI in Minority Report was a mind blowing example of how people saw the future of digital interfaces. But let’s be real about this – we spend hours in front of screens every day. There’s no way we’re going to spend this time flailing our arms round to move files or design. Having said that, maybe you have arms of steel, but I believe you would get very tired of it very quickly. So it’s more about evolving UI in to more delightful experiences – I’m sure there will be many more iterations of the examples mentioned above. Creating more immersive experiences and taking advantage of newer technologies such as Augmented Reality, AI and new hardware such as Lidar that is now becoming more and more mainstream with consumer hardware brands.

Online will continue to grow – especially in the current climate and if you’re relying on riding it out or copying a competitor, you will be taking a significant risk. Having your own identity. Making your online sales process as painless as possible. Delighting users with the latest and greatest technology. These are all things that will help build your base and increase loyalty, so don’t leave it too late – your competitors are acting now and you should be too.

SO WHAT ABOUT DESIGN?

Design is obviously a very personal area for everyone. We have our likes, we have our dislikes, there are trends and there are bends (I needed a rhyming word, but I’m referring to slight deviations of trends). When we look at the examples above we can see people were still finding their way, but information was still the king of the swing. Now however, with new technologies, faster speeds, better hardware and higher expectations, simply accessing the information is not enough. The overall experience will have a significant impact on users perceptions of your business, so it needs very careful consideration.

One of the classic references is that of the abundance of skeumorphism. This was the art of making user interfaces look like real world objects. A clock looked like a real clock. A dial looked like something you’d see on a console. This came around with the release of the original iPhone and allowed designs to flex some serious creative muscle. Painstakingly crafting highly detailed icons and textures to the finest degree. At the time, it was great – it was beautiful. However this came to an end as users became more familiar with using these digital interfaces. Suddenly there was no real need to visualise so explicitly what a note file was.

Skeumorphic example
Image source dtelepathy.com

Then came the flat design revolution. Flat design came in and it came in with a bang. Big, bold colours in giant blocks. Regimented grid systems, no shadows or gradients. Just big, solid colour. The problem was that this definitely more of a trend. Suddenly everyones site looked the same and compromised on usability. Nothing really stood out and the overall experience is what I would refer to as ‘beige’. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few out there that did it well, but they were few and far between and I’m kind of glad to see this one fading away. 

Even Apple went all-in on flat for a while in what was quite a uncharacteristically poor design choice in their main OS UI. This ultimately ended up in a very frustrating experience where there was a significant lack of visual hierarchy and hidden menus, that ultimately made the software harder to use. This was evident across lots of websites, but I’ve called this OS example out given it was such a big slip up on a large scale.

iOS settings
Image source vandelaydesign.com

As people came to this realisation, the creative minds of Google came along and introduced the world to material design. This basically took flat design, put some hierarchy and tonality around the use of colour, gradients and depth in the form of shadows (hooray). But this wasn’t like the Google shadows of old which were harsh and jarring in the UI – this was softer and easier to comprehend. Suddenly the reintroduction of depth rose from the ashes of flat design (pun intended). This too, became hugely popular and still is, but designers are now tailoring designs and lending styles together to create an identity of their own.

Material design screenshot
Image source design.google

And this brings me on to an emerging trend – neumorphism. I would personally describe this as a hybrid between neomorphism and material design. Inputs and controls are using the realistic gradients and soft shadows of skeumorphism, but with the control of execution of material design. So it’s not exactly like the real thing, but it does look like something tangible you can interact with in a more simplistic way – designed for digital interfaces.

Neumorphic example
Image courtesy of bashooka.com

As of late, a hybrid has been utilised in the latest iOS adding more depth to the UI and bringing a hint of skeumorphism, neumorphism and transparency, which has now been rolled out to their desktop OS. Personally, I like the return of more life-like and 3D elements that have been introduced but there are some parts of the UI that are arguably less accessible than before. This is a new deployment however, so I expect to see this refined and iterated on in updates over the coming months.

Before you run off and start creating everything like this however, I would err on the side of caution. This is still relatively new and it hasn’t really been refined as a style yet. In examples I’ve seen, some controls are so blended in, they suddenly become almost invisible and unusable. So this still has some way to go to be established as a good approach. Yes – we can create these beautiful UI’s and subdued environments, but we must make sure it’s used in the right way with the bold colour use of material design and the softness of neumorphism. I actually see this as an opportunity to further introduce another level of hierarchy and identity in to UI, if done in the right way.


2020 fridge magnets

Our Top 5 Posts from 2020

2020 is behind us and the new year has begun but we thought we'd take one last look back at our Top 5 posts from our blog. We wrote a lot of different kinds of articles over the year from opinion pieces on the industry to guides on how to get the most out of your digital store front with design and CRO and these 5 are the posts that users were drawn to and spent the most time with.

Here is our Top 5.

