USERLabAsia - Understanding People, Cultures & Trends for Design & Innovation


Raman Saxena : Principal Design & Innovation Strategist

The revolutionary advancement in the area of web technologies and applications has opened many new opportunities for the new generation commerce. More and more companies are trying to sell their products online and capture more masses that they were unable to do so due to the limitation of the physical boundaries. One can claim that building an online store is easy. All the customer has to do is point, click, and buy! However, in reality, successful e-commerce is far more complex & very different from any other website project that you may have tackled in the past. Before that first cyber buck finds its way into your bank account, you need to do considerable research!

This new environment has also opened many new challenges in front of the designers of these E-Commerce sites. The biggest challenge for the designer is - how to make these sites usable, efficient, reliable, yet - simple, and provide a positive experience to their users so that they successfully explore the site, transact business, and leave with a positive intention to visit back.

Most people have a pre-conceived understanding of commerce based on their experience as shoppers and buyers, and they bring this experience with them when they start shopping online. It becomes important for a designer to understand the potential user's experience and exposure to the commerce activities.

Traditional Commerce

Basic goal of a commerce site is to sell - a product, a service or something else. To make this happen someone must be there to sell and someone must be there to buy. The comfortable and trustworthy relationship between the sellers and the buyers establishes a successful commerce between the two, in the physical environment. To make it a trustworthy and comfortable relationship, both the sellers and the buyers (users) have to understand each other's expectations and reach to an understanding, which is agreeable to both of them. The web has opened the avenues where the relationships are built on electronic environment.


The term e-commerce is used whenever an exchange of money for products and/or services takes place online.

>For shoppers, e-commerce is a convenient way to buy what they want, when they want it. They can search the Web for a specific item, read more information about it, and even see a picture of it - instantly.

>For retailers, e-commerce is the new frontier, offering a potential gold mine of new customers in both the consumer and B2B (business-to-business) market segments - Without extra investment, expansion to physical infrastructure!


Usability is always defined by two big questions: Who are the users and what are they trying to achieve. Usability is best understood in terms of three criteria which can be used to judge any interface - whether software, web, or hardware. When usability is 'measured' it is typically in terms of the following:


Can the user perform the given simple task without any significant difficulty? Or did the user give up or met with total failure?

Any product interface that makes such tasks impossible to achieve for some users is, in a sense - 'failing' the product & the technology behind it.


Can the tasks be completed quickly and easily?

A product that sends the user 'round the houses' in order to perform the routine tasks is - 'clearly an inefficient solution' in terms of making their jobs as simple as possible.


Is the product enjoyable to use? Does the product feel 'right' and is the user in control at all times?

Users who become frustrated with products, or who blame themselves for failure, are likely to - 'avoid using' these products in future.

Design Challenges

The designer of the E-Commerce websites must address to the following in order to create a successful E-commerce website:

Trustworthiness: Trust plays an important role in any business relationships, without buyer trust, no seller can sell his products or services. In an e-commerce web site, the buyer/users look for the positive clues, which can generate trust towards that site or transaction. These positive clues include professionalism of design, services, positive comments (references) from the other user's/buyers, pleasing color palette and layout, apart from security aspects etc.

The E-Commerce site must convince their potential customers to trust the site by carefully designing their web site, and avoid "sketchy" impressions, apart from setting and meeting user's expectations reasonably and address their concern about their privacy, security. The symbols/ logos like Veri sign assure the visitors about the security and they feel more comfortable in providing any credit card information in order to complete a purchase.

Branding:: Brand identifies the company, philosophy, and thoughts behind the specific product. Branding is very critical and important to any organization/company, because high visibility of the brand in the market means high possibility of more revenue. Unlike conventional media (repeated exposure to a logo or slogan in print & TV), a web offers us a more effective type of branding because it is indeed a - "direct experiencing branding". This type of branding is much strong, as one is actually experiencing it directly,and gets to feel the place, as well as the brand.

Easy to Locate Information/Products:Searching for information is an experience. It is either a good experience, when one finds what he/she wants quickly and painlessly. This turns into frustrating one, when one is unable to find at all the information he/she is looking for. At the end of the day, any commerce would want their customers to walk away happily with good impressions and with intentions to return.

"How do people find information on the web?" ...They sniff it out.

Logical and visible structure & categorization

  • Easy navigation
  • Visual clues
  • Help in Purchasing & Decision-making

    The site can help in purchasing by providing the following:

  • Product details through description and graphics but avoid too much information (Textual) because users do not like to read too much text, as the reading on the screen is 25% slower in comparison to reading in print
  • Product Comparison (specification as well as price).
  • Relevant and easy instructions to help purchase.
  • Price/Cost· Security & Privacy
  • Feedback
  • Avoid Distraction :Once the visitors have committed themselves to a purchase, it is important to avoid distracting them. No one wants a visitor leaving their site before they have completed the purchase. Avoid any kind of distraction (Flashes, Animation, and Banner etc.) while the visitor is completing the Purchase process.

    Cultural ContextThe visitors to a website come from many different cultural and social backgrounds. One has to make sure that the site should not hurt or cause problems due to the cultural insensitivity of the target users. It is difficult to satisfy all the visitors/users by mapping to the cultural context but it is possible to avoid signs, colors, language or symbols, which have negative notion in various cultures.

    Fast Downloading :The site must be designed in such a way that the file size of the pages should not be big and the downloading of information (pages) becomes too slow. Remember no one has time to wait for a page to download. People tend to move to other sites or pages when there is slow response. Ideally, the page should not take more than 7 to 9 seconds to download.

    Usability Test your Design

    If an organization has already put-up a portal and carrying-out ecommerce, then performing a Usability test on the portal can go a long way towards validating user acceptance. Further, the test can result in making eCommerce less complicated, Usable, Efficient, Reliable, Simple, and provide a positive experience to their users so that they successfully explore the site, transact business, and leave with a positive intention to visit back with a good experience to consumers.

    Companies must consider testing with average customers and have them use the E-Commerce site. If they experience trouble in using it, consider - "that they are not stupid ", and there is something wrong with the design. The developers could have made some mistakes, assuming about users.

    Doing things the right way - will only add a few percent to the cost of a development project. Nevertheless - will save many times the cost by not having to make "expensive adjustments and dot releases" after commercial launches.


    The success of the eCommerce website lies on -

  • How the designer of the website has taken into consideration the issues related to the users perceptions, capabilities, limitations, experiences while designing the site
  • How the technology is interpreted to make it adaptive to the user needs and requirements
  • How the confidence and faith are created among the users towards the site by means of colors, images and content and
  • Addressing all these challenges in most appropriate manner to fulfill the expectations of the user
  • One cannot design a successful e-commerce site ignoring these aspects.


    Designing Usable E-Commerce

    Design of user-friendly web presence for your organisation

    ERP Implementation: Look at the end user's perspective
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