User Journeys, Tunnel Vision, and Divergent Thinking
We are all familiar with the Chiat Day “Think Different” campaign for Apple. If you need reminding, this campaign sought to tell us that Apple was beyond compare. The message was, “don’t compare our company, our products, our services, and our brand with others.” So, what does this have to do with building an eCommerce site?
During Covid-19, online shopping has boomed, but not all merchants have seen an increase in their revenue. The intuitive shopping experience is the minimum table stakes. No matter what the size of the merchant, building a new eCommerce site is no small thing. For most merchants defining their business goals comes quite easily.
Between the business goals and the implementation of the site, an interesting thing starts to happen: We begin to suffer from tunnel vision. This is what we see when a merchant approaches their eCommerce site from only their perspective. They know their industry and their product selection well, but their suggested homepage design is filled with everything but the kitchen sink. The new site is in danger of satisfying the merchant’s internal needs without thinking of the visitor. Sometimes it’s crammed full of products they want to sell quickly and cheaply. The merchant knows so much about the products they forget that the potential shopper doesn’t!
The Real Test
The site visitors will decide if the online shopping site is successful, and they vote with their cursor. All the search engine optimization in the world won’t help if a user is confused – or doesn’t find the information they need – and quickly bounces out of the site. For this reason, it’s essential to break away from your operational perspective and look at your site from your users’ eyes.
Divergent thinking is an extremely useful skill when designing a new eCommerce site. It is the art of exploring as many options/solutions to a problem as possible. The first step in planning the usability of an eCommerce site is to think of all the possible customer journeys. This is essential when creating strategies, services, and experiences for digital businesses as it promotes flexibility, fluency, and originality.
A great way to see divergent thinking in action is to visualize your customer’s journey and pain points. This exercise helps frame the problem from the customer’s point of view. It’s amazing how shopper’s expectations have changed over the past two years. So, what are the possible reasons a potential shopper will come to your eCommerce site?
- Returning customers looking to buy again … if the price is right.
- New customers referred by a friend, relative, or trusted recommender.
- They discovered you as a result of search engine marketing.
- They clicked on a link that was part of your social media outreach.
- They are automated indexers for directories and search listings.
- They have signed up for the newsletter and have been tempted by a special offer.
- They were looking for a specific product that is not available directly from the manufacturer.
- Existing customers could be looking for more information on an extended range of products.
User Journey Maps
We recommend User Journey Maps: These illustrate the steps a user takes as they interact with your product/service. Think of all the possible variations of customer journeys that can occur. Identify user actions, happy moments that may arise along the way, pain points a user will experience, and possible opportunities. This helps identify potential unnoticed touchpoints in the current journey and design experiences at each stage of the interaction.
It’s The Experience
Remember site visitors care about the experience. The second step in planning usability is to consider all the technical aspects at play on your site. The technology is there to make the customer journey as easy as possible, not for its own sake. Some things to consider:
- Can your site maximize the availability of information for users that have only a quick minute to check your site, as well as users that have all afternoon?
- Does your site relay content well for those users who are visual processors, as well as individuals who love to read detailed text?
- Does it display content well, no matter what the device or Internet connectivity?
- What about accessibility? Does your site support all users, including those who might need an automated screen reader, for instance?
Thinking different, thinking divergently and considering a user’s perspective of your site does not add much effort to the project. The investment in planning a design properly upfront is a fraction of the effort needed to revise an eCommerce site after it is launched.