Monday, April 1, 2019

Designing for E-commerce User-Experience in Complex Scenarios

By: Catherine Hills (@daughterofbev
Associate Editor: Muneera Bano (@DrMuneeraBano)

Designing ‘good’ e-commerce and m-commerce usability and user-experience is even more important than before. Issues such as trust, security, service quality, as well as website and mobile application quality continue to be critical and have an impact on how consumers feel about purchasing in digital, non-physical settings.

E-commerce purchases and online shopping transactions are increasingly becoming the norm in consumer shopping behaviour. In mature economies, like Australia and the US, this might seem unsurprising, however, worldwide, 50% internet adoption still means, statistically, half the world’s population does not have access to these technologies. Estimated e-commerce sales are expected to rise substantially worldwide, year on year with increased projected growth predicted beyond 2021. While mobile device usage for e-commerce purchasing is ever more popular, the desktop computer still presents as the most popular device type used for e-commerce transactions and browsing. 

Furthermore, if we consider the early adoption of technologies like Alexa or Google Home, voice commands, control and artificial intelligence integrate with visual and non-visual interactions, e-commerce ecosystems and services are further affecting consumers. The way consumers interact with these e-commerce ecosystems will continue to diversify, become more ubiquitous and provide persistent challenges for the designers of these user experiences.  As the user-experience and engineering communities understand more about e-commerce ecosystems and how they might co-exist with service delivery fulfilment and logistical service strategies further influenced by increased technology adoption and device ubiquity, the terrain for both user-experience designers and consumers will become more complex and unique.

In recent research, the perceptions of designers of e-commerce user experiences were tested for their perceptions of e-commerce experiences in comparison to consumers who were tested with the same questions and responses to these same experiences. The research demonstrated that the differences between what is perceived to be good or bad e-commerce user-experience design between designer-consumers and consumer-consumers have been shown to be quite complementary, when the user role, as the consumer is considered as a primary focus.

This research also demonstrated that there is a little dissimilarity in the expectations of designers in their perception of ‘good’ user-experience of e-commerce user-experiences to those of consumers conveniently sampled in a qualitative study. Most participants regardless of their designer or non-designer background agreed that factors such as error-free flows, low advertising, security, clear information design and representative information of products and services for purchase were highly important in their experience of a ‘good’ e-commerce website.

Key differences between the views of designer-consumers and consumer end-users, who are not involved in the design of e-commerce user-experiences, were demonstrated to be caused by the domain and technical knowledge of individuals in the designer-consumer versus the consumer-end-user groups. These differences were manifested by expressed language in their observations of designers regarding their perceptions and ideas of good and bad e-commerce experiences. In addition to the domain and professional knowledge of the people we spoke to, domain-specific biases expressed by designer-consumers in their responses to e-commerce user-experiences were detected via their increased technical knowledge, informing the researchers that they had more cutting-edge and technology-specific expectations of functionality than the needs and opinions expressed by the consumer-end-user participants.

In addition to these aforementioned considerations, the research also considered that as user-experience designers and researchers, the design of the user-experience must be accessible and inclusive.  As the globalisation of e-commerce continues, how might issues such as diversity, gender and culture be addressed in the way we design these shopping interfaces? Moreover, as designers and engineers of e-commerce user-experiences, how might we provide user-experiences that cater for users of diverse backgrounds, networked access as well as devices that are broadly reliant on the socio-economic circumstances of our users?

Given website and service quality frameworks were considered important in the collection of data in this research and the analysis of the findings, it was of curiosity to the researchers as to how gender, culture and personality might be considered in relation to these quality dimensions. Given we had a limited sample size with a small population of participants located in Melbourne, Australia, we were still able to consider data collected from a broad range of ages, ethnicities and both male and female participants.

A limitation to the data collection was the binary sampling of participant genders and to be truly representative, a wider diversity of gender participation would be required. Additionally, in order to fully analyse the differences between countries, a wider data collection is required. Responses relating to gender in this research were broadly stereotyped occasionally amusing and sometimes biased, but not significant enough to draw conclusions and would require a further, focused phase of inquiry. Overarchingly this research indicated that e-commerce is still a widening terrain and as users adapt further to new technologies, we must consider service and user-experience conditions with fresh eyes and attention to the basic needs of consumer end-users.



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