Your eCommerce website — get back in the box.

Let me begin by saying I am not a psychologist. I do have experience designing and developing websites, user interfaces, web applications, things in the digital world that people react to and interact with. Through focus groups and independent studies of this phenomenon — and by watching people and asking questions, I have some sound theories that I’m going to share with you — right here. I ask only that if you disagree to please challenge me! And give me supporting evidence for your reasons.

By the end of this article I support that you need a design specialist or professional to develop your eCommerce and/or Website. I mean, to produce an easy to buy from, simple to use, website. Because when is complicated even good? And not just any designer, but one who understands the reason “why” they are doing things.

Metaphors for shopping (and other things) on the web are in place because tangible items in the physical world were translated to the digital environment to make it easier for humans to understand and interact — becoming conventional.

There’s a reason we use shopping carts and that a commerce website is called a “shop” and that we put an “item” in our cart. It’s what people physically have been doing for decades. It makes sense to translate these constructs to the web, otherwise we’d have to learn a whole new set of rules and language. The metaphors (and icons) help us interact with an abstract concept. That item you just added to your cart or shopping bag is really a line of code in a mysql database that looks like the Matrix. What? exactly!

Our brains work to categorize and organize things. Topics, sub-topics — the web is built on hierarchies like this — content as well as visual hierarchies (here’s a nice example). You get better ranking on Google if your site is organized and if everything is labeled with care and thought. So, the more organized your information is, then the easier it is for our brains to process items and to do things, understand and complete tasks — like buying that tee shirt or ordering flowers from your favourite website.

So now back to the visuals and reasons to get back in the box. (Sorry, I know that “think out of the box” thing is so 90s and about as kitschy as the lightbulb icon). Apply this to eCommerce and we are talking about User Interface, Design and Flow.

The spark that made me write this ignited when one of my my clients took the liberty of switching her commerce store theme from a well thought out, tweaked design that made it very easy for people to view, compartmentalize, understand and buy items, to a super-slick, ultra responsive, javascript animated, although not so commerce friendly (but really pretty) design theme. And then, she used Photoshop to create and add content because she has it and thought it was easy. Why would she have the choice to even use that theme you ask? Because the SaaS company isn’t so much concerned about UI/UX as they are about making it easy for their users to buy and switch themes even though they might not be right for the client or their store. And you see, it comes down to money. Even though the client seems happy (now, for a few brief minutes) and the vendor is happy — IT’S WRONG. yes, those are caps.

So, I’m not against progress or giving power to the user in some cases, but there is a reason for people like me with jobs like mine: Web and Graphic Designers, User Interface & User Experience Designers…This could get really philosophical about value of design and cost of work and so forth but we can save that for another article. This is about how to present and sell your stuff in the most effective way.

The bottom line is that there is not one solution for every design problem and if you hire a good, experienced designer, we can help you make good choices.

We can guide you and let you know why you should or shouldn’t present something in a visual way. This is part of marketing your product or service properly. If you want to sell your goods, then invest intelligently and pay experts to make you look like a professional, organized, legitimate on-line business. If you want to look bush-league, then do everything yourself based on your limited subjectivity, maintain your control and save your money (short-term) but then don’t stand there and scratch your head wondering why your on-line shop is a large FAIL. There’s a reason you’re running a successful business and hopefully it’s because you have a sound product and you’ve done your research and you work hard and work smart. Stick to what you’re good at and surround yourself with good, talented people! There are no shortcuts.

So I digress maybe a little…what I’m trying to say is, boxes are good, especially in e-Commerce. They help people to compartmentalize and to organize visually so it’s easier for them to make choices and to buy items from your store. Opt for a simple design that is clean and uncluttered. Maybe you can take your designers feedback on colour theory as well and avoid making your store orange from top to bottom because that’s your favourite colour of Kool-aid. There are also (lots of) questions to answer like, who is your target audience and what about cultural relevance? Semantics? Some things work great here at home but what about half way around the world? Remember, your shop is open to everyone on earth.

So, I wish you the best of luck in your on-line endeavour. As a new, on-line sales venture you need to realize you can eliminate risk by hiring professionals. And it doesn’t stop at design! Find the right talent to work with, do your research and work together. It’s not overnight success for everyone and if you’re going to hang your shingle out for the world to see, you’d better make sure you do it right the first time ☺