It’s been quite a year for all of us here at Mercatus. Of all that we have accomplished in 2015, the recent release of version one and two of our front-end web and mobile eCommerce solution easily tops the list.
The project however, was not without challenges. Achieving the right balance in a digital solution that significantly augments the business and operational needs of the retailer and offers a flexible front-end platform that converts consumers is not an easy task.
With recent successful releases with Price Chopper and Sprouts, we knew that a major area of focus in our product development would be continued work on improving the relationship between the digital interface and every day life. After all, software is inextricably connected to the human experience:
- How people connect with technology;
- How we engineer the series of relationships between human beings and the digital world through the user interface; and
- How these relationships impact and enhance our lives.
These relationships came together as focal points in the design and development of our digital retail solution. The sum of these relationships made up the overall experience.
Thinking about our solution as a series of integral relationships coming together to produce a final experience made it easier to research, plan, conceptualize, prototype, test and iterate. Looking at the pieces that made up the bigger picture as relationships enabled us to look at technology from a more human-centric point of view. It also allowed us to break things down, which was crucial in designing more meaningful engagements and interactions for the micro moments that matter most.
Life is About Relationships – So is Product Design
Looking at User Experience in a more human way, as a set of symbiotic relationships, can be a powerful revelation, informing design and development in ways previously not so apparent. If a happy and successful life is about how you manage your relationships, then how you develop, nurture and maintain relationships is a prime indicator of the quality of your life’s experience. Take this analogy and apply it to software product design and development.
A user’s lifetime is made up of different relationship stages. Each stage is made up of micro relationships working together to produce the experience. We simplified the user experience into 3 core relationship stages:
- Establishing the Relationship
- Building the Relationship
- Maintaining the Relationship
Establishing the Relationship
The importance of taking the time to design an experience that properly establishes a relationship with your audience goes without saying. From the loading screen, to the sign up process, to how quickly you can get users to actually use your solution, the process of successfully onboarding new users and making an impression that sticks is a critical part of the experience and the success of your product.
The onboarding process should:
- Make sense in context with your user and your solution
- Feel easy, effortless and get a new user right into the ‘meat and potatoes’ quickly with least amount of friction points
- Drive home the value of your product
Breaking down this stage of the experience into micro relationships kept us flexible, organized and efficient. These micro relationships included:
- Loading screen
- Intro tutorial(s)
- Configuration requests
- Sign up / sign in flows
- Home page / quick flow / access into product
- Potential empty state screens
Building the Relationship
If you want your users to stay on your site, you have to start building your relationship with them. This means that you will need to consistently provide value in the experience you offer, respect your audience and build their trust.
We’ve all read stats on app adoption – how many people actually open an app a second time? How many people visit sites or sign up and never return? For the most part the percentage rates are poor mainly because not everyone takes the time to properly build the relationship with their new users.
Some of the micro relationships we identified included:
- UX strategies through the User Interface to: respect the user + build trust
- Quick successes – establish a sense of accomplishment quickly
- Encourage / coach user behaviour, allowing users to learn and grow
- Ensure ease of use, consistent and enjoyable experience
- Shopping services e.g. flyer, recipes
- Push notifications
- Email strategy
Maintaining the Relationship
For long-term success, this relationship stage requires significant consideration and effort. This involves strategies around getting your users to come back and continue coming back. It requires that you continue to learn about the people that are using your product and where you actually grow together. This will allow your solution to continue to offer an experience that adds value and enriches the lives of your audience.
Micro relationships within this stage included:
- Proving reliability
- Deepening personalization
- Quick Checkout
- Order History
Experience – The Big Picture and Its Parts
The outcome of the first versions of our front-end web and mobile solution is a product designed around the experience and how it relates to everyday life in context with its users – both retailers and consumers.
In product design, the exercise and process of looking at how the smaller relationships come together to create the overall experience plays an important part in the design and development of a solution that offers value, a product that will be relevant in today’s digital marketplace.
This blog article is the start of a series detailing the relationship stages that are the smaller parts of the whole. Stay with us to for more on our story about designing the experience.