Cut the Crap: The Case for Concise eCommerce Design

Posted by Michelle Kowalski

January 30, 2019 | 10:30 AM

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ecommerce designIt’s no secret that design can be a complicated part of the eCommerce site development process. Everyone has an opinion and, depending on the team at work, everyone might communicate their wants and needs differently. That’s why this article from John Spencer hit so close to home. 

John Spencer’s article, “There’s no bullshit like design bullshit,” cuts to the chase of a problem he sees plaguing the design industry: using jargon and confusing language to somehow show that designers are superior to their customers.

“When did designers first come up with the idea that bullshit is good? Why do we think it makes us sound grown-up and clever and important?...Graphic design is about making sense of things but the way we talk about our work often makes no sense at all.”

At its core, a design project is centered on solving a problem. That problem can be anything from services to packaging to eCommerce sites, all of which have an issue that needs to be resolved. Designers offer a new way of thinking about a particular task, but using convoluted language to express those solutions isn’t helping anyone 

“Bullshit bamboozles people and makes them feel stupid. And that’s just not playing nice. But worse, it gives them reason to think we’ve got something to hide. We risk creating the impression that what we do has little substance or significance and that not even we believe in it.”

In working with other design firms over various projects, we’ve seen this bamboozling bullshit at work. The customer is often confused and the terminology complicates matters that should be straightforward. That’s why, here at Briteskies, we choose to focus on a clear and concise design strategy.

Defining Some Key Terms

First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. As the role of the designer changes within business, the clarity of design terms is becoming more and more important. During a site redesign project, for example, it is not uncommon to have someone request an example of the completed site from the designer. Perhaps the project manager or client asks for “a wireframe, but with images and navigation examples,” or “a prototype, sort of like a mockup.” This leaves the designer wondering if they have been tasked with creating a wireframe, mockup, or prototype. For many people, those three words are interchangeable. In reality, however, each of those terms represents a specific tier of web design.

Wireframes

Wireframes are used at the beginning of the design process to help map out the basic site layout and hierarchy without spending too much time finessing the details. Wireframing is a good tool for making sure all of the important components are included in the design.

Mockups

Mockups come after the wireframe is approved and add another level of detail and visual accuracy to the design. Colors, hierarchy and navigation are fleshed out at this stage, and clients tend to prefer these as a deliverable because they have a closer tie to the final product.

Prototypes

Prototypes offer the highest fidelity (meaning they are the closest to a final, live site) and help clients understand the interactions that will occur on the site. Hovers, animations, drop downs, and other user interactions can be included in the prototype to help clients understand small details that will be incorporated into the final product. 

Why You Don’t Need a Wireframe

Don’t panic, but we don’t recommend using a wireframe during the design process. We promise there’s a method to our madness!

The point of a wireframe is to map out how a user will interact with the design and flow through the site. For eCommerce, this includes how they will find a product, add it to the cart, and checkout. But, while they were originally intended to streamline the site design process, they often hinder the designer’s ability to solve the problem at hand. After all, design is meant to solve problems.

That’s something that often gets lost in the excitement of building a new site; a designer’s role isn’t just to make things pretty. Designers are problem solvers, and making a wireframe, more often than not, either creates more problems than it solves or is creating a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. And no one wants to waste time or money creating unnecessary deliverables. 

Using Magento in the Design Process

We typically use Magento when we’re working with a client to create a new eCommerce site. Not only does Magento offer top-of-the-line eCommerce features and functionality, it also provides a site template to build on. 99% of the time, that template meets the needs of a wireframe: it captures the user experience and shows how the site will streamline the users’ end goals. 

ECommerce site design is all about being efficient and working through design aspects that make the most sense for the project at hand. Magento’s base offering gives us a great starting point that utilizes eCommerce best practices to provide customers with a shopping process that they are familiar with.

Here’s the bottom line: like any aspect of design, a wireframe is meant to solve a problem. The problem an eCommerce wireframe solves is how will customers complete the eCommerce process, and Magento solves that problem with its out-of-the-box template. Therefore, you probably don’t need a wireframe for your whole eCommerce site. 

How Do I Cut the Crap?

Here’s our advice: work with a design partner who uses straightforward language and has reasonable explanations behind the choices they make. Ask about their design process and why they follow it as opposed to other options. If they can’t explain their choices without using jargon, be prepared to be confused throughout the project.

When you find a partner who speaks your language, hold on to that relationship tightly!

Do you have an eCommerce design project that could use some (jargon-free) help? Contact our team.   

Need More Information? Contact Us.

Topics: eCommerce, Design

About Michelle Kowalski

Michelle Kowalski enjoys solving complicated design challenges for clients and working on a variety of creative projects like embroidery, painting, ceramics, and building and refinishing furniture in her spare time. She loves her stunningly beautiful boy cat, George, and her newly rescued pup, Freddie.

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