 

AR & Furniture Retail | A match made in heaven? We Think So.

Read Post

 

 

Is Magento a good choice to launch your first online store?

Read Post

 

 

 

The ROI of UX & why not investing in it is a huge problem for you.

Read Post 

 

 

What it a User Journey Map?

Read Post

 

 

 

Testing in testing times

Read Post

 

 

 

We hope you enjoyed our posts and insights in 2020 and that you'll be joining us again this years as we've got even more great stuff planned.


Man on mobile

Why You Should Be Designing For Mobile And How To Do It

This is a follow-up blog from the latest Webinar done in partnership with SAP, The Evolving Customer and their need for Mobile First Commerce. You can register to watch the webinar as an On-demand recording here to see Lucy present the information along with a demo of SAP’s latest platform, SAP Upscale, that puts Mobile First Commerce at the heart of every interaction and offers an experience, unlike others.


We’ll take a look at why you should be focusing your website designs on a mobile-first approach. What the benefits are of doing this and some practical steps you can implement on your website today.

 

Why focus on mobile

To put it simply most people are accessing your website through their mobile phone. Smartphones were first introduced to the public back in 2007. Since the first iPhone hit the UK shelves there has been a steady increase in people accessing the internet on these devices. The graph below shows this trend in the UK. In October 2019 mobile usage overtook desktop for the first time and despite Covid sending everyone indoors mobile usage is still up on the year before. This trend is even more obvious globally where mobile overtook desktop back in 2016.

The reason for their popularity is that they are so versatile. We’re now able to have a computer with us all the time and can play games, browse the internet and go shopping all while sitting on the bus. It’s estimated that 95% of UK households have a smartphone. Being able to use a smartphone to take high-quality photos and share them instantly with your friends on social media has also made them wildly popular. Instead of carrying around a camera, all you need is your mobile. Smartphones are cheaper and more portable than a desktop so it’s no surprise that fewer people have been accessing the internet through a traditional desktop computer.

 

Other benefits

Since mobile takes up the majority of the market share Google ranks for mobile-friendliness. Since 2017 Google has been using mobile-first indexing this means that Google will look at the mobile version of your website for indexing and ranking. If you want your website to rank highly on Google, and let’s face it who wouldn’t, you need to make sure the mobile version of your site is designed well and meeting Google’s criteria.

Adobe discovered that companies with mobile-optimized sites triple their chances of increasing the mobile conversion rate to 5% or above. It’s a no brainer good mobile design increases conversion.

 

Success story

Sincerely Nude was founded by London based Michelle Asare in 2018. She noticed that she could never find any nude clothing close to her skin tone. This realisation became a frustration. She has always loved fashion and wanted to be part of the change she wanted to see in the world. Sincerely Nude aims to empower women to feel beautiful and sexy in their skin tone no matter what shade or size.

In an interview with Below the fold, Asare explains that having used Instagram as a personal account she began to study how businesses of all sizes used the platform as a marketing tool. From here she launched the clothing brand and eCommerce site and it picked up in just a few days after they launched. Through great product development and a killer Instagram strategy they now have a following of 16,700. Michelle estimates that 70% of her customers are driven by Instagram traffic. Since Instagram is almost exclusively used on the mobile app all of those customers are viewing her website on a mobile. So, it was important for the brand to have a seamless mobile experience. By harnessing the power of social media Michelle was able to drive traffic and sales through her website. A great success story for a business in its first 2 years of operating.

 

Designing for mobile

Now we've looked at why it’s so important to have a great mobile website let’s get to the nitty-gritty of how you can improve your site for mobile. Despite the upward trend for mobile people are slow to change and are still designing for desktop.

 

The old way – Graceful Degradation

Responsive web design has become the norm. Creating designs that can be resized to suit any screen size. This ideology is known as graceful degradation it is where all the details and complexities are added to a website for the desktop. Once you have the complex version of the design the features are stripped away to suit a mobile screen. The problem with this is that often the most important features and content get muddled together. This can result in the most important information and priorities of the website for the user on a mobile device to be lost.

 

The new way – Progressive enhancement

The future is mobile-first. This is because that’s where most people will be accessing your site from so they must get the best possible experience when they do. This is why you should move to the progressive enhancement method where you start with mobile and scale-up. By starting the design process with mobile then upscaling to larger devices it makes sure that the key information is presented to the user.

 

How we interact with mobiles

We interact with mobile devices differently to desktops instead of a mouse and cursor we use our fingers and thumbs. These are larger surface areas so we must increase the size of clickable elements and increased the space between them. As a rule, 30px or 7mm is the minimum height you should be looking at for a button for example. Any bigger than this then you may have to compromise other areas of the design and any increase in size after this has little impact on missed taps. The graph below shows the number of missed taps compared to the target size.

