Q&A with Echidna UX Lead, Joshua Webster

We sat down with Joshua Webster, a UX Lead here at Echidna, to get his thoughts on some of the latest trends related to user experience and commerce. The questions and his answers appear below.

Echidna: Where is responsive and fluid/adaptive design going in the next few years? And what will those trends mean for the end customer and for the retailer?
Josh: I think the line between mobile and desktop will be further blurred, almost to the point of non-existence. Some processes will always require a large real estate layout, but the bulk of average user interactions will be handled as the user sees fit, instead of how the platform dictates. This is going to force all modern websites to become responsive or adaptive. Most sites that haven't made the adjustment are feeling the heat already.

Responsive and fluid/adaptive design continues to evolve. Currently, responsive takes into account general stacking of elements on a page and reducing navigation. Generally, though, responsive designs are not as task-specific as they should be for customer success. The secret to future adaptive design will be to take particular user tasks (filtering, faceting, checking out, etc.) and adapt specific design patterns from device to device.

E: What UX trends will emerge on mobile that may make mobile shopping easier and more effective?
J: I think something similar to Amazon's one-click purchase functionality will become more commonplace. Even with highly publicized cyberattacks in recent years, people are still willing to store their credit card info on their mobile phones and favorite shopping sites. Users don’t want to fill out shipping, billing, and credit card info when they know it’s already stored on their device, and as sites become more secure, I think users will adopt a tap-to-purchase functionality in larger numbers. Provided the option to cancel and/or return is improved alongside the increased purchasing ability, I think this form of paying will only continue to become more widespread.

Design patterns around mobile searchability and findability will have to improve from a UX perspective. A retailer's ability to reduce content noise while still incentivizing purchase completion on smaller viewports is critical. Over 50% of customers utilize a mobile device while in store, as well. Finding ways to engage the user (without detracting from the in store experience) could be a boon to retailer's bottom line.

E:What could possibly make customers pay attention to email from retailers?
J: Retailer email is the new spam mail. Even if you sign up for it, you don’t typically read it -- and more often than not, you unsubscribe within the first few emails. I think having random incentives would greatly boost open rates. In my previous experience in retail and loyalty, companies would often see a 3-5% open rate boost per quarter by simply giving users a small incentive to interact. They would then piggyback new information with this interaction. So the content wasn’t in the email, it was on the site. This drove users to the site when they may or may not have planned to login that day. Then, it encouraged users to complete a task that informed them of new information and encouraged them to use their newfound points/discounts/pseudo currency, etc. on items they might not have otherwise purchased that month. Email, outside of a CTA-heavy newsletter leading to website content, can be used to encourage traffic to the site, which can be the hub of new information. This ultimately leads the user to engage with the brand beyond just specific purchases, in the process building trust.

Free shipping, discounts and closeness qualifiers always convert well. Retailers should be wary of giving too much info in the email itself -- get users to your online ecosystem as soon as possible.

E: What is Card-based Design (UI Cards), and how might it be used effectively in commerce?
J: Card-based UI’s have the unique benefit of playing well across platforms. They can be organized beautifully on a desktop and streamlined efficiently for mobile. Pinterest is the best example of how this style can be successfully implemented across all platforms. Adding this to commerce would require a careful approach but could potentially add a great deal of depth to mobile and traditional online shopping. If you were to build a “deck” of similar item cards, it would create a loose version of sorting without the user having to make any selections beyond the item. For example, let's say a user is looking for a sweater. They go to their favorite brand's online store via their mobile device and select sweaters. Now a collection of that brand's sweaters are compiled for the user to then swipe left for sweaters they don’t like and right for sweaters they do (a la Tinder). At any point if they see a sweater they want, they can begin the buying process. And if they get to the end of that brand's sweaters, they can then look at the collection of likes that they have compiled and begin the comparing process. Instead of forcing the user to scroll through a collection of tiny pictures or view each one individually as they scroll through larger images, you’ve just given the user a quick process to find the sweater they want with a simple sort.

Card-based designs allow designers and business teams to modularize content in a way that can be implemented to various online ecosystems very easily. From a design perspective, just don’t forget that navigational elements and context clues are still important to the user getting to where they want to get to.

E: What is contextual/personalized UX, and how might we see it being used effectively in commerce?
J: Users want to feel like they are in control of their devices. Even though I have the same iPhone 6 as millions of other people, it’s mine, and it was designed to feel that way. Apple decided to get rid of skeuomorphic design (design that resembled tactile textures like leather, paper, ink, felt, etc.) in the jump from iOs 6 to 7 and instead decided to focus on animations that made the user feel like they were directly affecting the OS. So now instead of a calendar page that rips when I select the next month, I have a smooth slide that feels as if it’s responding to my exact measure or force. Instead of a bottom menu that just slams up when I slide my thumb from the bottom, I have a drawer that bounces a little once it’s fully opened. I know as a UX designer that these happen the same way for everyone, but when I do it on my phone it feels like it’s happening that way because I did it my way. This creates little attachments to the way we interact with our devices. It’s also why people will so rigidly defend the device they use.

So now if we are to apply that to commerce, we can give users the feeling of a personal shopping experience. Even though the interactions happen the same way for everyone, users still feel like the way they selected and paid for their bulk order of deodorant is a way that specifically suits them. Things like having a little play in a scroll when selecting quantity make the user feel like this “wheel” has been used before -- other people have done it before, and now I (the user) get to take part in that same experience in my own personal way. The action itself is completely superfluous in nature, but it's a little detail that creates a more personal experience. With the exception of UXers, no one is going to talk about how good the scroll felt, but they will say “I used Brand X’s app today to order something and it worked really well!” It becomes one more piece of the experience that makes it memorable in the same way that an old-timey register in a small-town shop affects the overall experience. You don’t specifically remember that register when you tell the story, but it added to the charm that caused the experience to stick out in your mind.

Personalized commerce has been around for years, but the market has struggled to use it effectively. Marketers love the idea of showing items and offers that are relevant to a user’s history, purchasing patterns, etc. Unfortunately, marketing makes mistakes and often minimizes information that a customer should and would like to still see. The real evolution is around contextualized commerce -- allowing users to select preferences during the experience (this is my size, I only love this color, etc.), so that they can get focused information. At the same time, contextualized commerce still allows for retailers to fully market their brands and intent.


Feel free to share your thoughts (or just some love for Josh) in the comments section below!