Ecommerce UX: 5 Trends to Follow and 5 To Avoid in 2018

Whether you're a fledgling ecommerce startup or a seasoned player in the game, you’ve likely already prepped your store for 2018. But there are a number of new elements that are going to be game-changers for ecommerce in the upcoming year. (And old ones that could kill sales.) Luckily we have a list of the 5 best and worst ecommerce UX design trends this year.

The Good: Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies

2018 will make Blockchain and cryptocurrencies even more relevant to ecommerce. As it turns out, several store owners and ecommerce sites are already leveraging cryptocurrency to cut down the count of counterfeit products on their sites. For example, Alibaba is using cryptocurrencies to track down the origin of its food items, thereby keeping a check on fake products. Even Amazon has jumped on the bandwagon with three of its own cryptocurrency web domains.

While you don't need to make your store crypto-friendly just yet, it's a good idea to keep an eye on the trend so you know when it might become a boon for your site.

The Good: Embrace Bigger Product Images

Thanks to increasing screen sizes and resolution, ecommerce sites are embracing bigger (and better) product images to enhance the user experience.

The actual effect of this change can best be seen on product pages: users tend to get up close and personal with product images, and often try to analyze their minute details. (Especially those details not covered in the product description.) If you do anything to your site, focus on bigger product images this year.

If you do anything to your site, focus on bigger product images this year.

But displaying bigger product images is just one thing. Displaying multiple images with multiple views is a whole other (important) ball game. Why? Because while larger images help clarify doubts in the user’s mind, multiple images with a variety of views tend to offer more information for shoppers.

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Aside from product pages, site designers are even including bigger images on category pages as well. This is a move away from tiny images crowding a single page, and helps users find their ideal product early on.

The Good: Customized Cinemagraphs Create the Illusion of Moving Images

But adding bigger product images is just one thing. There are even more site elements you can experiment with in terms of images. For instance: leveraging customized cinemagraphs. A cinegraph is a combination of video and a photograph that helps highlight your products and their best features.

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These high-quality images loop a video reel to create an illusion of a moving photograph. However, unlike videos, cinemagraphs aren't interruptive, and they take up less digital space. Want to try your hand at creating a cinemagraph? There are plenty of resources out there!

The Good: Native Advertising Over Intrusive Pop-ups

According to Google, sites that feature popup ads and CTA boxes that interrupt users’ mobile experiences will be penalized in the search results. This means that if you are going to utilize ads on your site, it's important to use them in an intelligent manner.

Native advertising involves placing ads within the user experience in order to make them flow perfectly with the form and function of your webpage.

With intrusive pop-ups being banned, site designers need to work out on an alternative strategy that doesn’t get in the way of ecommerce UX. This is where native advertising comes in. Native advertising involves placing ads within the user experience in order to make them flow perfectly with the form and function of your webpage. (Think the Instagram ads you see while scrolling through your feed.) Native advertising blends perfectly with the content your page, because the ad looks like an editorial. This means that users might view it as website content and read it rather than ignoring it as ad content.

The Good: Sharing In-depth Reviews

Reviews can make a product soar or sink. In order to provide more in-depth reviews for shoppers, websites have been adopting a dual approach by featuring additional info about the reviewer alongside the reviews themselves.

The additional info often includes the age and gender of the reviewer. Additionally, sites often feature top contributors, and often allow readers to rate reviews. As if that weren't enough, sites have even started summarizing keywords found in both positive and negative reviews, and highlighting quotes from particularly descriptive reviews.

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All this additional information is expected to rub off on users and help them make better buying decisions. In-depth reviews help shoppers find reviews that they relate to and enable them to easily see product features they're most interested in.

The Bad: Incomplete Product Listing Pages

Have you ever wondered why your users jump over to your competitor sites only after a momentary glance at your product listing pages? It's likely because your product page isn't up to par. Users often select (and reject) products based on the information available on their pages. If your product pages are sparse, people are less likely to buy.