(ux.stackexchange.com)

These touchpoints should be within the parts of the screen that is most accessible known as the ‘Thumb zone’. Particularly if they require additional interactions like swiping. This diagram shows the easiest areas for people to reach. Keep this in mind when thinking of placement of CTA and add to cart buttons.

 

Image Credit (smashingmagazine.com)

 

Mobile-only features

Mobile phones have a great advantage over the desktop because they have a built-in camera. This feature opens up so many opportunities that can’t be recreated on a desktop. That means there's the potential to have a mobile experience that’s even better than desktop.

Search by photo – With this feature users can take a photo on their mobile and upload it straight into a search which will return visually similar product images. The eliminates the need for typing and lets users snap a picture of items they like while they’re out and about.

Card scanning – This is used for capturing card details which is a big pain point for users and can be a big sticking point in the checkout flow. This is a way to alleviate this frustration, instead of having to manually type out 16 digits the camera on the phone can scan the details and enter them automatically.

Augmented Reality – Plenty of big brands are starting to make use of AR to show products in consumers in their real-life environment. For example, with Ikea place, you can see how a table would size in your own kitchen. This isn’t just for large companies either with solutions like Eclipse’s Ares AR solution it’s possible to implement it on your own site.

 

Practical solutions you can implement to improve your UX/UI

  • Keep only the most important information. This is probably the most important thing to consider when designing for mobile. Without the luxury of space, you must keep only the most important information that the user needs to complete the journeys on your site.
  • Don’t be afraid of a scroll. It may be tempting to hide away content in carousels and accordions to fit everything nicely into the small screen. In doing this you create more work for the user by increasing the number of actions they need to take to get the information they want, that’s if they find it at all. Instead, make use of vertical scroll people have become accustomed to scrolling to find the information that they want so having it open and accessible by only a scroll away will come naturally to users getting them to where they want to be as quickly as possible.
  • Think about where your site will be accessed. If people are on the bus on a train or out and they may have poor connectivity to the internet. People will still expect a fast-loading time. By focusing on designing/developing for 3G by default you make sure you’re still providing a great experience when connectivity is limited.
  • Make use of mobile devices native UI for example date pickers. These are familiar to people as they use them daily.
  • When there is a form field that requires an input with numbers use the numerical keyboard. This will prevent mistyping and allow people to fill out the form more quickly.
  • Integrate Apple/Google Pay in the checkout. These stop the users having to enter their card and shipping details making the checkout experience seamless and easy for users. They also have the added benefit of additional security and are easy to set up.

 

Final thought

Mobile phones aren’t going anywhere so businesses must adapt to the ever-changing market. I hope you found this article useful and that you have taken away some useful tips for designing for mobile. If you’d like more advice on optimising your mobile experience contact us, we’d be happy to help.

 


Black Friday image

Preparing for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas

The last two months of the year tend to be the busiest for retail and this year should be no exception. The temptation of Black Friday and Cyber Monday bring out the bargain hunters and Christmas brings people together as we all lookout for the perfect gift for our significant others and our families.

This year things are going to be a little different what with being in the middle of the second lockdown and Black Friday and Cyber Monday falling right in it, people are turning to online, much like they have over the last few years but this time, there is no choice for alternatives.

Christmas might have the benefit of stores re-opening, assuming there are no adjustments to the lockdown, and with many people making it their highlight for 2020 the opportunity for online is huge. People have gotten used to the convenience of it and those wanting to avoid potential crowds after stores reopen will embrace it.

With this huge opportunity coming down the line there are things you need to do to ensure the most success and things that you could do to make the absolute most of every chance you get. It’s about being prepared and not leaving things to fate. We’ve pulled together a few areas for you to look at so that you can call yourself prepared.

 

Double and Triple Check Your Site Speed, Checkout Process and Scalability

When we’re talking about anything websites or the internet, a lack of speed will turn customers off. In fact, it has been found that 46% of shoppers have said they’ll never return to a slow website. You want to make sure that doesn’t happen to yours. You’ve done all that work to get them there, the last thing you want to do is send them packing because things don’t load or take too long. Using Google Developer PageSpeed Insights tool will give you a good idea of how things are loading and what you might need to do to fix it, if there is an issue.

You’ll also want to make sure your checkout process is as good as it can be. Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas shoppers are fickle. They have thousands of stores to select from and a limited amount of time. They will leave your store if your checkout isn’t running smoothly. This is an area often overlooked by site owners but when it comes to CRO or conversion rate optimisation it is an area that can offer a great uplift. Our Experience team have helped plenty of our clients do just this by analysing the checkout process and implementing changes that have driven huge revenue increases. Taking time to improve your checkout process will pay off for you with every customer post the changes taking place. For a quick win, you may consider adding extra payment options like Paypal. We have a partnership with Adyen who's payment services can allow a business to add things like Apple Pay and Google Pay incredibly easily. If this is something you'd like to look at in more detail, speak to us and we can give you an idea of how to build it into your development plans.

