3 revelations from 28,000 hours of e-commerce UX research

I went to a 5-day UX training and all I got was my mind blown.

Baymard UX Training in Copenhagen. January, 2018.

I recently started working as a UX Research Analyst and Writer at The Baymard Institute, an independent usability research group that conducts large-scale research studies and publishes the results as articles, reports, and benchmark databases.

Part of my onboarding involved attending the firm’s 5-day e-commerce UX training workshop in Copenhagen. The workshop’s content, gleaned from over 28,000 hours of UX research, was extensive, eye-opening, and occasionally hilarious.

Below, I’ve shared a selection of of what I learned during my week of training.

Disclosure: I currently work for The Baymard Institute, and while the research presented here is theirs, the snarky opinions (and use of the word “y’all”) are my own.

Great UX & broken UX can look very similar

Severe usability issues can lurk beneath the surface of any interface. This is especially true for search.

Which of these interfaces uses state of the art search logic and which has a broken search UX?

It’s impossible to glance at a site’s search interface and say “that’s good search logic.” Even a cursory search won’t reveal the full capabilities or limitations of a site’s ability to search. But it’s definitely worth deeper analysis because users won’t question “is this an issue with the search engine logic or with the products available?” Nope, they’ll just leave.

No results = we don’t sell that.

Consider this: providing a user with no/poor results will likely lead them to conclude that the site doesn’t carry that type of product.

👆Oh dang, Restoration Hardware doesn’t sell 2-seater sofas.

I guess I’ll go to Wayfair instead (I would have gone to Wayfair anyways).👇

As a writer, this type of example makes me happy. Why? Because mapping out synonyms for search is an example of how language can make or break UX. The logic must understand basic human-defined terms. Words, y’all!

This list barely scratches the surface, but check it out:

“trolly” > “wheeled luggage”
“writing table” > “writing desk”
“spanner” (UK) > “wrench” (US)
“blow dryer” > “hair dryer”

This is manual and time-consuming UX work. There’s no Sketch template for mapping out thousands of domain-specific terminologies. But it’s crucial work to do, because in search, users are constantly forced to make up new search queries, which easily results in fatigue and abandonment.

People just want to feel safe

Even if that safety is sort of unfounded. In fact, even if that safety is completely unfounded.

6.1% of subjects surveyed got a sense of trust from a made-up seal.

Users are likely to abandon a checkout flow if they don’t trust a site with their credit card information. Not only was this behavior observed in Baymard’s Checkout Usability study, but it’s sort of a no-brainer. You don’t give sensitive data to a strange man in shabby clothing. But, as it turns out, users are much more likely to hand over their data if that strange man is dressed in an official-looking uniform that he made himself. For instance:

Look at these images. Which of them makes you feel the most secure? Image source: Baymard Institute.

Let’s examine the how screen B enhances the perception of security:

  • Credit card fields are distinguished by a different background color.
  • There’s a picture of a padlock.
  • There’s a trust seal that says “Secured by GeoTrust”

It’s fascinating to me that the simple act of increasing the perception of security can greatly alleviate trust issues that might cause users to abandon a cart. When it comes to gut feelings, visual reinforcement goes a long way.

We’re all fat-fingered

Fat-finger syndrome, which un-affectionately refers to the inadvertent triggering of a secondary action on a touchscreen UI, is occasionally attributed to the finger itself rather than the culprit device. But as Baymard’s founder Christian Holst slyly pointed out during training, human finger anatomy pre-dates smartphones by approximately 149,980 years.

It’s not our fingers that are fat, it’s our screens that are small.

Often times, users navigate an entire site through a viewport that’s about the size of a business card.

And that viewport real estate is cut in half when the keyboard pops up, which happens most often during checkout, where users are tasked with selecting form fields, entering sensitive data, and ultimately placing orders.

So the next time you go pointing your fat finger at users for accidentally canceling their orders, consider the interface you’ve given them to work with.

Thanks for reading!