Friday, December 7, 2007

Ecommerce Customer Interface

Defining Customer Interface Requirements

There are three main areas for consideration when designing a customer-centric user interface:

1. Function: What customers want to do (tasks).

2. Logic: What steps customers must take to accomplish their tasks (organized sequences). This area must include signals and messages from memory. Look for natural mappings, like menus that provide choices.

3. Look and Feel: What customers see and how they intuitively operate the user interface. The look and feel evokes emotion, which is from memories of the customer that are applied to a current website

After you've identified your key customers, you would analyze what their key shopping tasks are. As mentioned in previous chapters, online shoppers have three main tasks: find specific products, shop and compare products, and browse for information, education, or entertainment.

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The next requirement is to understand the logic in their current shopping processes. This logic comes from their experiences shopping for products at retail, in catalogs, or 1 room online stores.

The "look and feel" sets the ambiance and tone of the online store. The operational components and content required in the current shopping environments can be applied online.

Key Steps in Defining a Customer Interface

There are four key steps in defining a user interface:

  1. Prepare a web task workflow analysis (function).
  2. Specify design features, standards, and performance (look and feel).
  3. Define site navigation and information architecture (logic).
  4. Identify customer interface data elements and relationships (logic).

While understanding the requirements and the process may seem intimidating, it actually is mot. It just requires common sense and a rational mind.

Apply this information to a simple example. Say, for instance, one of your key product categories is jewelry, top-selling products are bracelets, and your key customers are women between the ages of 35 and 45.

The customer's task is to purchase a bracelet. The shopping logic is this: Look for a jewelry category, and then look for a bracelet sub-category. (Actual logic, however, is determined through analysis of current shopping habits.) The look and feel depends on your store's brand and positioning. If it is positioned on having only the finest jewelry, attributes are required that match customer expectations for it.

Customer requirements define the attributes and characteristics of the user interface. The interface reflects customer needs and expectations.

Formulating Value Proposition and Branding Objectives

The value proposition and brand of your store must be clearly discernable starting on the home page and on every page thereafter. It is reflected by your customer care center with each phone call. It is also reflected in the box that shows up at the customer's doorstep. You may not have control of all aspects of the customer experience, but knowing your company's value proposition and branding objectives helps you engineer these values into those parts that you can affect.

For example, if your value proposition is ease of use, you can reinforce this by making each major customer task easy to complete. For example, Apple is an ease-of-use player, so if the online Apple store were difficult to use, it would drain a great deal of value from the brand and the value proposition. Each page must reflect customer-focused category names and preferred navigational models.

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