Scalability might be something that you’ve not heard of or it might be something you’ve never thought about, but it relates to your sites ability to handle increases of traffic during these busy times. Plenty of companies have been caught out during past Black Fridays, and when the first lockdown was put in place a lot of websites fell over and put people into queues or even served errors because they just couldn’t deal with the influx. To combat this, it all comes down to hosting. Being on a cloud platform allows you to leverage scalability and open and close gates as needed. Our DevOps team at Eclipse know all about this and have helped a lot of clients build-in backstops to ensure uptime when it counts. They’re happy to talk to anyone who needs a little more information on why this is important and how to use it to stay competitive.

 

Think About Enhancing the Experience For Your Customers

As we mentioned before, shoppers have the option of thousands of stores and when they’ve chosen you, you’ll want to make the experience for them as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Keep offers clear and highlight the reasons why customers should stay and shop with you. Extended returns periods, seasonal discounts, free delivery and exclusive products all give you something to shout about. So, do it.

But beyond that, think about how the products are sorted on the website. Do you have a sale section or gift finders? Is everything in a place that is easy to find and then filter by price or amount of discount? Does the site search work well so that when people use it they’re being shown an accurate reflection of what they’re looking for and what you have on offer? All these things make a massive difference to the shopping experience.

You’ll also want to put some thought into your upsell and cross-sell opportunities. These are great ways to highlight other products that may be of interest to your customers and also lift the average order value of your checkout basket. Do you sell products that have bundles of accessories that make them better or a range of products that offer more functionality the further up the price ladder you climb? Tell people! Things can be easily missed and if a customer looks at something and assumes it doesn’t do what they need it to, they may leave to look elsewhere but if you have an alternative that might fit their need, you need to highlight it. And when it comes to cross-selling, the old problem of batteries not included on Christmas morning come to mind. Don’t let people fall into a trap of missing an important add on purchase that could take their experience from great to troublesome.

If you really want to take your customer experience to the next level adding functionality like AR (Augmented Reality) to your website really steps you apart and gives customers an experience like never before. It gives them the ability to bring your products into their home, try them in their space or even on themselves. It reduces your return rate and gives people assurance that what they’re looking at online will be what they receive. Our AR solution, Ares, is a total end to end solution for adding AR to your website and we can help you implement it with ease.

 

Getting People to Your Site

Having your site up and fully optimised is vital but just as important is going to be letting people know what you’ve got on offer, so they’ll head over and visit you.

Using Social Media is a great way to do this. If you’ve built up a loyal following they’ll be keeping an eye out to see what you have on offer but using paid social promotion and ads on platforms like Facebook and Instagram will help you reach out to a target market that you may not have been in front of before. The audience-building options in these platforms are great when you have a set of buyer personas in mind. The trick is to widen it enough to reach a good amount of people but not to have it so broad that you’re putting offers in front of people that are likely to be uninterested.

Make sure you use good imagery to highlight products in their best light and add well-written descriptions including details about discounts, features and any other information that you think gets you to stand out from the competition. Video works incredibly well too, and it gives you a chance to highlight products from different angles or even show products being used. One of the most effective formats when it comes to ads on Facebook and Instagram are carousel. These give you a chance to add 4 or 5 different products or even features of a single product in a single location that is easily scrollable.

To help drive more engagement on your organic posts, especially those on Instagram look for hashtags that are getting high levels of use. Adding these to your posts can help it be seen. People will be following hashtags such as #blackfriday or #offers. In our own experience, we’ve seen high levels of engagement on Twitter and Instagram when the right hashtags have been used. Getting these right can give your posts a turbo boost.

To further support this kind of activity, look at creating blog posts that pull together lists. List posts get high levels of engagement and things like ‘Our Top 10 Black Friday Deals’ or ’20 Gifts for the Man Who Has Everything’ will get people clicking. Just make sure that the blogs are backed up with great contact that clicks out to the individual products you’ve highlighted.

Another powerful tactic here is the use of reviews and word of mouth. People buy from people and having real honest reviews that can be shared on social media will give buyer confidence in you and your products, but the key here is that they’re REAL and not paid for reviews. There has been a lot in the news recently about fake paid for reviews and people are being told to look out for them. It is an unethical practice and something that you should not engage in any way but having real customer reviews or testimonials in the forms of images, videos, quotes or third party reviews like from TrustPilot or Google Reviews helps build trust.

 

Come Talk to Us

Hopefully, you’ve found these tips helpful and you’ll be able to use them to drive an increase in business over this sale and holiday period. If you’ve got questions about anything you’ve read, or you’d like to take advantage of any of these tips and you’re not sure where to start Eclipse is here to help. Reach out to us and we can work with you to make sure you can maximise every opportunity that lays ahead of you.