According to a large-scale usability study conducted by the Baymard Institute on Product Lists and Filtering, poorly-compiled product listings were one of the major usability issues when it came to site navigation. This study found that products with little information — be it photos or written text — were often disliked by shoppers.

46% of the top 50 US ecommerce websites display too little or poorly-chosen content on their product listing pages.

The minimalist content presented on the product listing page led test users to even forego quality products and engage in "pogo-sticking" between the product page and the product listing. This means that users had to open all the product pages of every single product listing just to familiarize themselves with the basic attributes of the product. This is understandably frustrating, and not having enough product info will cost you sales.

Additionally, the study found that 46% of the top 50 US ecommerce websites display too little or poorly-chosen content on their product listing pages. This can be seen in this example from Gilt, who failed to display a crucial piece of information: alternative product variations!

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This caused multiple test subjects to reject products because they thought the item was only available in the displayed color, when in fact it was available in multiple color variations. Be sure to avoid this kind of mistake on your store!

The Bad: Hamburger Menus that Hide Main Navigation

A hamburger menu is represented with a three-line icon in the corner of your store, and can be clicked to reveal your full site menu. Because they save screen space, hamburger menus used to be all the rage, especially for mobile sites. And you can still find them on big-name mobile sites such as Tesco and Asos. However, hamburger menus can actually really hurt your site conversions.

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According to a joint study by NN/G and WhatUsersDo, hamburger menus cut site discoverability almost in half, since they hide your main navigation. (And this is on both mobile and desktop navigation.) In fact, hidden navigation does worse in terms of user experience than visible or even partially-visible navigation. While your storefront may look better with a hamburger menu, you need to get rid of it if you want to truly improve your user experience.

The Bad: Short and Hidden Product Descriptions

Locked away in the deep recesses of web pages (or sometimes hidden behind links), product descriptions have recently become an elusive lot. The culprit behind this change is mobile commerce: companies are increasingly trying to be mobile-friendly, which often means sacrificing content and putting up larger images instead.

Sure, the recent emphasis on bigger images is commendable, but then it shouldn’t be at the cost of product descriptions. Product descriptions are crucial for answering user questions in terms of product use, benefits, materials, measurements and more.

That being said, don’t go overboard. Users won’t want to read a 1,000-word treatise. The product description should be such that users should be able to scan and use it as-needed.

Adding Items to Cart

Users should immediately know if an item has been added to their shopping cart. This is Ecommerce 101, but many sites don’t understand what a crucial element it is to their store.

If you want your users to keep shopping, you need to make sure that they don’t have to go the shopping cart page to figure out whether an item has been added or not. Sometimes a user may add an item multiple times if they're not sure whether it's been added to the cart or not. To avoid such discrepancies, the users’ action needs to immediately confirmed.

You can inform users about their action in two ways: by giving them a glimpse of the shopping cart, or by using an overlay or modal.

You can inform users about their action in two ways: by giving them a glimpse of the shopping cart, or by using an overlay or modal. However, don’t offer updates via a single line of text, or update the quantity of items near a shopping cart link or icon. Users often won’t notice these subtle changes. In fact, subtle changes can also distract the users instead of helping them stay glued to the site.

Flat Design

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Flat design is a minimalist-focused form of design that festures lots of open space and colors. It's been around for quite some time now, but has gained a lot of traction in recent years. However, there are usability problems related to it. A recent NN/g study found that flat designs are weak. They don’t attract user attention, which means that shoppers have to put in more effort to navigate your site. While flat design may seem crisp and simple, avoid it if you want to keep making steady sales.

Conclusion

In the UX design space, change is constant. New solutions keep emerging for everyday problems...but more problems keep arising every year. Through it all, sites need to keep their timelessness intact and yet still look trendy. If this seems like a tall order, don’t fret! Just be aware of upcoming design trends, be flexible and implement them to the best of your ability.

Have any questions about UX site design? Let us know in the comments!