Building any type of website comes with its own sets of challenges. But an ecommerce website is a whole different ball game. It shares the same objectives as any other website: develop and maintain brand personality, communicate and engage with audiences, gain and retain leads, and ultimately build a strong and long-lasting relationship with consumers.
But at the same time, it also acts as an actual store, intended to drive revenue and improve business performance through increased sales and enhanced customer satisfaction. That’s a lot of responsibilities! If you want to make sure your ecommerce store is going to be achieving it all, follow these tips that will help you create fully functioning user journeys on your website.
Collect UX data
The purpose of UX data is to equip yourself with all available insight on existing user experience observations. You need this so you can pick up problems and start ideating solutions that will improve your site structure from the get-go. There are excellent UX tools available, such as Hindsight, to help you collect accurate data and identify areas of improvement on your site: from recording visitors as they move around your site, to generating heatmaps of your webpages to see where people are (or aren’t) clicking.
This of course only goes if you have an existing website to test on. If you’re building a brand-new website, this step will only come in at a later phase. But keep these tips in mind.
The data you’ll be collecting will determine important information such as:
- Activity or interaction peaks
- Engagement segmentation
- Broken or dead-end journeys
- Frustration points
You can also use data collected from SEO insights, Google Ads, Google Analytics and inbuilt analytics on social media platforms to support your findings. Data collection also provides a baseline of information which can be used as a benchmark for future online audits and research objectives.
Start building a case study
This will become fundamental to your future ecommerce success, especially if you’re dealing with a website with dozens of pages and multiple possible user journeys.
Once any necessary research has been done and the correct data gathered, findings must be recorded concisely. Your case study will be used to summarise and explain data, and to create or test hypotheses. As you go through the steps from creating a wireframe to building a website, you will expand on the data you record, and eventually use it as a tool to measure against ongoing user testing, or help team members make informed decisions.
Plan your site structure
Your next two steps will be setting out the information architecture and planning your full website layout in the form of a wireframe.
It sounds simple enough, and you may have already given this some thought, but pause for a moment and consider: have you really given this wireframe-phase its necessary attention?
You can start brainstorming the look and feel while you do these two steps, no problem. As long as you keep final user interface decisions on the backburner until you are certain that your ecommerce store’s structure and navigation are coordinated and integrated flawlessly. We’re not putting user interface second in terms of importance. User interface is clearly highly significant. It breathes life into your website’s structure and plays the leading role in making your store intuitively functional for users. But your interface cannot save a broken site structure or complicated user journey.
Think like a user
You have to put yourself in the mind of your consumer when you start finalising your wireframe. This can be a tricky exercise because you already know your brand and all its products so well, it seems pretty straight forward to you. But don’t let that fool you! You have to develop your navigation around efficient and effective online user journeys that will drive both first time and returning visitors to the cart without any fuss.
Start by aligning your website navigation with user personas to help understand and work with users’ needs, experiences, behaviours and goals. This will form the basis of your user journey and user flow. User journey explains the scenarios in which users interact with products on a day-to-day, while user flow focuses on independent stages of interaction with a product, from start to finish.
Consider conducting directed interviews with target audiences to better understand your users. Here you can ask specific and open-ended questions that will help identify user product understanding, form the basis of a user journey map and help refine existing/new user personas.
Make sure you are taking error-prevention into account when thinking like a user. No matter how carefully your website is designed and how exceptional your site navigation is, users make mistakes. It’s your responsibility to go the extra mile in preventing problems from occurring in the first place; but when they do, make sure you’ve included a quick fix for your user.
So basically, when you build your wireframe, make sure there is an easy-to-navigate journey for every possible visitor scenario. While you’re at it, refine your information architecture to minimise steps and find ideal moments on your website layout for upselling and cross-selling journeys.
Test your wireframe
At this point your wireframe can still be some form of a blueprint with little to no design elements implemented. You do need to add your content to the wireframe at this point though! If you’re going to test the efficiency and usability of a wireframe, all its communication must be included.
You don’t necessarily need to rely on the public for this sort of wireframe test. Having team members from different departments look over the full site structure, navigation and design will reveal enough insight for now. Just make sure you’re not limiting your test-group to people who have already had substantial interaction with the process so far - you need new eyes and fresh opinions.
Build a high-fidelity wireframe
Otherwise known as a prototype, a high-fidelity wireframe is a fully functioning wireframe that mimics your final website with all its pages and journeys. You will use this is to conduct user-testing on people outside of your organisation, before starting with web development. This process should never be rushed because it makes up the last few steps towards online store perfection.
You can perform both moderated and unmoderated testing. Both methods aim to observe how users interact with the wireframe, and to identify problems, findability issues, inefficiencies, bottlenecks and dead ends that prevent users from completing objectives.
This is also the part where you bring user interface in to make sure that design is supporting and complementing your website skeleton.
Do a heuristic evaluation of the user interface
A heuristic evaluation is a review done by one or more UX or UI specialists. It specifically looks at the website’s user interface from a user experience perspective. It helps test the overall ‘intuitive’ usability of a website across every possible user journey, based on a set of principles. Here are five of the user journey-focused principles you can analyse when testing a high-fidelity prototype:
Visibility of system status
Throughout every interaction on a user journey, users must stay informed of what is going on through appropriate feedback (visual cues) within a reasonable time. An example of this could be ensuring consistency in how the cursor changes when hovering over links and clickable items, or showing clear indication of when an item is loading.
Match between system and the real world
Every actionable point and strand of content on your layout must have purpose and must speak the user’s language. Information hierarchies should come to life through design, and should follow a natural and logical order. Use plain English throughout your website content and navigation and include high-quality images that convey real-life examples.
User control and freedom
No matter how well your information architecture is set out or how well your navigation is designed, users will make mistakes. When they do so, it’s important that they can find a clearly marked emergency exit and return to their journey without irritation. Support re-do and undo actions by implementing visible cues, secondary navigations or breadcrumb tactics.
Consistency and standards
There’s no need to restrict yourself with fixed design, but you must still ensure that users can understand individual interface elements. Users shouldn’t have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Ensure that different layouts follow a recognisable structure, and that there’s consistency in colours and actionable elements such as primary and secondary call-to-action designs.
Help and documentation
Even though it’s better for a website layout not to include over-complicated information, it may still be necessary to provide help and documentation in some cases. Any such information should be easy to search, task-focused, and explanative. This especially goes for ecommerce stores who are selling more advanced or complicated products. An online paint store, for example, will need to include technical data sheets and useful application information.
It doesn’t end there
You can never quite be done working on your website or enhancing your user journeys. You don’t have to think of a wireframe as this massive project for a whole new website. Wireframes can be brainstormed and tested to improve even the smallest issues. But the smallest issues can sometimes lead to the biggest conversion losses – so enable your website to support your users on every step of the journey! And if you’re not sure what to do from here, give us a ring. As Shopify experts, we’re just as passionate about your online store’s success as you are.