As we’ve been working on our new website, it’s been a learning process in so many different areas.
Programming, marketing, design, photography, videography, writing, advertising, coordinating, being in charge of a team/project.. the list goes on.
Last time, I talked a lot about trends, what’s popular, what’s liked, and why it’s important to know, and why it’s not necessarily a bad thing to follow them.
This time, I’d like to talk about how different sites convey the process of —Buying Stuff—, that very important modern endeavor. As all other things, it is best not robbed of an artistic touch. In fact it’s the part of the website that conveys the most emotional connection between the consumer and designer, and thus, requires a delicate touch. So, let’s look at some examples, draw some conclusions on what’s happening, and form some opinions on what’s best.
Let’s take a big one first. Apple.
As is the standard, you’re hit with the latest products and a quick Learn More or Buy set of two options. As you scroll down there is an image to describe the product and a few words for what it is, and the page you’ll be brought to if you click it. This works in a way that it wouldn’t work for us because well, this is Apple.
- They have lots of different products
- They are already known
- The products they make are already understood
- A greater proportion of the visitors on their site are there to buy something
Onto the buy page. Let’s get an iPhone SE, since it’s the first thing advertised to us.
When you load in, you see the picture of the different colors on the left, and all the options and shop menus come sliding upwards on the right. We’re getting really nitty-gritty, but this little detail does a lot. It makes you feel like this is a modern website, one that is done professionally. Also, it brings the viewer on a short journey – the picture is the first thing they see, and the quick sliding up of the rest is the next thing the eye goes to. A lot more pleasant than having to decide for yourself where to look first, even though this seems like such a small, insignificant thing.
There is reliability in the simple, white minimalist style. In the simplicity of the options presented to you: Choose your finish (3 options). Choose your capacity (3 options). Choose your carrier (4 options, and a 5th for Sim-Free). It answers questions you’re likely to have “Will it be unlocked?” Then there is a simple Q&A for turning in the phone you already have. And then a payment option. Then the choice for applecare shows up. Offers for delivery or pick-up.
When you choose one option, it slides you down to the next one so you don’t have to take it all in at once.
This is actually a lot of different things to run through, but thanks to the simple style and smooth flow of the web design, it actually feels pretty simple. Also it feels unintrusive. Never does it ask you for anything, or ask you to sign up for anything, or give any details at all. This is something I feel is very important.
On the left there are assuring details: Fast, free, no-contact delivery. Free and Easy returns. Have questions? Contact an iPhone specialist.
The finishing screen will vary depending on what you choose, but you’ll likely be brought to a “Added to bag” page with the item you just selected and other things you might want to purchase laid out below.
Reviewing the bag brings up your total at the top, in big letters. Again, this is trustworthy somehow, to me. It’s not trying to hide any numbers or taxes or deals. Recommendations, other products, etc. are all listed below if you’re curious. And at the very bottom, a “Need more help? Chat now.” and a Questions About Buying FAQ expandable window. This is great.
Anyways. Most important to me are these three things:
- A flow that is pleasant, and not overwhelming, to the eye.
- A noticeable absence of things being pushed onto the customer.
- Clean, minimalist style.
Now let’s try a smaller example. One that might be more uncomfortable to look at (and thus, hidden in a less obvious place of the internet).
I found this site (printypets) on an instagram ad recently and tried it out – got my girlfriend a present.
I felt a lot less comfortable using this for these reasons:
- I found it on an instagram ad. All this means is someone paid money to be promoted and show up on people like me’s feeds.
- I never got to talk to a human through the entire process, even when I had sent them a special message upon ordering my product.
- They wanted me to sign up for stuff.
- They pushed extra LIMITED TIME OFFER deals on me throughout the entire process.
- I had no way of knowing whether this product I paid for was coming, in what condition, how it would be sent, and more importantly, how the artist would actually create the product (you give them a picture and they turn it into something for you). You have to pay extra for a ‘special consultation,’ which did not really interest me… given two choices, neither of which I liked.
However, what I received in the end was great and I’m thoroughly satisfied. It probably surpassed my expectations. So we can also talk briefly about what they do right (in terms of the website).
- They use a trusted base, one that customers are familiar with even if they don’t realize it – shopify.
- They use photos sent in by customers to advertise reliability, explain their product, and show positive reviews all simultaneously.
- They have a nice bar at the top explaining deals and current events (Covid)
- All the other standard things are there including what cards are usable, social media links, a social justice cause, and other products you can buy too.
- Almost none of the photos are professionally done, and it feels like a bunch of friends got a bunch of instagram photos together to make the website.
- There are just too many deals and small offers and begs for more attention and purchases. It makes me feel like this is a quick money grab rather than a long term business.
Again, in summary;
- They practically spam you with discounts and offers (if you post us on your social media 5$ off!!). This makes me feel like they are untrustworthy – a money grab business, rather than something more reliable. This makes me not want to buy their stuff.
- They have a niche market and a good product – it would help if they could advertise it in other ways than people’s social media photos, though that requires investment (the lack of such feels, again, unreliable)
- They offer chat functions etc. which is great, but then failed to answer to a question upon purchase.
Again, of course they did a ton of things right, namely the product! So, no real complaints, just healthy criticism.
Conclusions & Thoughts
Fill your customer’s head with this notion: “BUY BUY BUY, MORE, MORE, NOW!”
There is a balance to be struck between what you can do and what you should.
While yes, it’s good to have a lot of pictures – if you cannot find a healthy mix of professional photos and social media photos from customers, it might be better to slightly change the format.
On the other hand, if all you have are professional photos, it becomes harder for the customers to relate.
There is a wavering of trust on either side of that extreme – and it goes down to every detail in the website.
When you are a niche market product like printypets, you can know that and leave some things unfinished, and push for the short term gain option. But they also, I believe, have the option to push for a more refined, trustworthy, long-term establishment. And if they don’t, I feel like they are likely to lose to any competition that goes for a cleaner, more professional look.
It’s given me lots of thoughts for what we ought to do – in finding the balance between too little and too much promotion. Between looking professional and relatable. In conveying what our product does while also maintaining minimalism.
Most importantly, dealing with money and policies in as clear and simple a way as possible. Coming from a different country (from any western customer) is already going to be asking for their trust – so maintaining a feel, an image of something close to what they are used to is really vital.
I do feel though that we’re getting there – some balance of the clean, minimalist look of apple with the explanations and utility of a site like august.com. I’m hoping we can stay away from the trendy, pushy offers and discounts of sites like printypets, and also incorporate more aspects of flow and photography like Apple does.