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UX Best Practices Every Ecomm Professional Should Know
For most people, explaining what it is that they do to their family and friends is a pretty straight-forward proposition. Usually, a title is enough to suffice. People understand when they hear my sister say “I’m a nurse,” my wife says “I’m an archivist,” or my brother says “I cut up dead people.” Okay, maybe not that last one so much, but only because my brother works as an organ and tissue donation collection specialist. This evidently has left him with a somewhat black sense of humor. After a decidedly uncomfortable silence and an eye-roll from any member of his family in earshot, a few words of explanation are all that’s needed to clear it up. While my brother’s shocking explanation of his work leaves people dumbstruck, my own job-title-based answer, “I’m a User Experience Designer,” often has the same effect, though for entirely different reasons. Almost no one outside of the tech world has heard the term “User Experience design.” Even within the tech world, those that have heard the phrase often don’t understand just what user experience is, or how the discipline matters to them. But particularly for people in the ecommerce business, UX design is becoming an essential part of the business success equation. That’s because at its core level, the UX design process - the process design teams use to create products that are meaningful, relevant, accessible, and usable - hits the core of the need of every e-commerce product and professional.

What Is User Experience?

UX is about understanding the needs, wants, and goals of the users to give them the best possible experience - and it’s no easy task. A true UX design process combines knowledge of research, design, accessibility, information architecture, interaction design, and the psychology of how humans interact with computers.

UX Best Practices Tips

While it can be a little intimidating for ecomm professionals to dive into UX design principles and UX best practices, take heart. There are three simple UX best practices every ecommerce pro can start following right now that will provide an immediate impact on their way of thinking and their bottom line.

Tip 1: Understand You Are Not Your User

Understanding the needs, wants, and goals of users, and then providing designs that cater to those needs to solve problems, is the cornerstone of UX design. And if there’s one rule of UX that every ecommerce pro needs to understand, it’s that we are not our product’s users. This isn’t to say that we don’t use our own products, only that we inevitably see our products through the lens of our own experience. Even for products we created from scratch, we see our products' strengths, weaknesses, and capabilities differently than our users do. Our own perspective is tied to the product through a business perspective rather than a personal one. And, try as we might, it’s impossible for us to separate the psychology of business from the psychology of personal use. We will never see our product the way our users do. That means that we are not well-placed to give feedback that will make our product more useful and relevant. Only our users can do that.

Tip 2: Design On Evidence, Not Feeling

The fact that we are not the users, and that users are the only ones who can give us relevant feedback on our products, is the reason why user experience design processes exist in the first place. And a big part of the process of designing great products is the work that goes into understanding our users. This work is referred to as “User Experience research” and is done entirely before we ever set a marker to the whiteboard to create our first wireframe. UX research can take many different forms, depending on the project to tackle. But gathering data from and about your users will always give you information about the direction your product should be heading. That knowledge is always more useful than a gut feeling.

Tip 3: Some Data Is Better Than No Data - And Some Data Is Easier To Get Than Others

While some UX research methods can require significant amounts of time or capital investment, often the most productive ones are the ones that are the least expensive and quickest. These are the ones that involve actually talking to your users. We refer to these conversations as User Interviews, and they’re the most basic, straightforward way to get feedback from users. Learning to conduct an effective interview is a skill, and it’s one best learned with practice. The more you do, the better you’ll get at them. The better you get at them, the more usable and useful data you’ll get. After all, only users can tell you what they want and need, and there’s no better way to learn this than by asking them.

Wrapping Up: Your Product Is Never Done

Joseph Fitzimmons, a front-end developer for SUNY, puts the argument for iterating on your designs eloquently in a blog post of his. “If the point of design is to solve a problem,” he writes, “it must be accepted that the parameters of the problem must change over time.” And if there’s one thing we know about our users, it's that their needs and expectations are constantly changing. As technology improves and society moves in different directions, the way our users want to interact with the products they use will be forever changing. And the design of your product must reflect this reality. To become design-stagnant is a death sentence for any product. You must be constantly reviewing users for changes in their needs in the same way you review your competitors in the changes of their offerings. By committing to user-centered, evidence-based design, you can take the first steps towards ensuring that you stay on the leading edge of your industry. You can start to do it with just these few UX best practices tips, and without changing your job title to something that will get you any blank stares and uncomfortable silences. If you found this article useful, you're going to want to sign up for The Ecomm Manager Newsletter for even more insights and resources from the experts!
By Doug Collins

Doug Collins is a UX leader, speaker, writer, mentor and frequent podcast guest. He is currently a UX/UI Systems Engineer at CACI International Inc. Follow his Twitter for insight on UX and design—especially his #UXchat.

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