Design is Changing Shopping (for the Better)

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Technology changes at the speed of light. Just when a shopping experience is updated for the latest craze, something new arrives on the scene and uproots the way people shop online. Even though this happens all the time, some design trends can give hints at how the landscape of eCommerce changes from year to year. Paying attention to these improvements allows us to stay on top of consumer needs and make educated guesses about where and when the next big thing happens. 

The number of people shopping online increases massively every year, especially in 2020 during the global pandemic. Online retailers can expect increased orders, and stores not yet online should get their websites up and running to meet this demand. 

Already, we’ve seen User Experience changes in design due to voice searches from smart speakers and cellphones. But, the next design trends may be simple adjustments to what’s already in place or a further embracing of AI technology and machine learning. Here are some of the things you should keep an eye on. 

1. Unique Filtering

There are still some issues with eCommerce filtering. Users are able to choose from some filters like a selection of colors or a set of sizes quite easily. But, when you start applying multiple filters to a search, the results often may not meet expectations. Even Amazon doesn’t always get this design element right, making selecting and deselecting several different search options pretty difficult.

Think through the intent of the user and make sure results align with what the person wants. If someone searches for “angled brooms,” they don’t want results for costume accessory brooms for Halloween. A possible solution is offering the ability to navigate via category breadcrumbs so that the user finds their way back to the main category and the updated filtering options match their refined set of criteria. 

2. Conversational Interfaces

You’ve likely visited at least one site this week with a live chat feature. Only 14% of people would rather fill out a form than use these real time chat features to get information or to contact the company. Conversational interfaces allow users to ask questions on the spot. Offer that needed interactive help in choosing just the right product, answering concerns, and towards completing the sale. Make sure your live agents are fully trained and ready, and of course, utilize chatbots only for the initial basic information collection. 

3. Navigational Hierarchy

The organization of your site has a big impact on the user experience, so your designers are giving a lot of attention to the website navigation and the content categories. Your navigational hierarchy starts with a home page and main categories, and everything else falls under subcategories. 

Think through the navigation elements your site needs now, and into the future. Considerhow the navigation appears on mobile devices. Does it turn into a hamburger menu? Does your navigation follow the user as they scroll down your page? Anything you can do to make the process of navigating simpler will help. 

Start by making a list of your site’s primary categories. Consider both categories you use now and possible future categories as your business scales up. Next, consider subcategories and which main listing they fall under. Finally, consider how you wish to display the information. You have a wide variety of options, including fixed navigation, sticky bars and mega menus, among many others.

4. User Maturity

The use of the buyer persona is well known. You must know your target audience and design for them. Though, what happens when someone comes to your site who isn’t your typical user? Perhaps they’ve been to your site before, or maybe they’re at a different phase in the sales funnel than most people when they arrive. 

Think through the user’s familiarity with your product at each stage of the eCommerce process. Create different landing pages for each phase of maturity. If someone already knows about your procedure, you don’t need to go over it again. It might be a good time to move on from browsing options to sharing testimonials and convincing the user that they should buy from you. 

5. Mobile First

The number of people using mobile devices to access the internet grows every year. As people use their phones to get online more, they also use them for shopping. The increase in smartphone browsing led to a mobile-first design approach. You’ll notice a lot of sites are set up to be responsive no matter what size screen you’re on.

Responsive design is good news for eCommerce stores with a lot of mobile traffic. Mobile First design means images and text scales perfectly for the smaller screen. You should take it a step further and think about how easy it is to navigate from a small device on the move. A smartphone user doesn’t want to type in endless form fields. Instead, link up to Apple, Facebook or Google and allow users to login and add information with one-click features. 

6. Landing Pages as Product Pages

Traditionally, eCommerce stores have a home page, category pages and product pages. However, this means the user has to skip around, trying to find testimonials, reviews, policies and details on the product. There is a newer trend in product page design that seeks to put everything the user needs to take action on a single page instead of using a traditional hierarchy to separate relevant content. 

See examples of this on any Apple and Google product pages. If you look at one of their products, you see hero shots, testimonials, reviews, calls to action and a list of benefits. You don’t have to hunt for the information you need to decide on buying the item. A product landing page also makes targeted advertising much more simple. You are able to drive one segment of your audience to each specific listing, and include the details right there.

7. Augmented Reality

One big drawback to online shopping is the inability to see the product from every angle and get a real feel for the quality. However, Augmented Reality (AR) is turning e-commerce on its head by offering the ability to view things in 360-degrees and in a bunch of other contexts. Shoppers can place an object in their room and view it through the camera to see how it looks and where it fits. For example, if you sell rugs, you can create an app to allow the person to look through the view of their phone’s camera and then plop the carpet into place. A bonus in this contextual purchasing is that you’ll experience fewer returns as people will get a better feel for what works and doesn’t in real life. 

8. Asymmetrical Layouts

Recent designs forget about grid layout and move to alternative models, layouts where elements overlap and don’t always sit side-by-side. There are many advantages to this type of design for the eCommerce store. You can overlap items to show how an arrangement of objects might look when purchased together. You can also draw attention to elements shoppers might otherwise ignore like scale and texture. 

Using a horizontal swiping feature instead of vertical scrolling puts the focus on one product at a time and is less distracting for mobile browsers. The ability to slide from screen to screen is more interactive and because there is a focus on one product at a time, it may keep visitors on your site longer. 

What Is New in Web Design?

New trends emerge constantly. Designers push the edge. Some new features work perfectly, and people embrace them as part of their shopping experience. Other changes fizzle and disappear into the annals of internet history. If you want your eCommerce store to stay current, pay attention to trends that work. Think first and consider if something new is beneficial to your users. Does the option change the online retail experience for the better and meet user expectations in some way?

When you implement something, conduct split testing to see how your customers respond. Try new things and see what resonates with your audience. You can always revert to the way your design was before the change. 

Online shopping rises in popularity each year. New technology changes shopping habits and increases how easy it is to buy something with one tap or click. The next decade should be very exciting for eCommerce stores and consumers.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Lexie Lu

Lexie Lu is a UX content strategist and writer. She is a contributor to Marketo, Website Magazine and Envato. Feel free to subscribe to her design blog, Design Roast, or follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.
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